Si Senor

I have a lot to thank Manuel from the popular British TV series, Faulty Towers. He equipped me with at least two survival words for living in Spain. “Que” (what?) and “Si si” (yes…).

I’m convinced you can travel anywhere in the world with not much more than a very limited vocabulary. When it comes to food, a chook is a chook (chicken for those north of down under) and a pig is a pig. Whether it’s in the middle of China or the Middle East. If you’re stuck what to order for a meal, it’s amazing how a few animations help communicate.

Fortunately technology has just about surpassed the need to flap your arms like a chicken or grunt and snort like a pig to order a meal. Mobile apps like Google translator are amazing. I had to post a letter at the Oficina de Correos (post office). Not knowing what counter to go to, pointing the phone’s camera at the sign translated the directions into English on the screen. Great in supermarkets as well. It’s comforting to know buying a carton of leche is actually milk!

But of course to really appreciate the richness of the cultural experience, some understanding of the local language to communicate becomes essential. I did attempt to learn German once. I was a teenager at the time. I must have lost the book soon after I started. Because all I remember to this day is “Ich liebe dich”. I think that’s why my family were concerned as I was departing for Austria. I had this brightly coloured strap secured around my luggage case. Easy to identify on the carousel. But as they explained, running around Germany saying “I love you” with a symbolic striped rainbow coloured strap in tow, could as they explained, attract more than what I had bargained for! I changed the strap.

Language learning is a thriving business here in Valencia. Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world, spoken in 44 countries (including the US which is the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world). There are an endless number of English and Spanish schools here. I’ve met people who have sold up everything and secured a twelve month visa to attend a language school too learn Spanish. More than that of course it’s the excitement of a new adventure and cultural experience.

As big is an extraordinary movement what’s called language exchange meetups. Every day and particularly at night in bars, somewhere around the city there is an enthusiastic group meeting to improve their language skills. In casual settings of a few people per table, Spanish and foreign expatriates exchange conversation to improve their language skills as well as meet new friends. It’s a really active social movement. Then there’s others such a Brit who came to Spain with the sole intention to learn Spanish. Living only in a Spanish speaking environment, he explained how the completely isolated feeling slowly turn to occasional “ah ha” moments to gradually picking up the language. And now observing him 12 months on having a fluent conversation in Spanish.

For now I’ll need to rely on English for a while yet. I need a bit more than what Manuel taught me.

Adios Amigos (good bye friends!)

(The photos include a Medieval Market fair as one part of festivities from this weekend. 9th of October is Valencia Day which celebrates when the city was founded. The Christians conquered Valencia on this day 1238 after the Arabs had ruled the city for five centuries.)

16 comments On Si Senor

  • Nicole Campbell

    amo el leer sus blogs! las fotos se ven muy bien y parece que va a tener un tiempo fabuloso!

    • Gracias Nicolasa. Valencia es sin duda un gran lugar con mucho que hacer, gente amable y mucho que hacer y ver. Si bien hay muchos turistas que aquí hay forma tan turístico como Barcelona. De hecho, mientras que he conocido a gente de tantos otros países, no he encontrado uno de otro australiano todavía. Mientras tanto continúa Valencia para la fiesta!

  • Si si contentos de haber rescatado a la buena correa de arco iris de colores brillantes ol

  • Sounds amazing and typical you to find a technological technique where you point your phone to get a translation. Hope the pig and leche taste great – bet the food is amazing.

    • There’s two apps I would be totally lost without. Google maps and Google translator. Of course you could always use one of those paper map thingys. Err so much like a tourist. So much cooler to be constantly glancing (and I mean constantly) at your phone as if to be checking your Facebook updates, but in reality it’s trying to find your way home!

  • What a wonderful experience and to think most of it is based around food. Now you have a full belly i think you must be ready for the ring. I have always imaged you with the red flag in your hand tempting the fait of a massive bull. I am sure this would but the fear of death in him and especially now you have turned the strap around.

    • That’s a good suggestion thanks Lew. But topped up with great food or not I think I’d rather be a spectator. red flag or rainbow coloured one!

  • So we will expect fluent Spanish when you get back!
    PS you forgot the translation for beer!

    • You’re right Dazza. There’s really three survival words required: Que, Si and…. cerveza. It’s a totally interesting different culture here when it comes to cerveza and vino. I’ve discussed this with a few Brits here. The Brits and us lot will typically drink to get full (certainly young generation), but here walking home through the streets late at night the place is full of outdoor dining and drinking. And its typical to see people in cafes having a beer as people go to work. But the difference is they typically drink only to enjoy with their food. Not yet have I seen any sign of whats become quite a cultural drinking problem in Oz. Not that I ever used to do that of course. Anyway your shout Dazza!

  • Hello Chris
    You are doing OK with the language. I actually went to a Spanish language class for a couple of months before I left on the Camino. Unfortunately, with all the stress of planning a trip and an over-load of new sounds and phrases, I ended up with very little Spanish when I arrived in Spain. I would have been better off not going to a class at all. Fortunately, the Spanish people are accustomed to dealing with foreigners on the pilgrim route and very tolerant of visitors who mangle their language! They have a happy culture.

    • I’d have to agree with you Heather. It’s a big effort and commitment for a short travel period. I’d expect at least your Spanish classes would have been bilingual with English. I have attended classes here where it’s only in Spanish. Fun!? Problema when can’t even understand the question! Pay back I think when we landed our son in an all French speaking class when we were living in French speaking Quebec. Sorry Nath… we didnt mean to!!

  • Hi Chris
    Great to hear you are having a fantastic time even though you don’t know what people are saying. Having spent a few Friday nights at the Windsor with you I would suggest the old hands on approach may be the way to go!!
    Enjoy the company, food and hospitality of the Spanish people and you will be amply rewarded.
    Love Ang and Les xx

    • Thanks Ang & Les. Actually the problem is not so much the language, but the fact there are little “Windsors” on just about every corner! We were having a little nightcap last night a few streets away, with people eating and drinking at tables outside all these quaint little bars on every corner of this narrow lane intersection and I was thinking just how nice the whole ambience was. Bu haven’t been able to work out what a pint is in Spanish?

  • Some key words “dos cerveza por favor” two beers please and “uno mas” one more
    It has been great reading your blog.



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