You may have noticed on the GlobalGrownUp website that there is a link to a Spanish language version of my scribblings: El Nómada Maduro. You may even have wondered why. Well, I am trying to learn Spanish and that requires constant work on grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. What better way to do that than writing Spanish versions of my own texts in English!
When I started studying Spanish about two years ago, I had only a basic knowledge of the language. I had picked up bits of the language here and there without attaining a level where I could use the language to interact with Spanish speakers and understand the culture. I needed to take this further.
Studying a language is a labor of love for me – deciphering the grammar, discovering the quirks in the syntax, building vocabulary, working on understanding fast, colloquial versions of the language, imitating the “song” of the language and slowly reducing my accent, looking for ways to leverage my knowledge of other languages.
But there is more to it than the language itself. A language is a door to the culture of the native speakers – which in the case of Spanish is not just a door, but a huge gate given the global reach of the language. Linguistic low-hanging fruit!
And then after a few months of studies you start falling in love a bit – appreciating the details and idiosyncrasies of Spanish, marvelling at the diversity of the language across Spain and Latin America, enjoying the colorful slang.
But nothing prepares you for the moment when you realize you are holding the keys to a different world, and your work is paying off in ways you didn’t anticipate.
My teacher gave me homework: Listen to and write a comment on a TED talk by Jorge Drexler – Poetry, music and identity . Mundane assignment on the face of it, but wait:
A singer I didn’t know. Quoting a conversation with another singer I knew very little about, but who is hugely famous in Spain. Talking about a style of music and a stanza I didn’t know although it exists in nearly every Spanish speaking country under different names. The singer and song writer – Jorge Drexler – has been tasked with writing a song about a Jew living with his Christian brothers. He introduces the song which is about humanity, diversity and coexistence in simple Spanish words – and not only words that I and most students of the Spanish language can understand, but also words that resonate with my own life experience as a nomad:
Todos somos de ningún lado del todo y de todos lados un poco.
(None of us are from one place, we are all a bit from everywhere).
We are all migrants. Our lives are the outcome of decisions by good people coming before us seeking a better life for their families. We are all guests in the cities and countries where we live. We have so much in common with every person next to us whether we know them, speak their language, or are familiar with their culture.
It is a privilege to discover yet another version of these universal values. You can be from Uruguay singing about coexistence using a stanza created by a Spanish poet in the 16th century. And yet you can speak straight to the heart of a Danish nomad whose 4-member family counts 4 nationalities and DNA from 3 continents.