This column was first published June 21, 1997.
Spending time in Mexico means learning Spanish — if you want that time to have much significance.
Columns on Spanish in these pages – written by a former senior writer and assistant editor of the Reporter, Gerald Mugford – are useful in accomplishing that necessary goal. (See the virtual editions of the mid-to-late 1990s at theguadalajarareporter.net.) This is true for many retired folks who tend to shy away from dense, lesson-crammed language texts. It is a column that weaves a theme of usage into a demonstration of that marvelously regular language (in comparison to English) and it makes learning easier.
But it’s true there are times when one’s best attempts at being articulate in Spanish can simply shut down. An older acquaintance who is working hard on his Spanish reminded me of this recently as he threw down his Spanish texts and swore eloquently – alas, in English – at his taped lessons. In talking with a plumber that morning he had abruptly hit a blank spot and was reduced to inadequate sign language. Knowing that Spanish is not beyond the reach of this accomplished, intelligent man, I agreed such an event was certainly cause for a lot of vivid cussing.
I added that for some bilingual journalists such stuff sometimes seems an occupational hazard. Example: As publisher of this paper (1975-1994), I once attended a party at which I was seated by my host next to the non-English-speaking mayor of Guadalajara for the express purpose of entertaining him.
Unfortunately, it had been a week ravaged by chaos. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) performed one of its frequent failures, employees were out sick — even extranjeros become subject to San Lunes – some showed up late, others seemed distracted by lovers’ quarrels, balky transportation, storms on Venus, the appearance of a full moon, etcetera.