Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

There is no 'V' in Spanish

Wick's World


My Spanish teacher stated, “There is no 'V' in Spanish.”

“Un momento, “I said. “What about vamoose?”

Trying to dig out of the hole he found himself in, he replied, “What I meant to say is, in Espanol the letter 'V' is pronounced like the English letter 'B.' Yes, Spanish does have the actual letter 'V.' However, it is either pronounced like a hard 'B' or a soft 'B.'”

“So, in some Spanish words, the letter 'B' is soft like the 'B' in barely,” I whispered.

Realizing he had a difficult student on his hands, he replied, “Si, something kind of like that.”

“So a hard 'B' would sound like boom!” I yelled.

I could hear the wheels grinding in his brain. I knew he was pondering over putting an age limit on his class. I bet he was thinking, who needs a hardnosed 70-year-old misanthrope questioning his teaching ability? Maybe I was wrong. I actually thought he liked me after our comedic introduction before class.

I had enrolled in a 16-week Spanish class for several reasons. First, I have had a yearning to speak Spanish fluently for over 50 years. In 1963, I had helped my uncle move his farm and household equipment from Pukwana, South Dakota, to a chicken ranch just outside of Del Mar, California. After arrival, I was so excited the day we headed to Tijuana, Mexico. I longed to begin a real lesson about Latin American culture and what better place to start than a border town. I was soon to discover it specialized not in artifacts and Spanish treasures; what I encountered was trash and trinkets in the form of paintings, vases, statutes and anything that would hold the portrait of John F. Kennedy. I couldn’t believe the man was more popular in Mexico than he was in the USA. Tequila and Kahlua were cheap, but I had just turned 16 and had yet to establish a drinking repertoire any greater than 3.2 Budweiser.

The day I graduated from Chamberlain High School in 1964, I once again left South Dakota and set out to get my revenge on the land of Montezuma. This time, I would leave the border behind as I hopped on an old beat up bus and headed south to anywhere. This time, I wasn’t disappointed. I eventually travelled every part of that enchanted country until the narcotrafficantes made life dangerous for us gringos.

With Mexico somewhat off limits, my wife and I bought a couple last minute round-trip non-stop flights from Minnesota to Costa Rica for a little over $300 each. That now is my main reason for wanting to learn fluent Spanish.

We hadn’t even got into the first session when I realized the street lingo I picked up while living in Panama for a year was not going to serve me very well. The instructor, with his clipboard in hand, asked each "el estudiante" their name as we entered the classroom. When I replied with my "street Spanish" name, he looked at me like an interrogator from the Spanish Inquisition. When I pointed to Gary Fisher on the clipboard, he appeared to be on the verge of a bout of convulsive laughter.

The classroom filled and promptly at 6:30 p.m. the instructor introduced himself. He noted he had lived in a half dozen Latin American countries and spoke 10 different languages. I was duly impressed. He then asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves.

“Also, tell us where you are from,” he said. “What do you do? What are your hobbies and why are you taking this class?”

When it was my turn for the introduction, I was interrupted by the instructor.

He chuckled and said, “This student walked in and introduced himself as Geronimo the Fisher Woman.”

As I formerly stated, the street lingo I picked up while living in Panama for a year was not going to serve me very well.


Reader Comments

Talia writes:

I stumbled across your writing while looking up articles on immigration for a research assignment and wanted to say thank you for the insightful, humorous perspective! I've only lived in large cities on the East and West Coasts, so reading about your experiences in an unfamiliar area of the US is refreshing. Looking forward to reading more. Cheers from New England!


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