July 21, 2012

Too Kind

After a four hour drive through rural and urban Argentina and a long conversation in broken Spanish, the driver hands me my bags at the airport and says (in Spanish) that my Spanish is not as bad as I say it is. Too kind — I speak at the level of a lazy two-year-old, and every sentence is an exercise in memory, concentration, and constant paraphrasing, all fraught with misunderstandings and blank looks.

There's nothing like being thrown into a situation like this, where the other guy doesn't speak English at all, but wants a conversation, to turn a smattering of words and phrases learned on the street in urban Oakland and from telenovelas on the TV into a language, no matter how broken or inelegant. After a week in Argentina, the miracle is that it just wasn't so hard to do.

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At 7/21/2012 6:27 pm, Blogger Gene said...

My (then girlfriend, now wife) and I were in Argentina some years back. My Spanish is OK, but it was spotty enough that some people assumed I was Italian :-)

The only thing that stumped us completely was at a grocery store, where the checkout clerk was basically asking if we had a 'rewards card' or the equivalent.

At 7/22/2012 10:39 am, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Ah, you too, eh?! I was often tripped up by the little things like that — the funniest being the use of English words or phrases (like "discount coupon") that I didn't hear as English and couldn't recognize on-the-fly... I swear I'll do a real spoken Spanish class before I go there again instead of relying on my Fruitvale street Spanish to get me around.


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