We’ve all done it. We’ve all been in a situation where we have seriously overestimated our abilities and then been rudely reminded that we are not the shining star we thought we were.
As I mentioned in my About page, my mother is spanish. I grew up speaking spanish, in fact I didn’t speak english until I started nursery. We had regular summer holidays to Spain, I attended a dreaded spanish school 3 times a week after normal school till I was 16 and I studied Spanish at University, which included a year living in Seville.
So, when we were asked to move to Mexico I thought no problem. I was, I’m ashamed to say, quite smug that I would be in a position to show off my excellent spanish skills (foolish, foolish girl).
The first inkling that there might be a problem was when we had a week’s familiarisation visit prior to the move. The hotel was fine of course, they spoke english. Anything to do with the move was also in english…however outside this expat bubble, everything was in Mexican Spanish.
Let me elaborate. Mexican Spanish is very clearly spoken; as in the Mexicans have good diction. (On trips to Argentina and Cuba I might as well have been underwater for all I could make out)
The problem was I didn’t recognise the words. I understood the ‘ands’, ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’…it was the words in between. There were unfamiliar sounds, consonant groupings which I didn’t recognise. Words which were completely alien.
When you’re learning a new language and you come across a word you don’t recognise, you’re told to think about the context it’s in and use that to help you deduce the meaning of the unknown word….yeah, that didn’t work.
Reading was just as challenging. Having ventured out with the Husband for a spot of lunch there came the inevitable deciphering of the menu.
“Whats this?” asked H
“I don’t know” I said
and so it went on down the length of the menu (thank god it was short!)
“Ask the waiter” said H
so I did…..
“So,what is it?” asked H
“ I don’t know” I said
“I thought you spoke spanish” said H
“So did I’ I said
I don’t remember what I ate.
I’m glad to say that after 5 years I have ‘learned’ Mexican Spanish. I think I have a Mexican accent (although taxi drivers do ask me if I’m French?!?!)
Do I understand everything? No, I get 85% I would say….there are some very strange words in Mexican Spanish, some which I swear are made up. But, I more than get by and I know the difference between a Tlacoyo and a Tlacuache which is very important when you’re ordering food at a street vendor van.