“The cheese is old and moldy”, and other useful expressions

August 7th, 2009 by Michelle O'Brodovich

For those of you who haven’t seen “Encino Man”–a painful 1992 flic starring Brandon Fraser as a recently defrosted caveman sent back to high school–don’t. I’ve already taken one for the team, and there’s no need for any more suffering

In an unusual stroke of luck for a person often plagued by songs stuck in her head, I have forgotten almost everything about the film. One scene is quite memorable, though, as a send-up of boring, impractical and ineffective language courses. It shows students nearly dozing off as they chant the Spanish lesson followed by its English equivalent:

El queso está viejo y pútrido. ¿Dónde está el sanitario?”

The cheese is old and moldy. Where is the bathroom?”

Ah, yes, a real gem to tuck away for when your argument with the cheesemonger is interrupted by an urgent call of nature.

That scene sends me back to the musty basement language classrooms of my youth, my senses assaulted by a whirlwind of  fluorescent lights, screeching chalk and teacher’s halitosis.  Even though I spent years in school learning French and Spanish, my French only ever really took flight once I worked as a bartender in Montreal while in college. My Spanish remained entirely focused on moldy cheese and restrooms until I backpacked through Costa Rica and I suddenly would have killed to remember the correct conjugations for the imperfecto and pretérito verb tenses.

Living and working in Quebec City means living and working in French, which is why I moved here–I love it.  Although I don’t think I’ll ever remember my masculine and feminine nouns, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.  Next would be to improve on my basic Spanish…and then what I’m not sure.

Any suggestions?

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