Spanish is a verb-driven language, I remember reading that somewhere. No kidding. I’m looking at a verb table right now, and every Spanish verb has about 50 versions (not including the compound tenses). English has … what… like…three… or six…?
Basic stuff still has me stumped. In particular, the many baffling incarnations of very common irregular verbs. One quick example to illustrate: Take the verbs dar (to give) and decir (to say). They look very different in the infinitive, right? Apart from starting and ending with the same letter, they seem to have sod all in common, and you’d be unlikely to confuse them. But you wait…
If you want to say “tell me!”, decir suddenly morphs into “dime!” (imperative) or “digame!” (subjunctive), and when you want to say “I gave” and “we gave” then “dar” turns into “di” and “dimos“, respectively. All over sudden, dar becomes decir‘s evil twin! This kind of thing happens all over the place, and even after over a year and a half in Spain, confusion abounds.
But I’m not alone. One of my longstanding language exchange partners mentioned a couple of days ago how her three-year-old son was getting most of the verbs wrong by tarring all of them indiscriminately with the regular-verb brush. That poor little blighter will soon enough have the last remaining shred of common sense corrected out of him.
Over the years, I’ve been poring for countless hours over gaps in textbooks demanding to be filled with the correct form of a verb. I’ve never enjoyed it, not even one little bit. It was a necessary evil. And despite all this effort, these endless permutations refuse to stick to my Teflon-plated brain.
I’ve about 90+% comprehension at this point, and I can discuss complex topics, but I still grind to a halt regularly while struggling to produce the right flippin’ version of a verb.
I had not foreseen this. A couple of years ago, when I decided to move to Spain, I thought that by now, it would just be a matter of accumulating more vocab and fine-tuning my diction. The biggest challenge, I thought, would be hitting the right prepositions, which, speaking from my previous experience with English, takes several years.
I know there’s no point complaining about how hard it is to learn a new language, especially when your standards are high. They are not going to change it for me.
If you’ve been dipping into this blog for a while, you will know that I made a start on Portuguese recently. My heart sinks every time I contemplate the verb nightmare stretching out in front of me.
But after this, I’m done, you hear me – DONE. I’ll never touch another language with flippin’ mutating verbs ever again. Japanese it is for me. It may take me a hundred years to get to grips with their impenetrable three-script writing system, but at least Japanese verbs don’t transmogrify all over the place.
Coming up (eventually): A rant about prepositions. Brace yourselves.