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No hablo espanol. But I had diligently studied up in the weeks before the trip, and had a small repetoire of what I hoped would be frases utiles. Most of them were questions. I bravely plunged in as soon as we got to Madrid.
However. I found that when I made the effort to deliver a complete, grammatically correct sentence, which I had practiced saying, it was like hitting the jackpot on a slot machine: I was buried in riches of information that left me speechless and none the wiser.
The people working at hotel reception desks and bus and train information booths spoke English, anyway. It's required, and the better your English, the better your job. The woman at the RENFE information desk told us that.
Not surprisingly, a lot of these people were eager to practice their English. One waitress in Sevilla was taking a course. Craig went inside to ask for the check and was a very long time coming back. He told me that she had produced a workbook and asked him to help her with her homework!
The ones who knew English switched to it as soon as they realized how little Spanish I knew. So I had more fun with people who didn't know English.
Most of my attempts at conversational Spanish were visited upon the patient autobus drivers.
I began to avoid open-ended questions, instead fishing for a simple yes or no: "Este autobus va a la Mezquita?"
Even more effective was the keyword approach: "La Mezquita?"
Most people were quite helpful. In Granada, at the post office, I was all ready for sellos and tarjetas postales, but I was immediately defeated by the system of windows, machines, and take-a-numbers.
A pretty young woman touched my arm and gave me the sweetest smile. She chose simple words and showed me what to do.
There is sheer, friendly kindness in the world.
Next: La Mezquita
NOVEMBER 2004: SPAIN
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