Sunday, September 24, 2006

Spanish Homework, Secrets and Ari Shapiro

Letras en Desfile

I was staring at my daughter’s homework: reading and math in Spanish. My Spanish is OK—I could find a bar and order a beer if you dropped me in the middle of Madrid (you know, survival Spanish), but that’s about all.

We send our daughter to Key School (Escuela Key) instead of Barrett Elementary, our neighborhood school. This choice had nothing to do with the fact that last year Barrett was still on the “No Child Left Behind” List. We just wanted her to get immersed in Spanish, to learn another language deeply. So we applied last year, and Hazel was picked in the lottery to go to Key; had she not been, we’d have been happy with Barrett.

Anyway, here I was the other day staring at the homework of my first grader, nearly clueless. First grade homework and I wasn’t sure what was going on.

She had to learn a song in Spanish. I looked up “desfile” to find out that was “parade.”

“Letras en Desfile”—“Letters on parade,” got it, and look, there’s the picture of people wearing sandwich boards with the vowels printed on their fronts. As well, each person was wearing a mask of an animal head. The animal depicted matched the vowel on the sandwich board—bear mask, “O” for “oso.” “Ema marcha como osa”—“Ema marches as a bear.” Cooking with gas. (I don’t have the song sheet in front of me right now so forgive me if Ema actually marched as another animal.)

I got to a line that was full of words I pretty much understood, but together, I was clueless what they possibly meant. I still don’t know. I’m guessing that it was an idiomatic phrase, something that literally translated doesn’t mean what it sounds like (In English, “I could care less” really means that “I could NOT care less.” “Quickly” means really quick, but “hardly” does not mean “really hard”). Or maybe I was just translating a word incorrectly in that line. In either case, I didn’t have time to futz with it, so we sounded it out and sang it like we knew what we were talking about.

It hit me more than it ever has before what immigrant families go through in this country, staring at lines incomprehensibly. My daughter is learning math in Spanish and will be taking the Standards of Learning math exams in third grade; those exams are written only in English. She must know the math cold, and I won’t always be able to help her. It’s scary as a dad to know that she’s only 6 and already she’s moving beyond me, that she’s going to have to struggle by herself through some of her homework. Worse, I might even translate something incorrectly only to confuse what she learned at school with what I’m telling her.

What a feeling of powerlessness.

Who let the cat out of the bag?

The best kept secret in Arlington, if you believe the realtors, is Buckingham Village 2 and the $700,000 townhouses in the earliest stages of construction. My wife caught the ad in the Washington Post yesterday, and we both laughed.

Best kept secret? News stories in the Post, the Sun Gazette, the Arlington Connection, and protests, a memo of understanding, county web pages devoted to it, and it’s the best kept secret? Good thing realtors aren’t in charge of homeland security!

Plus, real estate prices must still be a little crazy if townhouses worth three-quarters of a million are like cats we all should grab before they get out of the bag and everybody wants one.

If I edited People, Ari Shapiro would be on the Top 50 most beautiful list.

Some friends were just over for dinner when I told them I met Ari Shapiro of NPR just briefly today and that he was perhaps the best looking guy I’ve ever met in my life. As a fully-hetero regular guy I say that the man was just gorgeous. I’ve linked you to his commitment ceremony photo (he’s on the left) to let you know he’s not available, but I must say the photo doesn’t do him justice. Why he's wasting his face on radio, I just don't know.

Re: Who let the cat out - I think you should double check the ad in the Post re: Buckingham 2. This was most likely the the developers ad and has nothing to do with Realtors, most of whom are very professional and follow a strict code of ethics. Plus, have you ever heard of marketing? And your comment re: Realtors and national security is just ignorant. Realtors actually play an important role in national security as they are on the ground meeting people moving to the area and are in the neighborhoods on a regular basis thus putting them in a very good position to report any thing that looks suspicious. You, more than anyone, should know better than to stereotype and generalize.

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