The Lady of the Cakes (Jan 2016 blog) highlights the 5 main bits of useless advice about learning a language and asks for contributions along the same lines. While no additional advice springs to mind ,here are some thoughts from an intermediate Spanish learner about learning Spanish .According to Duolingo,the free language learning app, I am now 45% proficient,and I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to the program which forms the cornerstone of my learning.Examples are taken from Duolingo but all interpretations and mistakes are mine.Also I ask for your indulgence ,gentle reader,for any errors in spelling,translation and meaning.

I only have a few notes at the moment .When I have my earphones on and am waiting for that success sound at the end of a section-
“DA …AH …A…A …. “ ,and watch my SP rise(that is the time spent that day on Duolingo),I am loathe to stop and record.Then there is the notification that I have ,finally,gone up one stage (am stage 13 at moment,feels like I have been on 13 for ever and ever).Mostly I cannot afford to be distracted by recording the strange combinations of nouns and verbs I have encountered. However today I managed to record some of the phrases that fascinate,puzzle and sometimes scare.

First category :Scary/Sinister
The knives and razors -razuradora.The word itself is a combination of a harsh slashing sound and a soft ,homely “dora “ at end .Cucharas (knives) is all soft .Ok lets concentrate on the razors.Someone is always shaving :dad ,doctors , lawyers.Is there something sinister about this ? Is it a sign that Spanish guys like to go without facial hair?I guess the other question is why do I have to learn this .Knives alright,I might need to ask for one in restuarant ,but razors ,no.
Into this fits “sotano”(basement) -“yo duermo-en el sotano….Why am I sleeping in the basement ? And why would I ever want to read there? My Anglo view of basements is linked to darkness and confinement:my grandfather in a freezing English winter long ago escaping to the basement to collect coal for the kitchen boiler,a hunchback aunt who would spring out of her damp ,evil smelling basement rooms as soon as one of us children went downstairs on the way to the miniscule garden outside the lower ground floor of the terraced house .Certainly creepy.
In this category too falls the “comandante” y “coronel” sentences .Why do they always have to Hablen together ? One wonders what they are up too ,especially as the coronel”has such a rounded and soft sound .Moreover there is one phrase later on about “el commandante tiene una bomba”(the commandant has a bomb)Bombs?and a feminine ending too.

Category2 :Cleanliness,Clothes and Capability
Is Spain obsessed with cleaning and bathrooms ?Someone,usually feminine,is always cleaning the bathroom ,and the bathroom and kitchen have to be “limpia”.As a visitor I always ask if the room has a bathroom (tiene un dormitorio con bano?) ,not if the bathroom is clean .On my travels I have always cared more about the toilet than the bathroom ,like how far away is it in the night and how many beds do I have to stumble over before I get there.
Perhaps I am one of those who simply do not fit -Tu no capes,-and it seems like fit does not just mean because of size ,but just don’t fit in.A lot of sentences have a he or a she who do not fit.Or else not capable .
And why is the shirt (“camisa””)so important ,for males as well as females ? “Camisa” and “ropa” are recurring first words on to greetings .I wonder if Spanish youth go round unclothed ,or have in the past ,or are shirts symbolic of states ? “Yo tengo suficiente ropa” The word singular and plural ,and has a feminine ending .Certainly I have learned about red (roja)shirts and green(verde) shirts.Also about being dressed.

Category 3 Madres
Spanish guys love their mothers, and of course the Madonna is omnipresent even though Franco has long since gone .Personally I love this about Spain ,and the fact that the sons-always the sons -,“ayudan” (help)their mothers .But my feminist side does ask about the whereabouts of the daughters(who in my experience always end up caring for their grouchy or ungrateful mothers ) and the mothers’ partners( who seem to escape). On the other hand there is a certain equality in the language in relation to gender.I don’t know enough about gender and that has been discussed in another Lady of the Cakes blog-but there seems an equal,some might say random, distribution of male and female endings.

Why I love Spanish-Enamorado
I love the Spanish language precisely because of its puzzles and ambiguity ,at least in this still quite ignorant learners eyes
But most of all I love Spanish for the richness of its metaphors and the stream of yearning that runs throughout.Yearning and ambivalence .Madrugada ( the dawn ),todo el dia (all day)The dawn of the new day does not sound as poetic as” La madrugada del nuevo dia” Similarly Anoche-through the night ,conveys a night of possibiities and variations .Spanish nights full of music and food and interaction ,long long nights that stretch beyond the ten o’clock curfew of us organised Anglos .Nights are for adventures and romance,as well as for strange “aparace”:It appears ,it seems .Not is .
”And nothing is but what is not “ (Macbeth,Act,Sc3.)Perhaps an unfortunate quotation,as neither I nor the Spaniards are contemplating murder.However to those of us who in our daily life contemplate the blurred distinctions between reality and imagination ,the increasing ambiguity of existence,Spanish affords great comfort.The Spanish language offers the opportunity to merge into another life,even to temporarily adopt another persona .