Speaking Spanish in the Shops

So, we graduated today from Spanish class! La Aventura Espanola has been incredibly kind to all of us, for allowing for different levels and uncertain punctuality. But the story all of us are probably walking away with is our graduation. We PINC were not the only graduates today. Other people received their diplomas and a few kids got their honorary ones! But across the room from me there was a bit of a (small) upheaval… Ashley’s name wasn’t called for the ceremony. No worries everyone, she did graduate (her diploma was just lost under some papers), but it was hairy for a few minutes. So Ashley instead received her diploma with Jaume (director of studies) on his knees pleading for forgiveness as the graduation photo was taken.

La Aventura did a great job with getting me to talk (five person classes do that). But even with two weeks of intensive Spanish lessons, my language skills are sadly lacking as I found out later. I did participate in class (though mostly frequently responding along the lines of  “sí, estoy cansada”). I felt confident enough to try my skills in a store by myself. I went to Lush earlier today (I needed an anti-frizz hair henna). I found the store with ease and walked right in; after all, how hard could it be to find my hair cream? Very hard, it turns out, when all the labels are in Spanish instead of English. The sales lady came up to me and started speaking in Spanish, asking along the lines of “Can I help you?” I nodded and then froze. How was I supposed to say I’m looking for anti-frizz jasmine hair henna in Spanish? I pointed to my head and said “El pelo.”

She looked confused and responded with “words in spanish shampú?” That was the only word I understood. (Thank god some words cross over the language barrier.)

I shook my head and timidly added “Henna?” Her face lit up with recognition and she took me over to the henna hair dyes (not what I was looking for). My tonge decided to unstick itself: “No, es una botella negra.” (I was gesturing to another black tub.). The sales lady pivoted, walked two stations away and returned with a black tub of Jasmine and Henna Fluff-Eaze. We both celebrated when I nodded yes to the container and continued to the register with giant grins on our faces, happy that we had gotten what I needed without too many issues.

The point I’m trying to make with this story is this: languages are hard. I know for certain I’m not coming out even remotely conversational, though probably transactional if this story is anything to go by. I’m going to make up words, butcher grammar and keep everyone entertained with my hand charades. But the important thing is people actually seem to understand me, and I in return.

Going shopping is always a reality check in how different it is to actually talk to a person who thinks you know Spanish. We’ve got six weeks to go, and I’ll surely have more stories: some funny, some you can’t pay me to share, and some successful. Whatever the end ratio will be, at least I’ll know I tried and be better off for it.

– Sarah

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