Well, it's Cinco de Mayo and I still can't speak Spanish.
When I was in kindergarten, a new boy from China moved into my class. Enamored by him, I told my mother I wanted to move to Bilingua. Surely, I assumed, people who are bilingual, hail from Bilingua. I wanted to move there and learn languages of all kinds. Instead I wound up in Hebrew school. Shalom.
In high school, Mr. G., my Spanish teacher thought I showed promise. He gave me a sexy Spanish name, "Sandia." I conjugated verbs to the best of my ability, but ultimately, I think he and I both realized that I have a better knack for foreign dialects than dialogue. He led me straight to the theatre department where I was promptly cast convincingly in West Side Story. I gave up dreams of actually speaking a foreign language and focused instead on learning how to act like I spoke a foreign language. Lucky for me, I had really supportive parents. Gracias, Mamacita. Meanwhile, I've spent a decade riding the subway enviously eavesdropping on international conversations I can't understand - but coming away with excellent character studies.
For what it's worth and because I can't leave it unsaid, Sandia means watermelon in Spanish. (The kitchen guys at my first waitress job clued me in). I bet Mr. G thought he was hilarious.
If only I'd grown up in the age of Dora the Explorer, maybe my linguistic journey would have been different.
My office door hasn't been staying shut. It's been driving me bananas. So, I got the name of a local fix-it fella and asked him to swing by and take a look. Up he pulled, in his red pick-up truck with a ladder attached. He rang the doorbell - my speedy toddler and diabetic dog leapt up with surprising synchronicity to see who it was. Together, we opened the door and there stood a very friendly, young Hispanic man, wearing a tool belt and holding a tool box - his truck picturesquely parked in the driveway behind him. "Hola!" he said cheerfully. "Oh My God, " said my little boy, mouth agape, "it's Handy Manny!" (#DisneyJuniorOnDemandIsPopularAtOurHouse).
For the next hour, Handy Manny allowed my son to "help" him fix my office door. On his way out, Manny's new found short apprentice called after him, "Adios amigo! Hasta manana!" In that moment, I saw a bright multi-language future for my children.
My own failings are of no import in their own linguistic pursuits. My job is to simply support their interests. So, just as my parents supported my "Spanish" journey as Consuela the town whore in West Side Story, now I will support new found languages and interests of my own children. Whether they ever really immerse themselves in another language is to be seen, but you can bet I'll have a Handy Manny costume ready to go on Halloween.