Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Hablo Español

Dear Fellow Bloggers Who Know Even a Smidgen of Spanish,

Have any of you ever pretended not to know Spanish?  I mean not a word!  My level of Spanish, while not quite 100% fluent, is good enough to get by.  However, I've found myself in a position or two where it seems better not to know Spanish at all.  Here's my list so far:

1. Getting the custom's red light at the bridge. I explained I am a teacher at Colegio Mexicano, a highfalutin private school where they just named a city street after the owner and had a highfalutin honors ceremony for him.
2. Being pulled over by the transito in Reynosa. (See reason #1)
3. Being pulled over by the policia in Reynosa. (See reason #1)
4. In a restaurant in the center of town where the waiter who never offered to refill my ice tea or asked if I needed anything and then made a joke about the guera sitting alone at the table.  As I paid, I looked at him and said in English, "I'm so sorry that I didn't leave you a tip.  The joke is on you."


  1. Of course! Also...

    - Bureaucratic processes where it looks like not knowing Spanish will spare me extra questions
    - Authority figures (transitos, security guards)
    - When random males approach me in public or cat call

  2. I find Iv gotten quiet lazy even if I know how to explain something but don't feel like taking the time to do it, I just "No lo se como se dice." I do this at the store and sometimes when Issacs family wants to hanker me about how Mexicans raise their kids better than Americans. And then I just walk away. Luckily Iv never been pulled over but if I did, Id be so nervous I don't think I would remember any of my Spanish. Once I had asked one of the officers for directions and that big gun made me so nervous I was stumbling over simple stuff.

  3. Oh, yeah, I completely forgot about the dirty old men. There's no need to have a conversation with them. Or when someone wants money.

  4. I usually keep quiet when my obviously gringo husband uses his Spanish, he needs the practice more than me.
    Once when some guy came up to our car asking for money for some bogus reason, he saw me and asked if I spoke Spanish. I looked at Husband and asked "what is he saying to me?".
    One time in line at the mini-super, this lady was complaining about my dog (Mr Dog had just had a bath and clip was in there to show off to his fan club in the store) I just stood there, smiling over her head at the clerk and pretended not to understand a word. The clerk knew that I understood everything and could see me trying not to laugh.I just didn't want to have to respond to her.

  5. Hey your blog loos so nice!!

    And yes, I do it too. It really just deepends on the DAY for me though. Some days I'm all Spanish, others part and ohters I just don't FEEL like it and I play dumb.

    The only goofy part is when I'm playing dumb (say, getting inspected at the border) and they ask me something that I think I SHOULD answer and VOILA! all of a sudden I CAN speak Spanish and they look at me all cross-eyed like "what the hell?" OoopS! :P

  6. Ohhh...i was cracking up reading this.
    Soldiers at inspection....i dont speak spanish. They keep asking me to open up my trunk...I dont speak spanish..after a few times they just give up and point to the road...
    A policia officer on a motorcycle pulled me one front of the HEB..beside Chili's..not the HEB where the shoot out happened...ohhh..which one is that? Or maybe it is that one! gotta update me on that one!
    Any who...this policia gets off his cycle and starts speaking spanish...i played the same i dont speak spanish on him. and he wouldnt give up..i mean he was so persistent that i had to two way my hubs...and my hubs tells him..."man if you dont let my wife go right wont see manana! OMG...i didnt know what he's saying cause i dont dont speak that much spanish...GWIM? So the policia looks at me with these huge eyes...and runs to his motorcycle.
    So the hubs later tells me what he told him...and i freak cant say stuff like that! You could of got me arrested...please hubs dont say stuff like that.
    So the hubs says...wifey...well then he was wanting money from you and your lisence..he said he pulled me over cause i was talking on the phone! WTF???? How many plp do you see driving with a baby in the drivers seat...and your gonna pull me for talking on the phone! Oh hell were right on it honey!
    I gotta get a mexico tag on my suv...they see a US tag and think you have money and try to get you any way they can!
    Ok enough rambling!

  7. When I lived in Greece (the big island of Crete) my landlord was perfectly comfortable talking to me in English, unless there was any kind of dispute. If we disagreed, it was "Δεν καταλαβαίνω τα αγγλικά."

    Of course I took two semesters of Greek when I arrived. I played the same game when out shopping. I remember my boss went to a jewelry shop to buy something for his wife's birthday. The shop owner gave him a price in English. His daughter said in Greek "That's not the price, it's (60% lower)" The owner said to his daughter "They're rich Americans and they can afford it."

    I told my boss he was getting ripped off big time, but he said he'd already committed to buy and wasn't going to argue, so I didn't say anything to let on I understood.

    My favorite time with a foreign language was in Athens when an unscrupulous taxi driver tried to massively overcharge for a ride from the civilian side of the airport to the military side. I asked him in English how much the fare was. He gave me a price three times the standard fare. I replied in Greek, "I don't think so. What do you think the police officer over there will say about this?" He grumbled something, and I turned while starting to call out "Astinomia!" which is Greek for police. The taxi driver got very agreeable, very quickly.

    The one place I did not and dared not speak was in court. But that's a whole 'nuther story.

  8. Court? Greek court? That's a whole 'nuther story I must hear.