Life is either a great adventure or nothing. - Helen Keller
Do you remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? Written from a second-person point of view with dramatic writing, you are the main character. Your choices determine the course of the book and the plot revolves around the decisions you make. You jump from page to page as you, well, choose your own adventure.
There were dozens of endings, but most end in your demise. Perfect for the 10 to 12-year-old demographic.
If you work on a jobsite with Spanish-speakers, you can choose your own adventure also. There are thousands of words in the Spanish language that are nearly identical in English. These Spanish Twins take the "I can never remember that word" feeling of ignorance out of language learning.
If you know English - you know Spanish.
Let's crack the cover on this book. Do you dare to choose your own adventure?
Decision #1: Choose Your Own Verb.
You peer into the dimly lit room. You enter cautiously, shuffling your feet along the ceramic tile floor. You see something scribbled on the wall. The writing is a faded crimson color. Is it dried blood?
No. It's just pink chalk. You exhale in short puffs, thankful. Through the pale ray of moonlight, you notice a chalkboard on the wall. You are in a classroom. You struggle to focus on why you are there - to improve your communication skills by learning Spanish. On the green chalkboard two words are scribbled wildly.
Necesito (nay-say-SEE-toh) I need
Necesitas (nay-say-SEE-tahs) You need
You strain under the impact of the decision you are about to make.
Am I conceded - always thinking of myself?
Or am I bossy - telling other people what to do?
You choose bossy, rationalizing your need to improve your delegation skills.
Necesitas: You need
You wonder how on earth you'll remember this arcane word. But then you notice a similarity to an English word you already know.
If something is a necessity, you need it. You say "Necesitas: You need" with authority and leave the classroom.
Decision #2: Choose Your Own Infinitive.
Stepping out of the classroom, you find yourself on a desolate beach. You are alone with only the melody of the waves crashing into the shore. You realize how long it's been since you remained motionless and thought. This creeps you out. You decide to check email on your Crackberry for the 89th time today.
One email jumps out at you. It's an email from yourself.
You read the email.
Pick one of the following infinitives. Place it in a sentence behind the Necesitas.
"What the heck is an infinitive," you say to yourself out loud.
You then see a Wikipedia link.
The article is titled, "Infinitive."
The Infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: do and to do, be and to be, move and to move, and so on are Infinitives.
You continuing reading the email.
Choose one Infinitive and add it to the sentence behind Necesitas.
- Mover (moh-BAYR) to move
- Instalar (een-stah-LAHR) to install
- Completar (kohm-play-TAHR) to complete
- Reparar (ray-pah-RAHR) to repair
You notice how ridiculously close these Spanish words are to their English counterparts.
"Oh, these must be those Spanish Twins I heard about…." you say to yourself.
You choose mover: to move
"Necesitas mover." you say to yourself.
You need to move.
You are surprised learning Spanish is this easy.
You are also surprised by a pack of saber-tooth tigers slowly exiting from their shoreline cave. You flee quickly.
Adventure #3: Choose Your Own Noun.
Ducking into a darkened cabana, you hear the saber-tooth tigers ravenously sprint past you. You curse the three Boston Creme donuts you ate for breakfast.
You open your eyes and notice four items laid out on the deck before you. You see each one has a name tag and some phonetics.
You spend a moment looking at each item.
An orange traffic cone.
A traffic barricade.
A can of gasoline.
A chunk of concrete.
You marvel at how easy these words are to remember. They are identical except for the last letter.
You select barricada and add it to your sentence.
Necesitas mover la barricada.
You need to move the barricade.
You wonder why you struggled so mightily in sophomore Spanish.
You stride toward the spiral staircase, anxious to complete your Spanish sentence.
Adventure #4: Choose Your Own Adjective.
At the top of the staircase, you look around curiously. You realize you've been here before. You see the chalkboard and the pink chalk.
A circular plot narrative, really? If this turns out like Vanilla Sky, I'm gonna be ticked off, you think to yourself.
You see five adjectives written on the chalkboard.
You recall that unlike English, adjectives follow nouns in Spanish.
cromado (kroh-MAH-doh) chrome
diagonal (dyah-goh-NAHL) diagonal
doble (DOH-blay) double
prefabricada (pray-fah-bree-KAH-dah) prefabricated
residencial (ray-see-dayn-SYAHL) residential
Again you are struck by the familiarity of these words.
You choose diagonal because it is identical in both languages.
Excitedly, you grab the pink chalk and write your Spanish sentence on the chalkboard in large letters.
Necesitas mover la barricada diagonal.
You need to move the diagonal barricade.
Stepping back to marvel at your new found Spanish skills, you hear heavy breathing.
You spin around quickly.
You see a pack of 13 drooling saber-tooth tigers bearing down on you.
Sorry about that.
But what an adventure! Now you can communicate hundreds of sentences on the job.
Say Necesitas (think necessity), pick one infinitive (Mover, Instalar, Completar, Reparar) and then simply point at something. You'll find that's enough to make things happen on the job.
The adventure is out there waiting for you. All you have to do is choose.
For a more interactive version of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" story see The Lost Jewel of Construction Español.
Bradley Hartmann is el presidente and founder of Red Angle - a Spanish language training firm focused exclusively on the construction industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.redanglespanish.com.