Me and languages don’t mix (as you can tell by the awful grammar in that opening statement). But me and foreign languages really don’t mix.  I got an E in O Level French and I think that was more by good luck than any work I did.  I’m quite good at both the sciences and the arts but I seem to be missing the language bit of my brain.  I think I have used it for other things instead like remembering obscure Star Wars characters or movie dialogue.

However, whenever we come away Rachel insists on trying to teach me Spanish. Over the years she has made various attempts and like the teaching staff at Ormskirk Grammar, has failed. This holiday we have tried various techniques. Nikki has adopted the pointing at things on the breakfast table and seeing if I can work it out.  This morning it was a line on the Orange carton “Rico en vitamina C.”   “What does Rico mean?” she asked.  We’ll it was obviously something to do with vitamin C. “Added?”. “No”. “Including?”.  “No”. “Fortified?”.  “No”. I was stabbing at this like a matador at a bull.  “Rich!”. “Yes!!”.  You can see the magnitude of the problem now can’t you?  If just changing 1 letter to create a  word causes me such problems, completely different words are a nightmare.

My suggestion was that when it was Tibu’s time to give grace before food he said it in Spanish. I mean prayers are usually just stock phrases so I should be able have a reasonable bash.  He did this last night.  The words I recognised were “Our Father” and “Amen”. For all I know he could have been reading the notes off the back of the wine bottle in front of him the rest if the time.

Rachel’s latest idea is to just speak to me all day in Spanish and I would inevitably pick something up.  She obviously has a short memory.  2 years ago Karen and I met up with Rachel and Tibu and the boys in Tibu’s home village of Bogarra. It was fiesta time and so all his family were there. Tibu’s family is large and the family tree which Rachel drew for us extended onto several napkins.  One of Tibu’s older brothers Avelino (let’s just call him Ave) had this same “talk at them and they will understand” philosophy.

Me and Ave had some great one sided conversations. The trick which I adopted was to watch Tibu’s reaction and match it.  When the family where discussing politics (which they do a lot in Bogarra); nod sagely.  When Ave picks something edible from a tree and explains to you what it is; look gleeful like a small child. When you taste said item; nod vigorously as though your thoroughly satisfied (even though the majority of the time it just tasted like wood). I managed to get by for 3 days doing this!  In Bogarra they still talk of the strange, mute, Englishman with the camera who seemed so engaged with the towns politics, food and culture.

Apparently up to 80% of our communication is nonverbal.  I keep trying to explain to Rachel. I CAN speak 80% Spanish. It’s just the 20% that involves words that I struggle with.

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