Saturday, 1 August 2009

Language Barriers

We'd arranged to wait around in Cartagena for the arrival of a friend of ours, Speckled Jim. He's a Yorkshire lad (not his fault), and him and his best mate Mark were a bit of a double-act back in London Fields; in a similar vein to myself and Garfield but without being anywhere near as funny; me and Garf were once described as "Morecambe & Wise without the straight man". Personally, I regard that compliment almost a slur on two comic greats who spent a lifetime honing an effortlesly funny double-act, developed through a near-psychic mutual understanding, and made a massive contribution to British Comedy. But then, I suppose Morecambe & Wise did have the odd amusing moment, too?

The three of us agreed to take Spanish lessons. Jocky decided against it, as he's off to Brazil in a week...and it'd probably get him as far as his Edinburgh burr on Ipanema Beach ie. nowhere whatsoever. I'd learned some Spanish before I came out, using Madrigal's Magic Key To Spanish, and the Michel Thomas CD courses on my iPod. So I can speak un poco, but it's when people start speaking in reply that the problems arise: this gringo can't understand a frigging word they're saying back to me. So it was off to school for me. I opted to join the Nueve Language School in Cartagena, and was placed in a class with a lad possessing the same of incompetence as my thick Northern self. The conversation practice has helped me a great deal, as has chatting to locals in the square about football after my classes.

Garfield knows a little, and Speckled they looked up a private teacher mentioned in a few of the guide books, and booked him for a week of lessons. Now Mark used to ridicule Speckled and his cod pronunciation ever since they'd spent some time together in Mexico a few years back. Mark ordered a fruit juice at a cafe one day, and Speckled wanted a fresh tomato drink. He tried saying it four or five times, to looks of mild confusion from the waiter...finally losing his rag and shouting "Zumo...TOMATO!" in his Ilkley-tinted Spanish accent. Now Speckled's not a daft lad, but we were in stitches when he asked us if we put a Spanish accent on when speaking?

I think his best one so far has been replying to a local to say he didn't understand. He mumbled "No entiendo", but it actually came out sounding like "No Nintendo". Of course, we've been repeating this to all and sundry at his expense. We're certainly no experts but, like they say, there's always someone worse off.

He's been getting better though, but two hours a day is wearing him out. Especially with his hangovers. I've found it mentally taxing, even with my knowledge, as has Garfield with poor Speckled is suffering a little. His tutor has the patience of a saint, but has taken to calling him tonto (dumb, fool or idiot) every now and again. Yesterday they sat out in the courtyard, and he asked Jim to form a sentence so that they could practice conversation. Jim said "Quiero vender mi perro", which means "I'd like to sell my dog". Brilliant. So when we walked past we asked, in Spanish, if he had a dog for sale? His tutor grimaced, apparently reaching the end of his tether for the day. But he did nod vigourously and shrugged when I later pointed at Jim and said "Pasayo?".

Poor Speckled; we're so cruel. Pasayo means clown.

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