One of my soccer coaches when I was about 12 had a brilliant idea. We did our drills at practice with size one soccer balls. Here’s a picture I stole so you can get a size comparison for just how small it is.
As you can imagine, this made simple exercises much more difficult. A pass or volley you normally do with little effort now takes much more precision. The benefit to practicing this way? When you switch back to normal sized balls, it’s like washing your windshield for the first time in ages and finally being able to see again. Or like taking a blindfold off. If you can do something with a size one ball, you’ll never have a problem doing it with a normal one.
Why do I mention this now? Because I recently had an epiphany, and I decided that Andaluz (ahem, Andalú), the particular dialect of Spanish I’m learning here in Andalucía, is the tiny soccer ball of Spanish. I could go learn the crisp, clear, Spanish of Madrid or Valladolid, but where’s the fun in that? Only pronouncing every other syllable means listening to everyday conversations is like deciphering cryptic messages.
In order for the words to make sense, I used to have to mentally fill in the blanks and reread the sentence in my head. By the time I’d processed that and was ready to chime in to the conversation, I was way behind. Poco a poco it’s getting easier, and now I find myself very conscious of the fact that I’m understanding words and phrases that once would have left me puzzled.
However, when I switch to the full size soccer ball, when I talk to a student’s mom who is from Salamanca, or a coworker back home who’s Colombian, the full effect of Andaluz hits me. Listening to them compared to Andalucíans is like night and day. I can go the entire conversation without missing a word (sometimes), a feat I have yet to accomplish in Andaluz.
But am I packing my bags and running away to the north? Absolutely not. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere in the Spanish speaking world, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m hitting the books and working on dropping the ‘d’ in my ‘ado’ endings. Study with me: