Learning Spanish with “Destinos”

My Spanish is what you might call “accidental.” My French and my Italian are pretty good, so I’m pretty much able to read Spanish; a lot of words look the same (though there are lots of tricks and traps between the three languages). My Peace Corps training took place in Puerto Rico, so I had some exposure to Spanish there. Also, I try to pay attention to American Spanish, on bus signs and billboards, and try to educate myself by translating them.

But I want to do better.

Back in the 1990s I saw a few episodes of a PBS educational series called “Destinos.” It was a Spanish-language course, in the form of a telenovela. Don Fernando, an old man in Mexico, learns that his first wife (whom he left for dead in Spain during the Civil War) may still be alive, and that he may have a son in Europe. He sends a Hispanic-American lawyer named Raquel Rodriguez to Europe to discover the truth. She follows the trail from Seville to Madrid to Buenos Aires to Puerto Rico, while Don Fernando’s health continues to worsen –

Well, it was mighty gripping.

It was also a very easy way to learn Spanish.

The best way to learn a language – any language – is to want to learn it. You need incentive. Lots of people want to learn foreign languages, but then discover that there’s a lot of memorization and repetition involved, and it’s not fun, and they drop the attempt. But if you’ve got incentive, it’s a doddle. If you get dropped into a non-English-speaking culture, you learn the language or else.

And, reader, “Destinos” is still out there. You can find it on DVD, and as a textbook. I recently bought both.

And it’s just as good as I remembered it.

It is very absorbing. The series keeps raising the level of difficulty almost unnoticeably from episode to episode, so you’re learning without even realizing it. Once in a while it stops to reinforce a lesson about numbers, or months, or seasons, or telling time, but that’s okay too. Also, you hear Spanish of all kinds: Raquel’s American Spanish, the Mexican Spanish of Don Fernando and his family, the elegant Castellano spoken by the characters in Seville and Madrid, the heavily-accented Spanish of Argentina and Puerto Rico.

I watch a couple of episodes every evening. !Y ya hablo espanol como el rey Juan Carlos!



Or something like that.

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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