You know it took me a while to figure out what the lo means in pásatelo bien (have fun, or have a good time is the full expression). And I remember my first two weeks in Guanajuato, Mexico, and I never picked up on the word mande.
Now anyone who has spent time in Mexico (or Ecuador for that matter) knows that the word mande is said about every 3 seconds in a busy household. Mande basically means What? or What did you say? The word mande is used when you didn´t hear or understand someone and you want them to repeat what they said. It’s a little bit nicer than saying ¿Qué? and probably on par with saying ¿Cómo?, depending on your tone of course, but each country has their ways of expressing daily situations like this. In any case, in Mexico (and Ecuador), this word is used all of the time.
Just imagine yourself in English. If you have four or five people in a household, how many times do you hear people yelling “What?” in between rooms and floors?
There are a couple of important lessons from this. The first is that you have to live in the language (you should already be exploring plane tickets by the way). The second is that it takes time and effort. Keep in mind that I was trying and paying attention, and I was living in a bustling household with ¡mande! flying around me like a boomerang every few minutes, and it still took me a good couple of weeks to even notice the word.
After I asked and my host family explained it to me, I heard it all the time. How could I have missed it? Well, you can only remember so much at once, so don’t stress, the words will come little by little (and this is why you should not take too many classes at once, which I’ll explain in another post). The fun part is using the words once you learn them, and you can imitate how the locals use them. It’s good practice, and you get to feel like you are really speaking the language. In fact, you are!
The most important part though is to just have fun! Learning a language really is enjoyable. I know I’ve already mentioned a couple of times how hard it was for me in the beginning, but I share that with you because I know it’s the same for most people, and I don’t want you to be discouraged before you really get started.
Do you know how many people you can meet just by speaking even basic, beginner’s Spanish? According to our good free friend Wikipedia, it is now the second-most spoken language in the world, just above English. That’s 329 million people who are native speakers, and who knows how many other people who are bilingual. I have friends from countries whose native language is Arabic or something else, but since we both were learning Spanish we could speak to each other that way. You just never know who you are going to meet.
And once you start meeting new people, you start to experience new food, new sports and activities, new customs, etc. etc., and the fun continues! So don’t be so hard on yourself, just start saying whatever you can, and let the mistakes roll off your tongue. After screwing a word up a hundred times you’ll start to get it right. ¡Hasta luego!