Today I perfected a phrase. I figured out how to say “my baby died” in Spanish.
I speak Spanish- sort of. I’m not fluent, more like conversational and I know all the key phrases for female body parts, pregnancy related terms and I can describe vaginal discharge like a boss. I took a year of high school Spanish, a semester in college and a medical Spanish course in grad school. That piecemeal gave me the basics, but I learned how to converse with native speakers. I spent a month in Nicaragua during nursing school, living with a family, working in prenatal clinics and getting Spanish tutoring. Once I was a full fledged midwife, I spent a week volunteering in the Dominican Republic at a poor public hospital. I perfected my obstetrical Spanish while working my first job in a hospital clinic that catered to a lot of undocumented immigrants. When I moved into private practice a few years later, my Spanish speaking population shrunk, but I maintained a small panel of Latino women who sought me out for my bumbling Spanish. I felt terrible at first because since I wasn’t fluent; I felt they ween’t getting as good care as I thought they deserved. But they kept coming back and I came to realize my clumsy Spanish was better than English to them.
Today, I had two Spanish speaking patients back to back. Each congratulated me on the baby.
“Tengo noticias tristes sober la Bebe,” I warned them. “Ella morio.”
I was unsure if my grammar was correct and I wondered is morir was a reflexive verb, but I got my point across.
Spanglish “I’m sorry”s followed and I’m pretty sure one said something along the lines of “trust in God; he has a plan.” I smiled a sad smile, nodding and moved the conversation forward.

Do you ever feel like you’re speaking a different language?

3 thoughts on “Spanish

  1. Compassionate grammar help…

    Morir with people is reflexive and it’s stem-changing in the preterite. Ella/mi hija se murio (accent on the I in murio).

    Also instead of “sobre,” de would work well.

    Yes, you shared well.

    There’s an Afrikaans phrase we use a lot in our home, “you mix your tongues (languages) deliciously.”

    Living in multilingual home (English, Spanish, Afrikaans), we’re always coming up with new combos, checking ourselves, and laughing.

    Languages are awesome, and so is being able to communicate.

    • thanks, Wendy! I thought it might be reflexive. I think I uses “se morio” with one patient and just “morio” with the other. I had all these thoughts wondering if I had said to the first “my baby killed herself,” or “my baby died.” I feel better knowing I think I did ok. I’m also terrible with tenses- I usually ask my patients for help (they often understand when I want help with my grammar), but this was a little different. I think I got it right, though! And a nice tip about de/sobre- I didnt think of that. thanks for your help!

      what a beautiful phrase- mixings tongues. languages are beautiful. I gave up spanish in high school for art (I was also taking latin,which I stuck with for six years) and gave up spanish in college for swahili (with dreams of going to kenya or tanzania- but never surfaced). Not too long ago I took an adult ed class in arabic, because I have a handful of arabic only speaking pts, and I learned a few words (arabic is learning another whole alphabet!). But i love the idea of learning lots of languages. Funny how I kept “giving up” spanish only to find myself seeking it out later!

      • I hesitate to share a bit, so I’m hopeful it will be okay…

        When more children (another child?) are/is born to you, please share your languages with them/her/him.

        Our daughter, who is almost 2, speaks 60% in English and splits the 40% with Spanish and Afrikaans.

        It is a joy to hear, “Fra! Fra!” for fresa. Or “noga boontjie”- another bean.

        For the sake of sharing, I decided at 5 years old to study Spanish and teach it. Languages bring people together and that’s what I wanted to do in life. So I did…

        Teach Spanish and Special Ed for 10 years.

        My hub served an LDS mission in South Africa at the end of apartheid. He was an Afrikaans missionary, and due to his skill, he was nicknamed, “Die Ingevoer Boer” aka the Imported Boer/Afrikaaner.

        One time a man invited him in to his house and said, “I don’t care about your religion. I have my own, but tell me how you speak my language so well.”

        His skill is brilliant, and we learn so much from each other.

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