Learning Spanish the TAMALE way

==This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World. While we are hiking the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango this summer, I’ll post an excerpt every Monday.==

roadside restaurant mexico

We ate at small roadside restaurants like this throughout Mexico

“Mommy! Mommy!” Daryl shouted as we pulled into the parking lot. “They have tamales! They have tamales!”

I glanced over to the pickup truck parked in front of the hotel and noticed the big TAMALE sign, before refocusing my attention on the hotel. I climbed off my bike and headed off in search of the office to see about a room.  I was hot and sweaty, and wanted to find a place to stay for the night. Food could come later.

“Mommy! They’ve got tamales!” Daryl danced in excitement around me. “Can we get some? For dinner? Please?”

Daryl was in heaven – they had tamales, his favorite food in the whole wide world.  Davy had been good since we arrived in Mexico – his favorite food was tortillas and beans – but Daryl had been searching high and low for tamales since we crossed the border. He finally found them.

I handed him some money and told him to go buy some.

“Will you come with me? I don’t know how to buy them,” he begged.

Mexican restaurant

Daryl loved tamales and carne asada

“Nope,” I replied. “You can do it. Just go tell the man ‘Quiero tamales’ and you’ll be fine.”

“But what if he starts talking jibberish back to me? I won’t know what to say.”

“You’ll figure it out, or you won’t get tamales. There are only two possibilities here.”

He took the money and headed out. A few minutes later he returned triumphant with tamales in hand.

He was well on his way to fluency in a new language.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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4 Responses to Learning Spanish the TAMALE way

  1. Laurel July 16, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    There is nothing like a growling stomach and good food to motivate you to learn a language! One of the first things I did when I moved to Germany, was learn how to order meat and cheese from the deli so I didn’t have to eat the packaged stuff.

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  2. Kieu July 19, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    Love this story! I’m in the process of learning Spanish for our upcoming trip to South America but I’m no where near as good as Daryl and his tamales. Lol. I’ll work on it.

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  3. Jesús Flores July 22, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Yes, it’s amazing way for learning food vocabulary. Specially, if the student is hungry! :)

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  4. Ksenia April 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Tamales, qué rico!

    By the way, I learnt Spanish in Mexico!

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