I naively thought that returning to South America and speaking Spanish again would be just like riding a bike. Unfortunately it was more like trying to ride a motorcycle – and I’ve never ridden one before.
I was well and truly fucked. Luckily a little bit of charm and syntax ingenuity can go a long way.
The first time I found myself dining solo I sadly recognised nothing on the menu. I put all my key Spanish words together and came up with “Que es mas popular?” (What is most popular?)
The waiter gestured to one and trailed off in lengthy description. Understanding nothing I smiled and said “Esto” (This)
This food ordering technique has proven to work exceptionally well.
Being a gourmand and eating out 3 meals a day, my culinary vocab has flourished. Once I even proclaimed in shock that the menu was in English, only to realise I was confused because I had actually understood it.
For non cuisine related times luckily I’ve got my Latin-American Spanish phrase book. It’s full of some great conversation starters:
“Aqui hay un problema con el medio ambiente?” (Is there an environmental problem here?)
“Que autor latinoamericano recomiendas?” (Which Latin American author do you recommend?)
I was imagining how great it’d be to film myself using these phrases on unknown members of the Latino public and record their responses. I’m sure the conversations would be gold.
6 1/2 weeks into my trip and it’s sadly drawing to an end. I’m amazed at how much I’ve seen and done with such limited Spanish.
And stranger still, mine is better than a lot of the other Gringos I’ve met. My favourite is when people speak in English with a Spanish accent. Although to be fair, very occasionally this does actually work.
I’m proud to now seamlessly blend all my words together beautifully in what can only be called Spanglish. I’m pretty sure I make no sense at all, but an attempt paired with a beaming smile can do you no wrong.
The locals here are warm, muy tranquillo and lucky for me always willing to give their opinion on what is most popular.