Lesson in Humility: Talking in Spanish When You’re a Remedial Speaker

Last night, I had to take two important steps in my new life as a Mexico City resident – order a taxi, and then talk to the taxi driver. First I called the front desk:

Me: Hola, buenos noches! Estoy en cuarto doscientos y cinco. Puede llamar un taxi, por favor.

Front desk: Si, diez minutos, senora.

Me: Gracias! Puede usted llamarme por favor cuando el taxi está aquí?
(Full disclosure: I had to use Babelfish to make sure I said this right.)

Front desk: Si.

Then, the taxi arrived. I was starting to feel downright triumphant. It worked!

Me, to the driver: Buenos noches! Voy a la Condesa…calle Michoacan, numero diez – entre Amsterdam y Insurgentes.

And he took me to my destination.

Me: Cuanto cuesta?

Then he mumbled something I didn’t quite understand. I heard a flurry of numbers. I started to get nervous and panicky, and when that happens, my language skills plummet.

Me: “Mas despacio, por favor.”

Then he mumbled something slightly slower that I still didn’t understand. So I shoved some money at him. It wasn’t the right combination of pesos, so he helped me figure it out, and eventually I gave him what I felt was the right amount of money, and then got the right amount of change.

Me: “Los sientos. Aprendo espanol…Buenos noches!

He just sort of laughed, and I’m sure rolled his eyes.

Still, though, this is progress, as bumpy as it may seem. A week ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do all this on my own.

7 thoughts on “Lesson in Humility: Talking in Spanish When You’re a Remedial Speaker

  1. dregina says:

    FYI – Babelfish is great for translating individual words, but the pits at translating phrases or sentences. Once verb conjugation comes into play, it just crashes and burns. Cristian forced me off of it after I embarrassed myself once too many times in Villalobos family emails.

  2. Joy says:

    Yeah, but I like to use it to verify that I’m at least somewhere close to correct. And I verify what I’m preparing to say at least four ways: online and in each of my textbooks, and then sometimes I ask others around me, too. It’s absurd.

    Update: I just made a dinner reservation in espanol!

    “Quisiera hacer una reservacion para esta noche, por favor…para siete y treinte para cuatro personas.”

    The hard part was saying my name out loud, and using espanol pronunciation of letters. I failed at that. Now I have to practice.

    So far, my life is playing out just like Chapter 1 of learning espanol. I can see it now: Tomorrow I will be renting a car, or something.

  3. DKN says:

    Yay! Good for you, man! I can’t imagine how nerve wracking that must be. I’m confident you will be chirping away in espanol in no time!

  4. tjthompson says:

    I’m a fourth year Spanish student and it is tough! I understand most of what I am told in Spanish, but I cannot conjure up a response very quickly, and I usually need a word or two translated from English so I can say what I want to say. Conjugation is so hard I often use circumlocution to make it easier!

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