My husband and I dub Tuesdays as “Take-out Tuesday” because it’s the one day we allow ourselves to eat out at any place our tummies desire. As of late, our favorite take-out spot has been Lola on the Grill, a little hole in the wall that serves up the best Spanish dishes. The owners, Chef Antonio and his lovely wife Marissa, migrated from Puerto Rico several years ago. Both were avid cooks and often ran small kitchen stands in the tourist district of San Juan. Once they moved to New York City, Antonio decided to open up a small eatery so they could share native dishes with the New York community. And luckily for my belly, Lola on the Grill was opened a few short blocks away from my home!
One of Chef Antonio’s requirements when visiting the restaurant is customers MUST order in Spanish. Admittedly, he’s yelled at me on several occasions because I felt too intimidated to pronounce the menu items. Marissa would yell, “Girl! Just add some AZUCAR to your tongue and the words will roll right off!” (My husband didn’t seem to have much difficulty with sugar on his tongue since he received continuous praises from them!)
Pronouncing menu items in a new language had always made me nervous. I worried the words may sound silly, or others would laugh because I butchered their native language. Of course my mouth watered at the thought of delicious chicharrones, yummy pasteles, and crispy fried platanos but anxiety seemed to defeat my confidence. I would usually bribe my husband with free mancave time if he ordered for me. Of course he accepted but he soon realized I wasn’t the boss of his mancave time and put a stop to ordering for me.
Chef Antonio pulled me aside after my husband made his declaration of mancave freedom and told me to relax my tongue before speaking my order. Also, he suggested I close my eyes and say the menu item in my head. I was surprised at how easily the words came together in my head. He then told me new languages are challenging but I won’t LEARN if I don’t TRY. Simple advice! (Why didn’t I think of that?) Marissa also stressed the importance of saying difficult words slowly and not worrying what others think. Both Antonio and Marissa believe the best form of flattery is hearing someone challenge themselves by trying to pronouncing menu items. So with advice in mind, a relaxed tongue and anxiety away….Chiii-Cha-Rron-Ess! Order accepted!
Does anxiety get the best of you when pronouncing foreign words? Do you feel pressured to sound perfectly? Don’t let anxiety get the best of you when learning a new language. Relax and just go for it! Like the old adage: practice makes perfect!