I fell in love with Spanish before being aware of it. Let me explain.
I remember the multiple stories my mum and grandparents would tell me about all the places they visited in Spain. They’d drive from Morocco (where they lived) to France (where my grandmother’s family lived) in the summer.
Every story they told was infused with a sweet nostalgia that almost became my own.
I don’t know when I heard Spanish (knowingly) for the 1st time. Probably through music, and not to get stereotypical here, but Flamenco music most likely. My grandfather loved Flamenco Puro.
I do, however, know when I heard Spanish “consciously”. I’d hear salsa and merengue in the streets of 80s New York and just loved it so much, wanting to understand this magical language. Also, at the time, a lot of people assumed I was Latina: ladies in the street would ask me for directions, taxi drivers would strike casual conversations. I’d just stand (or sit) there feeling silly and frustrated about not being able to answer. I remember vividly this guy I was buying flowers from, who actually got impatient with me and thought I was pretending not to understand Spanish.
And one day, I heard a song. A song I loved so much that I memorized it without having any idea what it meant. I asked a Colombian friend of my mum’s to write the lyrics down for me and set about translating the song – there was no Internet at the time, mind you.
I decided that the following year, I’d speak Spanish.
I worked and worked and saved and saved: at the end of the school year, I told my parents I was going to Spain for a month on my own- it would be the 1st time I went somewhere I had no family or friends. I’d contacted the Spanish Embassy to get information. The Embassy had sent me information; I’d chosen where I wanted to go, what program, everything. I’d even made a down payment to make sure that no matter what my parents said, I’d go anyway. I was 18, 1 year into college, ready to fly to a country I loved before ever setting foot there. And it lived up to all my expectations.
In the following years, I studied Spanish in college and made Spanish-speaking friends. I became familiar with the many differences between the language spoken in Spain and the Spanish(s) – plural – spoken in different central and south American countries. It went on for a few years, and then life happened. And Spanish took a back seat. Well, actually, it went in the trunk ;-)