"Bernie Berlitz" part one

Several months ago, Juan, a man very beloved to John and I for his stone wall building at our house, saw Isa as we were on our way out and he said (in Spanish) “Hello, Isabella! How are you!”
She stared at him blankly. I nudged her.
“Isa, aren’t you going to respond?” I said.
“I don’t know what he said,” she replied.
I felt rage. Two years of Spanish, second grade, third, and now into fourth grade, and she couldn’t even respond to a greeting. (I never learned Spanish, but I took two years of Italian in college.) I made some not-so-wild claims for John to give me five days and I could have Isa speaking more Spanish than she learned in two years at her school. First off, I took inventory of what she did know. Well, she knew colors, the word for desk and pencil and paper, and the numbers one to ten. She said that every year they would get new kids in the class so they’d have to start at the beginning, so they would do these same units all over again.
Our five day challenge is in Puerto Vallarta.
Because Isa has had two years of zero sum gain, I need her to hit the ground running. I also need a translator. It’s a fact that if I spoke Spanish, she’d fall back, and defer to me, so this way, she will be the translator. I buy her a phrasebook . It’s very cute, she gets instant results with her phrases, surprising herself. “A table for two, please.” “Please take us to our hotel.” “Can you direct me to the nearest bathroom?” “Excuse me, may I have a glass of water with no ice?” (I don’t bother to explain that one). Amazingly, to her, each sentence gets a response. She carries the book with her everywhere. I make her order my food for me. I make her ask how much the items we want to buy cost.
I make her ask “How do you say this is in Spanish?” People are helpful to this little girl and her phrase book. I made her find in her phrasebook how to write “This does not work” and place it on the coffeemaker.
Obviously, one does not need to leave Los Angeles to practice Spanish, but in this case I wanted to advance beyond that ridiculous rojo and blanco.

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