Daily Archives: December 21, 2014

Language Learning Breakthroughs

Spanish is the second foreign language I’ve had to learn because I ended up living somewhere with a different language than the one I grew up with. Sometimes there are little things we encounter, daily, in our new lives that are mysteries of the language, and then, one day there is a breakthrough and the “secret” is revealed. I had one of those moments yesterday which I will explain a little later.

The first breakthrough happened when I was living in France back in 1990. Antibes, where the boat I was running was located, is a major European tourist location and tour buses were seen all the time. Most of the buses had a mysterious little sign in a window advertising K7. This cryptic message was also seen on music store windows as well, but I had no idea what it was all about.

I arrived in France at the beginning of 1989, but didn’t really come to grips with learning the language until the following year. All that time I kept trying to puzzle out the meaning of K7. Slowly my mind began thinking differently with the new language. My French girlfriend, Florence, and I used to drive a lot on Route Nacional 7 between Cannes, Antibes and Nice. This road was shortened to RN7 which, when vocalized, sounds like Eyre (as in Jane) N Set (actually 7 is “sept” in French but pronounced “set”). As you can see, the way the letters are pronounced are different than we pronounce them in English. For example the letter A is pronounced as AH. B is Bay, etc. The letter K is pronounced “Cah” (like Bostonians pronounce an automobile). Then, one day, walking over to the post office in Antibes, I passed the local music store and the sign in the window didn’t say K7 that morning. It said “Cah Set.” CASSETTE… Of course! Or as the French would say, “Voilà!” (Incidentally, voilà, is my absolute favorite word in ANY language. It covers so much ground)

So, about the revelation in Spanish, yesterday. In stores items are often priced with the notation C/U. When I first came to Panama and encountered it I wondered, “what’s that?” Didn’t know, but assumed it meant “each” and let it go at that. Obviously I was right, but I never delved into exactly what C/U actually meant.

Yesterday my blogging friend, Kris Cunningham, invited me to go along with her and her neighbor, Cedo, to Cedo’s finca up in the mountains near Volcan where she raises dairy cattle and pigs.

IMG_0643(Kris and Cedo entering the finca.)

On the way over, Cedo asked Kris to stop at the Mercado Municipal in Bugaba to buy some rice that is sold at discount prices on Saturdays. She bought two sacks that felt like they probably weighed twenty pounds each. On the way back to the car I asked her how much they cost. She said they were $6 (or here B/6. That’s six Balboas). “Total?” I asked. “No, cada uno.” (Each one) As they say in Antibes, Voilà!  C/U = Cada/Uno.



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