Watch Your Language

The last time we went to IKEA (Monday of last week, I think), we had a delightful taxi driver named Paco who talked with us the entire time.  He had a great sense of humor and about 12 cups of coffee worth of energy.  He was originally from Pamplona in the north of Spain. The Spanish he spoke was Castellano, which is the Spanish of my Rosetta Stone language program, and the Spanish of formal business and education. Jerry and I found Paco extremely easy to understand.  We were able to have a very good conversation and Jerry followed quite a bit of it without my needing to translate it all.
Paco has lived in Sevilla for 18 years and thinks it is one of the most wonderful cities around (we agree).  But he said that — for at least his first three months in the city — he understood less than half of what the locals said to him.  He joked about Sevillanos barely pronouncing their single “r’s” instead of rolling them like he does.  He complained they spoke so fast he couldn’t tell where one word ended and the next began.  It sounded like he was describing New Yorkers and I told him so, which he found very funny.  It was encouraging for us to realize we could actually understand a lot of Spanish when spoken slowly and not in local dialect.  Paco’s enunciation was precise and beautiful.  (Is it really too much to ask that everyone speak to us as if they are narrating a documentary?)
Like Paco, we will have to get used to the local dialects. And, unfortunately, by the time we do get used to “Southern Spanish,” we will have already made our way tortuously through all our major purchases, moves, and installations.
In the meantime, Digital+ (the cable television company that truly provides exceptional service) was here this morning during a brief, but beautiful, downpour and I was reminded once again that I no longer demonstrate the communication skills of a semi-intelligent adult.  The installer spoke a dialect of Southern Spain that enabled me to understand possibly two out of every 10 words.  The only thing I immediately understood clearly was when he looked at the outlets behind the TV and said we didn’t have what we needed.  Apparently we need to have some kind of antenna (“satellite”) installed either on the roof or on the outside wall near the TV outlet.  I took him downstairs to the lawyers’ office.  Neither of the lawyers were in; their assistant called the boss and he told her it would be absolutely fine for us to install something outside but he needed to be here to approve where it goes.  Perfectly understandable.  He’ll be back tomorrow morning to check it out and give us the nod.
Out of the next 40 words from the installer, I understood the eight that explained that Digital+ did not do the antenna and outlet installation.  We’d need to get someone else for that before Digital+ comes back to plug their box into our wall outlet to give us our service.  (I guess I lied.  It appears my ratio of words spoken to words understood was much greater than 10:2.)  
After the installer left, I was ready to throw in the towel and head back to Movistar/Telefonica for simple cable — and wait seven or more years for their installer to show up.  I used a few choice English words I’m not supposed to use and then, fortunately, Jerry talked me off the ledge.  He went online and found someone who installs everything Digital+ needs.  I’ll just have to attempt to communicate with this new Sevillano.  Maybe I’ll be lucky and he’ll have grown up in Northern Spain.  
So, another thing that should have been easy to accomplish is made slightly more difficult because I don’t speak Spanish well, and then even more difficult because I don’t readily understand “Southern” Spanish.
I wonder if we should have moved to Pamplona.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

19 thoughts on “Watch Your Language”

  1. David:
    I've got to be fair. Digital+ was innocent; they asked before-hand if we had the correct hook-up and we said "yes"! (But Telefonica might be described as "of the devil.")

  2. Hello Mitch:
    We can totally empathise with you. It always feels as if for every one step forward one must take at least two back. But, as has been demonstrated with the Taxi driver, at times communication happens and a warm glow of satisfaction comes over one. We have just taken two years to change our telephone/internet provider in Budapest…..!!! Just saying!!!

  3. J&L:
    Thank you so much for telling me how long this has taken you (and you have my sympathy)! I need to learn to slow down, accept my own limitations, and understand that many things don't happen quickly (and it's, therefore, not always my fault). I once bought Jerry a "sticky" note pad that had a To-DO list at the top (to remind him of the things he always forgot):

    1. Breathe in.
    2. Breathe out.

  4. Mitch,
    As the doctor told the little boy who swallowed a penny, “Don’t worry , it may take some time but this to shall pass”. In the mean time you have luz so what about shadow puppets for entertainment, just a thought 🙂 – gary

  5. Gary:
    Spanish or American shadow puppets?

    Nope. My English is quickly deteriorating. But, I've become even better at talking with my hands. I'm thankful for my time spent in Italy years ago.

  6. A Spaniard who is "extremely easy to understand"? I've yet to meet one, Mitch. Send Paco my way, will you?

    I'd freak out in Pamplona seeing any poor bull being used like that for 'entertainment', albeit with real risks to the guys dodging it. It must get so confused with those baying and cheering crowds. But I suppose the animals survive THAT depressing ordeal – but for how long? I'm glad that you didn't decide to move there for this reason alone.
    Sorry to get so serious on one of my pet concerns. Oops, apologies for the pun. (You see, I CAN have a sense of humour!)

  7. Hey, at least you have high speed internet, right?
    I do work out sets while waiting for pages to upload, here in rural france….it is a healthy thing.
    You guys picked the right place, beautiful view…. no Bull.

  8. Raybeard:

    I find some people, like Paco, unbelievably easy to understand. There should be designation called "Mitchell-friendly Spanish."

    I have never been to Pamplona but would not go during the Running of the Bulls. That ranks right "down" there with traditional bullfighting for me.

  9. Nubian:
    I thought of you when I took that picture the other night, since you had commented about my lack of food pictures a few posts back. I ate before remembering to take out the camera last night (an incredible fish brochette at Dos de Mayo)! Oh, and there were two other already consumed dishes Monday night when the salmon photo was taken. I'll try to do better. The food is SO good.

  10. Rain! In Spain! On the Plain?
    (It had to be said, sorry). Bet the downpour felt good. Definitely stay with Digital+ – they sound so much better than Movistar even with the additional dish complication.
    The food looks great BTW – thanks for thinking of us while inhaling.

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