When I was in Spain I looked down on the Americans who refused to speak Spanish with a lisp because it seemed weird to them. I mean, c'mon, it's not even really a lisp--it's just the way the language is spoken. S is pronounced just like it is in English, but the soft c and z are pronounced like an English th. It's no stranger than the fact that in English we put a t and an h together and get en entirely unrelated sound. If you were speaking Russian you wouldn't insist on pronouncing their letters the same as we pronounce them in English.
But some people just couldn't get past the fact that in their minds a soft c and z should sound like an s. It doesn't help that most North Americans' exposure to Spanish is through Latin America, where they've corrupted the language and completely lost the "th" sound.
When I came back to the states I saw other returned missionaries who had served in Spain and pronounced their cs and zs correctly there but since coming home had reverted to what in Spanish is known as seseo, a sort of reverse-lisp. Their excuse? They didn't like being made fun of by the returned missionaries who had served in Latin America. I vowed never to follow that path of weakness. I had learned Spanish in Spain and gosh darn it, that's the Spanish I'd speak until the day I die.
It's been nearly eight years now since I came home from Spain and I've done a pretty good job of retaining my pseudo-Spaniard accent (by which I mean my American accent that tries to be Spaniard). Despite the fact that 95% of my interaction with Spanish speakers has been with Latin Americans who find my accent at best amusing and at worst incomprehensible, I've stuck to my guns.
But now my five-year-old daughter is learning Spanish from a Hispanic teacher in a California school. It would be one thing for me to pronounce words differently than she hears them at school when I'm speaking Spanish or reading a Spanish book, but this afternoon I was helping her with some reading homework and decided to make some flashcards to help her learn the sounds. I was grouping letters together by the sound they make, so for example a single card has ba and va because in Spanish the b and v are identical. I went back and forth on whether to group the soft c and z sounds with the s sounds because in my mind they are entirely distinct and to say otherwise is blasphemy. But S-Boogie has a hard enough time with phonetics as it is, so I decided it would be best to swallow my pride and teach her the same thing she's learning at school.
When I made that first card with sa and za together as if they make the same sound, a little piece of me died inside. The funeral will be held on Saturday.