When I went to school I didn’t know a word of Spanish. I was 5 years old and I came from a home where we spoke Croatian. I remember vividly the impression when my mom left me there and I didn’t understand a word all this people were saying and they didn’t understand me.
I couldn’t imagine there were more languages than the one I knew, so I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to communicate. Terrifying and full of shame for me. Terrifying because nuns and teachers were yelling at me thinking that speaking loud I would understand better. But I only saw people who seemed very angry with me and I didn’t know why. Shameful because other kids where laughing at me because I couldn’t speak and understand and I looked really stupid.
Maybe I looked stupid but I wasn’t, and I worked hard to learn the language.
That summer we went for vacations to a village near Barcelona called Canet de Mar. I spent the whole time with my brother and my sisters playing with the local kids. We used to go to a pinewood. The boys used to climb the pines to collect pine cones and we, the little ones waited down to pick them. Then we would clean them and eat the pine nuts. I remember trying to learn from the kids all the words and the way of speaking to came back to school victorious.
At the end of the summer I was able to talk with the kids fluently and communicate without problems. I was so happy!
But when we returned to Pamplona I found in dismay that again nobody understood me. What a mystery! The kids back in Canet de Mar and I talked without problems and now nobody understood. What was happening?.
Later I learned that what those kids in Canet spoke was Catalonian! so I learned Catalonian instead of Spanish and that was why nobody understood me when I went back to school in Pamplona where they speak Spanish. So back to square one.
I always remember that when I listen Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald signing “Let’s call the whole thing off” That’s what I thought in despair when I came back to school that year.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off