Spain: Speaking Spanish


Upon arrival to Madrid, I was determined to speak Spanish.

Who knew that the Spanish I had taught myself from working as a nurse in various Dallas Emergency Departments would be incomprehensible to the Spanish natives?

With resolute determination, (head held high, shoulders back, direct eye-contact and smile) my first opportunity to speak Spanish  was received with abject clueless-ness. Suppressing the look of incredulity is a challenge in any culture. Spain was no different and despite their politeness, I suspect the 'Madridlenos' were wondering what in the hell I was saying. Could it have been the eye-roll that frequently followed this expression?
The Incredulity of St. Thomas - Caravaggio 

Typically, Spanish responses to my questions (and they were always questions) included "the look" followed by a rapid-fire spoken Spanish akin to a verbal machine-gunning. After asking a simple, "Perdon senor, donde esta Plaza Mayor?" we were exhausted. With intense focus to our respondent, we were lucky if we made out an "isquierda" or a "dereche" but only if hand signals were involved.

Thankfully, we weren't special. It seems as though even the Spanish have a hard time understanding one another. In the southern Spanish province of Andalucia, we struck up an English conversation with our bilingual waiter, Marc from Barcelona. The topic of differences in the Spanish spoken in Texas and Spain.  Marc said the same held true for the various regions in Spain and added, "Even I don't understand the Spanish in Andalucia".
The Spanish spoken in Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia is "Latin American Spanish", the Spanish spoken in Madrid and northern Spain is "Castillian" and the Spanish of  Southern Spain, Andalucia (Seville, Cadiz) and parts of the Caribbean is "Trade Winds" Spanish. Huh. I learned something new.

"Gracias" was a dead give away that I was a tourist.

Or was it the backpack, sneakers and tourist guide clutched in my hand?

None-the-less, the locals don't pronounce "gracias" as you might think. They say "grathee-a".

Dropping the "s" at the end of a word and creating a "th" sound to anything that sounds like an "s" within the word itself tended to deplete any confidence I might have had in speaking Spanish to begin with. For instance, when I asked "Donde esta Real Alcazar?" and was met with "the look", I sheepishly pointed to the words "Real Alcazar" in my tourist guidebook. What I should have said was..."Donde etha Real Alca-tha?

Mr. Something thought it sounded as though the Spanish had a lisp.

Other examples? "Dos cafe con azucar por favor" really should have been "Doh cafe con a-thooca".....

So, humbly, by Day 7 after persistent pleading being encouraged by my travel partner, I sucked it up and reverted to pointing out words and phrases in my trusty tourist guide.

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