Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some of our language mistakes. (And some other things about Uruguayan Spanish.)

Our Spanish is improving a little bit.  We've had a tutor come teach us at our house 4 or 5 days a week for the past few months, so I think we hoped we would have seen more improvement, but oh well.  It's something.

I thought I would just share a few funny Spanish errors that we've made.

I mentioned the grocery store "Tienda Inglesa" in a previous post.  Jeff almost always calls that store "Tienda Iglesia" and it always makes me laugh.  (Tienda Inglesa means "English Store", and Tienda Iglesia means "Church Store".)

When Jeff is talking about things that are old, he very often calls them "viaje" ("trip") instead of "viejo" or "vieja" ("old").  It makes whatever he is talking about sound a lot more exotic because I picture a vacation version of whatever he is talking about. 

My mistakes are usually not as amusing.  Or if they are, I don't know it.  Occasionally I will feel like I am communicating just GREAT and the person I am talking to will seem confused.  Those times I realize I am interjecting some Italian.  A lot of times Italian works here (even if it wouldn't work in other Spanish-speaking places) because there are a lot of Italian immigrants, and the dialect occasionally reflects that.

The Spanish here is not normal Spanish, it is Rio Platense Spanish, so they use a different accent (j and ll sound like "zhu" instead of "yu"), a different tu form (vos), and a lot of different words.  People here also often don't pronounce the ends of words.  This means my ability to communicate depends a lot on who I am talking to.  Sometimes I feel like I speak Spanish quite well, and other times I feel like I don't speak any "Spanish" at all.  It really ranges.

Sometimes I'll get several compliments on my Spanish, and other times the people around me at the store are like "ohhhh, she doesn't speak Spanish" and occasionally people volunteer to help me by translating.  Usually (I think!) I am decent and can communicate but sometimes don't know specific words.  Other times I feel tongue-tied, I can't think of words I need, and just kind of shrug and smile.

I have made a couple dumb mistakes at the grocery store lately.  (A lot of our Spanish interactions are in grocery stores since we have no friends here.)  This one time, I walked up and set my items on the space by the cashier, but she was counting her change.  She told me she was done, and I nodded and then I realized I didn't know if she was done working for then or if she was almost done doing stuff with change or what.  A cashier a couple lanes down announced that his register was open, and I thought he was telling other people.  Then I started to wonder if I was supposed to go to the other line.  So I picked up my stuff and went to the lane of the cashier who was available.  I was only buying a few things, though, so when I left a few moments later I saw that she was helping someone else.  That must have been really weird to tell me that she was just about ready, and then I picked up my stuff and changed lanes.

Or another time recently a cashier was talking to me about Paisley--everyone loves her--and she asked me how old Paisley was, I thought, but I didn't hear her well, so I said nineteen months...but then by how she responded I realized she had actually asked how long we had been in Uruguay.  But it was too tricky to explain that I thought she had said something else (because that's like...past...subjunctive? or some less regular verb tense), so I just went with it.  But I felt like an idiot, because I would really hope that if we had been here for close to two years, I hope that my Spanish would be better.  How embarrassing!  (I think we need more interaction with local people, to practice.)

When we were in Colonia del Sacramento we were out looking for a place open for breakfast and I asked a waitress if they served "desayuno" (des-eye-oon-oh).  She had no idea what I was saying, so I repeated myself a couple times.  She was lost until she suddenly figured it out.  "Ah!  Desayuno!" (des-ah-zhu-no!)  YES.  THAT.   For the longest time I felt almost as if I were making fun of them when I pronounced things their way, since it is not good/real Spanish, and it feels very unnatural to me...but our Spanish teacher has assured us that it doesn't come across as rude, and we agree that it would be nice to be better understood, so I'm working on it.  

But, if I were talking to someone with a Texan accent or a British accent and I suddenly assumed a bad fake accent matching theirs, wouldn't that come across as rude?  And that reminds me of something else that I thought was funny...

Our Spanish teacher speaks English very well.  She speaks American English, but tries to teach us in Spanish unless we don't understand or need a more precise clarification or when we relax a little bit and just want to be understood for a moment.  I think she's been working with us since November.  Somehow, it must have been in mid-January, something came up and I asked her about learning American English (maybe we were talking about how much American TV they get here?) and she admitted that she learned British English in school.  I asked her so, when she is with her friends that speak English, does she speak American or British English.  British English.  She said she actually prefers British English.  Whaaaaatt.....?  All along I had no idea!  She just uses an American accent for while she teaches us.  I thought that was very funny.  It probably helps.

Sorry I have no pictures to go along with this!  Annnd, Paisley just woke up so I had better post this and go help her.


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