. I look for the standard reply from a waiter or store clerk, and if it's something vaguely different from what I am expecting, I don't understand. Then I meet other backpackers, time and time again, who seems to speak pretty good Spanish. Better than me. I ask them how long they've been travelling in Latin America, and the answer is often "two or three months". "Did you know any Spanish before you came down here?" "Nope, zip, zero, nada, cerveza". It's all very frustrating. Maybe I am not trying hard enough? I am just hoping that I will wake up one morning when it all suddenly makes sense. Breaking the barrier..., sort of.
I'm back to Spanish school once again. I have signed up for a two weeks course here in Mendoza. The one week I did back in Guatemala, at the start of my trip, didn't really help much as I knew absolutely nothing when I started. So I promised myself to try again a bit later on. On the first day at school, I have to do an exam to decide my level. Basic, intermediate or advanced. I end up in the "basic" group, with people who have more or less just arrived in Latin America. Isn't that just great! No entiendo (I don't understand). Or "No Nintendo" that is, if you are really clueless.
But it's not all bad. After a few days at school I feel I am making progress. Slooooowly. Some of the most useful verbs starts to stick, and things I haven't been able to figure out for months suddenly makes sense to me. But I still have a long, long, long, way to go.
I also get a boost one day when I go to a few wineries to sample the local Tinto and Blanco (we are after all in Argentinas most famous vine district)
. With me are James from Calgary, as well as three Swedish guys and two girls from Germany and Austria. The guide at the winery only speaks Spanish, and since the three Swedish guys and the two girls doesn't understand any Spanish at all, James tries to translate. The only problem is that James Spanish skills is worse than mine, and since I understood more or less everything the guide said, it's now easy for me to see that James doesn't have a clue. His whole translation is more or less wrong. I don't bother to say anything, but instead think to myself... "Maybe that's it? Maybe all those people I have met who seems to speak Spanish really doesn't have a clue. Maybe they are just pretending, or for some unexplainable reason really believe they know the language. Yes that must be it!" I leave the winery whistling the tunes of "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who. Well, it's probably not that easy, but for once it felt good to be the only one who understood. You selfish bastard!
¿Cómo se dice? ¿Cómo se dice? ¿Cómo se dice? (How do you say?). After seven and a half months down here (including one month in Portugese speaking Brazil), shouldn't I really know more Spanish than I currently do? Maybe I am just the most slow learning person ever? I have the motivation to learn the language..., I think, as it's a possibility that I one day will live in a Spanish speaking country. In Spain, or maybe even in a country down here. But nothing sticks in my head. I sometimes watch TV in Spanish, or English programs with Spanish subtitles. I go to the Cinema. Now and then I read newspapers in Spanish. There's only tiny pieces left of my Latin American Spanish phrasebook and dictionary. But nothing seems to help. Conjugating verbs and all the different sentence structures mess up my 35 year old head. I try and speak to the locals, but very often get stuck after a few standard phrases. So we either stop talking, or switch to English if that's an option. Which is not very often, as not that many speak English