Hablando del Rey de Roma

4 min readJan 13, 2022

In addition to analytics, I’m an avid Spanish learner. Like many monolingual Americans I grew up trying to learn another language starting in high school. I took French, but growing up in California, I heard Spanish a lot.

For parents out there: there’s a key age for language-learning [1]; For everyone else, don’t give up.

When I went to college, I learned that the best time to learn a language was before one is 18 (already passed)[2], but the brain stops fully growing at 25, and that age is likely earlier for females who reach puberty earlier [3–4]. So I pursued an intro to Spanish course. In that course there was an older man in his 50s or 60s struggling, but trying his hardest to really learn basic Spanish.

I told myself age may make learning more difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Then of course, I graduated, failing to take another formal course for nearly 10 years. In 2019, I had the fortune to take Spanish courses outside of my main workload in grad school. The following summer, I started speaking with more Spanish speakers and determinedly set out to Spain, where I met my partner. These are side-stories that I hope to eventually blog, but the point of it is that now I use Spanish everyday.

All of this to say, I speak Spanish daily, even if I have to correct myself every sentence.

So what better way to get better at learning and help others than to write about what I struggle with, what I find interesting, and the many divergent avenues of continuing to learn Spanish from a Granaíno (for those who don’t know, Spainards from Granada have an entirely different accent with many regional -isms let’s say).

So, to perk your interest, I’m highlighting a few things I’ve found interesting this week.

  1. “Dale (al play)” = “press play” ; This expression confuses me because le is an indirect object [5] pronoun, dale is an expression of “go for it/do it” and can also be used as an affirmation (i.e. “okay”/”sounds good”) [6], and darse has a series of other meanings [7], yet “dale al play” for me should be “dalo al mando/play” like — you, hit play. But it’s not, and some things we just have to accept and memorize. So if there’s any native Spanish speakers that want to give it a go at explaining this to me, let me know!
  2. “Zumbado” = “crazy”; For the longest time I thought my partner was saying “tumbado” = “lying down”. Which always confused me but I

thought maybe it was like an expression for being calm. But then I read it in Harry Potter y el Caliz del Fuego, and it occured to me that alas, I had been hearing this word wrong all along.

Spanish speakers from Spain pronounce the letters c and z as th, while reserving the s sound for s.

Part of the issue is that my partner is from Spain— i.e. makes the sound th for c’s and z’s whereas Latin American Spanish speakers sesean, make the sound s for c’s, z’s, and s’s. Some folks from Andalusia also cecean — which is when you use the th sound for c, z, and s. Plus folks from Granada rarely pronounce the full word so “tumbado” = “tumbao”.

3. Lastly, I learned this week that our expression in English “speak of the devil” exists in Spanish as “hablando del rey de Roma" (or “speaking of the king”).

Moving forward I plan on reserving one day a week to talk about my learnings in Spanish.


  1. Paul M. Thompson, Jay N. Giedd, Roger P. Woods, David MacDonald, Alan C. Evans, and Arthur W. Toga (2000). Growth Patterns in the Developing Human Brain Detected By Using Continuum-Mechanical Tensor Maps, Nature, vol. 404, no. 6774, March 9 2000.
  2. Smith, D. G. (2018, May 4). At what age does our ability to learn a new language like a native speaker disappear? Scientific American. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/at-what-age-does-our-ability-to-learn-a-new-language-like-a-native-speaker-disappear/
  3. Giedd, J. N., Blumenthal, J., Jeffries, N. O., Castellanos, F. X., Liu, H., Zijdenbos, A., … & Rapoport, J. L. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nature neuroscience, 2(10), 861–863.
  4. Cox, T. (2011, October 10). Brain maturity extends well beyond teen years. NPR. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708Thompson, P. M., Giedd, J. N., Woods, R. P., MacDonald, D., Evans, A. C., & Toga, A. W. (2000). Growth patterns in the developing brain detected by using continuum mechanical tensor maps. Nature, 404(6774), 190–193.
  5. SpanishDict. (n.d.). Spanish grammar articles and lessons: Direct object pronouns. SpanishDict. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.spanishdict.com/guide/direct-object-pronouns-in-spanish
  6. SpanishDict. (n.d.). Spanish grammar articles and lessons: What does dale mean in Spanish. SpanishDict. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.spanishdict.com/guide/what-does-dale-mean-in-spanish
  7. SpanishDict. (n.d.). Darse. SpanishDict. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.spanishdict.com/translate/darse




Psychology | Data Science & Viz | Social Justice | Spanish