Stringer Bell

November 10, 2010

In case you move to Spain soon, here are some awkward ways of dealing with the language barrier:

1.  -Si.

By far my most common Spanish word.  A response to any prompt, question, statement, request, story, etc…There is nothing more in our wheelhouse than saying ‘si.’  It can mean anything from ‘yes’ to ‘I really don’t know what you’re saying and am hoping for the best.’  Usually accompanied with an exuberant head-nod.

It weirds people out sometimes.  Imagine someone always said ‘yes’ to everything you said.  This was the premise to an underwhelming Jim Carrey project.

2.  -Hablo espanol bastante mal.  -I speak very bad spanish.

Bethany’s specialty.  She says it with shrugged shoulders and a shamed grin.  It usually is greeted with a laugh.  If she’s especially inspired, she’ll say, ‘Hablo espanol bastante mal, y comprendo espanol peor!’ (I speak very bad spanish, but I understand spanish worse!’) Our doorman is charmed by this routine.

SHOUTOUT: Our doorman, Marcel.  Married with two children, trying to provide, the man works wild hours.  Says his teenagers drive him crazy.  Always practicing his English.

He defies normal boundaries of kindness.  He hugs me every time I see him.  This could be five times a day.  The Johann Sebastian Bach of the friendly embrace.

3.  -No entiendo.  -I don’t understand.

A favorite, to be sure, but be careful.  This one can sometimes frustrate the listener, as they are most times giving simple instructions or asking a simple question.  It can also lead to a far more complex explanation of what they were trying to say.

-Hola Sean! Que tal?’

-Err….Si.

-(laughter) No, no.  Todo bien?

-No entiendo.

-(uproarious, deflating laughter, followed by confusing forty word explanation)

These kinds of interactions usually end with me feebly backing up, or sprinting away in shame.

4.  -Habla ingles? -Do you speak English?

The answer is ‘no’ more often than I’ve been led to believe, but most times, it’s ‘poco.’  Even advanced speakers say ‘poco,’ meaning you could be talking with someone who can eloquently discuss The Economist. Or, someone struggling with the phrase ‘have got.’

5. -Lo siento. -I’m sorry.

Especially awkward, as Spanish people do not say sorry nearly as much as we do.  I’ve only heard it two, three times.  You say it, and they absolutely regard you as a very strange foreigner.

They’re not wrong about that.

sean and b across the sea

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One Response to “Stringer Bell”

  1. I better be the one in the white shirt! Bethany

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