Oberlin Blogs

Dining on tennis shoes and other such mishaps

November 24, 2008

Chris Gollmar ’10

I can’t get this right for the life of me. I keep confusing zapallitos with zapatillas.* The result is that I tend to say things like, “I ate scrambled tennis shoes for lunch today.” You’d think that after nine years studying Spanish I wouldn’t be making such mistakes. You’d think that after nine months living in Argentina I’d be able to do something as simple as order lunch.

I am learning more and more that there is no single moment when you suddenly become fluent in a second language. I mean, I keep learning things about English, too. My ability to understand, speak, and write Spanish wavers on a daily basis. My only hope is that this “two steps forward, one step back” dance that we’re doing is indeed progressing. In the meantime, I’m certainly having a good time learning.

The enjoyment that I get out of learning a second language was what drove me to major in Hispanic Studies in the first place. When I applied to Oberlin, I was one of the army of prospective English majors. It wasn’t until my mom asked, “You really like learning Spanish, don’t you?” that I realized that yes, I did. Spanish was always one of my favorite classes throughout high school, and it came easily to me. I told the admissions office that I would like to change my prospective major, and now, in my senior year, I’m still so happy I made that decision. (Ironically, I haven’t ever taken a single English class at Oberlin.)

*A zapallito, in case you were wondering, is a round, tomato-sized squash that pretty much tastes like a zucchini. Zapatillas, on the other hand, are either tennis shoes or power strips, depending on context. For the record, zapatillas are never edible, but you know that already.

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