A Mi Me Gusta Expresarme – It pleases Me to Express Myself
As of 2012, over 38 million United States citizens spoke Spanish as their first language.
21 countries use Spanish as their official language.
And, in those 21 countries, there are over 440 million native, Spanish speakers.
If I weren’t overwhelmingly passionate about languages already, my passion for people would make me interested in Spanish. The idea that there are at least 478 million individuals out there that each have their own opinions, thoughts, feelings, senses of humor, beliefs, and questions that I cannot truly attempt to understand without speaking their language, is enough to make me want to learn.
But, if my desire to learn stems from my hope to relate, then where do I actually begin? What is the most fundamental topic, or grammatical structure, or part of speech that’ll get me connecting?
I say gustar – the verb that is often mis-understood as “to like” but literally means “to be pleasing”. It’s interesting, actually, because understanding how to use this verb requires a re-thinking of perspective all by itself. In English, the person/thing that does the enjoying is the subject (I like kayaking); whereas in Spanish, it’s the opposite (kayaking is pleasing to me).
This is often a challenging change for students to wrap their brains around, but one we all certainly want to hone before leaving for Chile in a month. If we learn nothing else -which, don’t worry, we will!- at least we’ll know how to relate at the most basic level. We want to know what is at the root of peoples’ preferences, their beliefs, and their values. We want to know what they like.
As practice, Spanish C & D students were asked to discuss their likes and dislikes from life on campus to life on expedition. Some gave rather straight-forward responses, and others went a little deeper. Some opted for the verb gustar, and others decided to use more emotive verbs such as “to enchant”, “to bore”, “to get along with”, or to “to bother”.