Habla Ingles?

I’ve been in Spain on business for a week. I’ve toured a dozen or so ‘El Corte Ingles’ department stores here in Madrid and Valencia (think Macy’s meets Telemundo). I love Spain (what I’ve seen of it) and I’m trying to learn to speak Spanish. I really am.

But “habla ingles?” is still how I begin most conversations here. Sometimes I begin with “hola!” or “buenos dias” or “buenas tardes” or “buenas noches” but I’m not quite sure when “tardes” and “noches” begin and end so usually I just say “Hola”. I often say “gracias” and “de nada”, too. Beyond that things get a little sketchy. What I have found is that MOST Spaniards seem to appreciate that I’m trying to speak a little (muy poco) Spanish (or they’re just enjoying my stupidity and can’t wait until I’m gone so that they can let out a big belly laugh; either way I’m fine) and many will respond S L O W L Y so that I can understand them (sort of). I can see why total immersion teaches you how to speak a second language. You’ve just got to figure it out – if you want to eat or need to go to the bathroom or have lost your way – you need to be understood.

I will be happy to be home next week but if I had another week or fifty-two here in Espana I could really be “habla-ing some Espanol”. But instead, I guess it’s back to ‘Rosetta Stone’. I hate those cheery ‘Rosetta Stone’ people; they’re so smug and they’re ALWAYS right. If I could just move to Spain for six months or a year I would never need ‘Rosetta Stone’ again. Of course that would mean quitting my job and living in Spain with no income; not to mention the cost of airfare, hotels, paella, manchego cheese, wine and cafe con leche. Hmmm? I guess maybe ‘Rosetta Stone’ is a more reasonable option – damn it! I just think that I learn better “on the job” so to speak. No one in Madrid or Valencia has asked me “donde esta la biblioteca?” (where is the library?) but I have been asked “quires otra copa de vino?” (would you like another glass of wine?) and because “si” is my default response, I only realized after the third “copa de vino” that I should probably say “no”. So hey, ‘Rosetta Stoners’: here’s a heads up – we’re not spending our free time at the library. I’m just sayin…

I actually felt pretty good about myself today. I asked a Senora if she wanted my seat on the Metro and she understood me. Also I asked a couple how old their daughter was and then told them “mi nieta es tres anos tambien” – I felt so Continental!

Tomorrow I’m going to Mass – of course it will be in Spanish. I just hope nobody asks if I want more “vino”.

Adios mis amigos.

Denis (pronounced: DAY-NEEZ)

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