I BELIEVE ESPAGNOL IS ITALIAN FOR FRENCH
It's amazing the amount of classes, tests, and homework assignments, that
cycle through my mind as I stand in line in a tapas restaurant in Barcelona,
Spain. Every single minute studying a foreign language have led up to this
moment to prepare me to partake in an act of commerce in another country. I
search the catacombs of my brain for some lost phrase that may have snuck i n
while I slept through Introduction to Spanish in junior high. If I find it, I might
pull off not looking like another ignorant American tourist. I step up to the
counter and order a beer. I haven't looked this unsure of myself trying to buy
beer since I was 16 years old and tried to buy beerwith my older sister's driver's
licensee. The incredibly busy Barcelona bar tender turns around, makes eye
contact with me and raises his eyebrows. The raising of eyebrows is the
international bartender sign for, "You got three seconds, order!"
It's go time.
"Olah! Yo Quiro un mas cervasa eh, eh. umm, eh,
and my tab pour favor?"
So lame. Not only did I run out of spanish words and just say english, but I
did the classic american jerk move of saying the english words in a spanish
accent. As if the guy will understand english as long as I do an impression of
him while I speak it. With that mentality I could get by in Spain speaking
ebonics as long as I'm salsa dancing the whole time. I'm not sure why we think
changing our accent can make english universal. Maybe subconsciously were
thinking,"This guys says he doesn't understand english, but I bet he'll
understand english if I do impression of him while I speak it."
I took french for three years in high
school and was excited to finally use it
in Europe. I stepped into a Patisserre
in Monte Carlo. I decided to order a
quiche purely for the fact that I knew
the french word for it. The smiling lady
behind the counter greeted me with a
very friendly "Bonjour!"
I returned with, "Bonjour! Je voudras
un quiche sil vous plait."
At least I think that's what I said.
Her face then went from smiling to this confused/disappointed look on her
face. As if a squirrel in a tiny top hat had just walked in the store and farted. I
can only assume that she was taken aback by how efficiently I was able to
butcher her language. I'm not even sure I said quiche right. Since then, every
time we port in France I spend most of my time getting directions to the library
and asking if people are sad only because those are the only french phrases I
While going out for food and drinks does have it's trip ups at least I can get
by. I had to send a package from Vigo, Spain. I figured with the three years I
spent waiting tables in a mexican restaurant and lifetime of experience mailing
things I'd be able to accomplish this simple task. After three minutes in the Vigo
post office I realized that unless I was going to ask some one to stock glasses or
clean off table 82, my restaurant spanish didn't contain one word I would need
for mailing. The post lady and I basically played charades to figure out what the
other needed. Eventually I just started drawing in the air with my index finger
whatever I was saying. That is the mark of a man who has completely run out of
"....I need a box... to send these things here... around the world."
Sadly it worked, and she gave me a mailing slip to put the address on. Not
only was it completely in spanish, but it appeared to ask for way more
information than an american mailing slip. I put various parts of the
destination's address in places I guessed were right. Afterwards the slip was
still half blank. I gave it to the lady with a twenty euro note. She gave me change
and we awkwardly stared at each other for a moment. I tried to say the phrase
for, "So, is that everything, are we cool, is that gona get to the U.S.?" which I
decided was, "Beuno?"
She replied "Si."
And I walked out of the Post Office with about as much confidence that my
package would reach its destination had I just flung it in the ocean.