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Does that Gringo Speak Spanish?

Written By: dawg on July 9, 2009 3 Comments

As everyone should know by now, Dawg, Señora Luvely, Señor JHawker and Señora Frendli thoroughly enjoyed our 8 days in Cabo and already look forward to a return visit sometime in the not too distant future.

L-R: Señor JHawker, Señora Frendli, Señora Luvely, Dawg

L-R: Señor JHawker, Señora Frendli, Señora Luvely, Dawg

However, there is one thing that occasionally bothered me during the week. I speak decent Spanish for a gringo and had just returned from a 3 week Spanish Immersion course in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I spoke only Spanish perhaps 95% of the time. Excited to use my newly attained knowledge, I hit Cabo like a storm, expecting to again practice my Spanish constantly with the locals. At the airport, I was pleased to make it through the entire rental car process speaking only Spanish with the agents. I was actually a bit surprised that I fully understood all of the insurance discussion and decision making process. One of the ladies in the office was obviously impressed and commented to my wife in a surprised voice that I was only speaking Spanish … que padre (cool) … what man doesn’t like to impress the ladies? Unfortunately, after that conversation, my Spanish practice seemed to go downhill. Time after time, I would begin a conversation in Spanish only to get a reply in English. Sometimes the conversation would continue back and forth indefinitely with me speaking Spanish and getting replies always in English. A few times I very nicely requested that the person please reply in Spanish. At which point he/she would generally start speaking in Spanish and then immediately repeat what they just said in English, as if I didn’t understand … more often than not, I understood the Spanish just fine.

Of course, there were exceptions to the automated English replies, which I really enjoyed.

Water Taxi Driver

Water Taxi Driver

Such as the water taxi operator at the marina and a few store clerks in San Jose Del Cabo, who spoke to me only in Spanish and seemed pleased that I could speak in their native tongue. But aside from those conversations, I began to get a little frustrated and bewildered that my Spanish was not met with a Spanish reply. Had Señora Luvely stamped my head again with “Stupid Gringo” during the night? Or was it just that I have a naturally bewildered look constantly on my face? Maybe my expression says “Stupid Gringo” even without the stamp from Señora Luvely. Whatever the case, the confidence in my Spanish proficiency seemed to fade at times.

Of course, my mental anguish was not generally helped by my travel companions either. At one point during a slightly awkward pause in my speech, Señora Frendli quickly stepped in to save me by saying “you know Dawg, he speaks very good English”. OK, thanks for that wisdom! Now I feel much better about spending the money on that immersion course. On another occasion, I had a problem understanding all of what a lady told me in Spanish. So she repeated it in English, which I still didn’t understand. Without hesitation, Señora Luvely couldn’t pass up that opportunity to say “forget Spanish, now you can’t even understand English. I think we need to enroll you in an English immersion course.” How nice to have a supportive, encouraging spouse, always willing to provide such useful and creative suggestions! Interestingly enough, later in the week when Señora Luvely couldn’t understand the English being spoken, she was quick to turn to me and ask what had been said. After all, she said, “you should be able to understand the accent better than me” … again, I knew she was right and wondered why my mind was now failing me in two languages.

All in all, the trip was fantastic and I actually did get some very good Spanish practice. But it was difficult at times and I still wonder how to better accomplish the goal of speaking more Spanish in an area where the norm is to speak English with tourists. Therefore, my personal goal before our next trip to Cabo is to figure out and perfect the Dawg Spanglish Prevention Program. Any help with the proposed program would be greatly appreciated.

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3 Responses to “Does that Gringo Speak Spanish?”

  1. JHawker says on: 10 July 2009 at 4:35 am

    Dawg: That was a three month immersion course, not three weeks! It appears that you not only forgot both English and Spanish, you seem to have forgotten over two months in Cuernavaca. I have heard of lost weekends, but you seem to have lost the entire load!! Esta verdad?

  2. dawg says on: 10 July 2009 at 6:32 am

    You are correct that I spent 3 months total in the Spanish immersion course. However, only 3 weeks had been spent prior to the Cabo trip.

    Pero, por supuesto, es cierto que he perdido mi mente en total.

  3. JHawker says on: 11 July 2009 at 2:48 am

    My Spanglish is very old. So in response to your good gringo Spanish, I can only say like Tonto did on the Lone Ranger “Keemo sabe”

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