According to the little girl I’ve been looking after, my English is terrible and I’m not from England.
Me and her dad had a good old chuckle about this.
In all seriousness though, if this trip has shown me anything, its how bloody awful my Spanish is.
I’d like to think I was one of the better ones in my Spanish class, having had a Spanish teacher at home when I was very little…I must at least be in the top 15 (guess how many there were in my class?).
I’ve also just gotten my IB ab initio Spanish results through and I got a respectable 6 (equivalent to an A), so you’d think I’d be able to stay somewhat afloat in a sea of foreign conversation, right?
When I first arrived, I couldn’t understand a single bloody word. The family wasn’t very impressed, I’m not exactly giving Brits abroad a very good rep…
It was so embarrassing, it kind of put me off speaking any Spanish in front of the family. Not that this was a problem, my job was explicitly to speak in English. I even got found out and told off when I went on a covert mission to speak in Spanish to the kids at the beach…
What’s even more embarrassing, however, is having to whip out the “I’m English”, blank stare excuse in front of the locals. Especially if they speak fluent English, Spanish and French…
So I was perpetually stuck in some “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” purgatory.
In the end I decided I would just listen a la sponge, and whip out my rudimentary Spanish only when absolutely necessary (ice cream, food, Vogue…) and when I was sure not to get caught at the beach.
Something along the line must have gone right…by the end I could understand, and somewhat reply to the 92 year old grandmother who didn’t speak a word of English! I could get the kids to do what I asked them to! And I could understand all of the plaques at a mini Roman exhibition I went to!
At the same time, the little girl had learnt “wind the bobbin up”, “1,2,3,4,5 once I caught a fish alive” and “twinkle twinkle” as well as many a cute, heartbreaking English words and phrases. I almost keeled over when she asked me “what is properly?”…the accent!
It seems I had found a happy Spanglish medium.
When I told her I was leaving, she said to me (in Spanish) “yey! Now I can speak Spanish with mummy and daddy, I don’t like speaking English because I’m Spanish”.
Glad to know my mother tongue made as great an impression on her as hers did on me…
P.S. I think that the unnatural speed and complete lack of intonation in their speech is a ploy by the Spanish especially to make foreigners look like complete idiots…I mean I could even understand a bit of what the French family next to me were saying and I haven’t done French since GCSE!