Tuesday, February 01, 2005

¿Cómo se dice...?

So I had enough U.S. Airways frequent flier miles that I felt the need to burn them up in light of their second bankruptcy filing. I sure as heck didn't want to be holding the bag for a free trip to Europe on a defunct airline. So I chose Madrid, Spain. I'm heading there in a few weeks. My first choice would have been Barcelona, but the flights were booked solid. So I'm flying into Madrid and catching a train from there for a few days in Barcelona, followed by a return train to Madrid for the flight home. (Wish me luck with that!)

I took Spanish in college and have a decent working proficiency of the language. I'm better at reading it than anything else -- speaking and listening give me headaches and I stumble for the right words or can't follow someone who speaks waaaaay too fast and in colloquialisms. That happens when you're taught a foreign language in a classroom: You learn to speak formally, but no one you will ever meet actually speaks as formally.

Last night I pulled out the travel guides I had purchased and began to make preliminary inquiries about accommodations for my stay. Not wanting to be the "ugly American" who assumes that everyone should speak English, I pulled out my Spanish skills [the urge to use a "z" instead of an "s" there was overwhelming, but I resisted] and conducted my two-sentence inquiry in Spanish. Because it was in Spanish, I kept it short and simple. Some might even say curt. But it was meant to get the message across: "Looking for a room. Here are the dates. How much are they? Can I make a reservation?"

Two have written back already.

One asks, in Spanish, for the time of my arrival and for a credit card number.

The other informed me that they are, unfortunately, filled for the dates I requested. And they told me so in English.

I feel sorry for the people I'm about to inflict myself upon that I can't even string together a coherent sentence asking about room availability without screaming that I don't really speak Spanish worth a damn. Me at dinnertime: "Uh .... that ... please."


p.p. said...

Isn't Europe grand, though? I wish I was going; I've never set foot in Spain. I hear San Sebastian is beautiful! Have an awesome time.

Dennis! said...

Yeah. I'm sooooo looking forward to this trip, fucked-up Spanish or not. Let me know if you want to come with. :)

p.p. said...

Dennis!, I would totally go, if I could. It would be fun; fucked-up Spanish aside. ;)

Kelly said...

My Spanglish is so-so. Wish I'd had more room in college for Spanish classes, though some sort of immersion program is more likely what I need. The Spanish taught here is generally more like that spoken in Mexico than Spain, though, right?

Dennis! said...

Kelly: Yeah, I think the Spanish I learned in college was closer to Mexian Spanish. I do know that for one semester I had a prof. whose primary "dialect" (is that the right word?) was Catalan (spoken in parts of Spain), but by then I was just trying to get by so I didn't pay much attention to him.

Did I mention that my French wasn't all too smashing when I went to Paris either? Man, I suck. But I try.