Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 23 - Why NOT Galego?

I started learning to speak Galego three weeks ago. There is a lot that I don’t know. But there is a lot I have learned so far. Grammatically speaking it is similar enough to Spanish that I am able to take educated guesses at some of the things I don’t know. I have the endings for my present tense, past tense(s), and future tenses. There is a lot of vocabulary that is the same as Spanish, but there is a lot that is different as well. For example, there are a lot more contractions in Galego than in Spanish (eg. de un – dun, en una – nunha), but once I figured out some of the rules, I realized that I could at least identify them when I read them!
Anyway, I’ve started to try and get brave. It was time to take my Spanish outside of the classroom and my small group of Galego learning friends. So I’ve started to try to speak Galego in restaurants and stores. It’s a curious Galego that is certainly not perfect, but a heck of a lot better than it was three weeks ago.

What are interesting to me are the reactions of the people in these restaurants and stores when I do speak Galego instead of Spanish. In many they seem to take it in stride, accepting that I am speaking their language and simply speaking it back to me. What else would I do?  In others there is a distinct reaction to my choice of Galego over Spanish. These individuals clearly recognize that I am not from around here but rather that I am a visitor. And they get excited!

The two women in the fruit and veggie shop that I have been frequenting were clearly enthusiastic that I wanted to learn their language and asked how my experiences had been so far. It was nice to see such a positive reaction.

Yesterday in one of the souvenir shops, the guy who was helping me sort of raised his eyebrow as though he was not 100% sure that I had just spoken Galego (who knows… I wasn’t 100% sure if I had!). I saw his look and said that yes I was speaking Galego and that I was part of the summer program where we were learning the language. His reaction was a little bit different, although he did continue to speak to me in Galego. He wanted to know why. Why would I choose to study a language that was not considered a global language but rather a regional one. My answer was, Why not?

If languages are going to continue to thrive or at least survive, it certainly doesn’t hurt that outsiders want to learn them. I want to learn the language for cultural reasons. No, I don’t see myself speaking a lot of Galego in the United States, but who knows. I do however see myself reading more of the incredible literature that comes out of this region and is not always translated. I see myself researching the history of emigration from Galicia to Cuba and perhaps encountering documents in Galego. It is a useful language on many levels and hey, it’s cool to say that I can speak a language that some people don’t even know exists!

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