Posted by: janecronin | June 25, 2017

Using what you’ve got

These days I spend my time teaching elementary Spanish to mainly British people who have come to live in Spain.  One of the most satisfying parts of my job is when students come along with little anecdotes about how they managed to communicate with a Spanish person using what they had learned in class.  This happens all the time in all sorts of small ways, but the satisfaction and increased confidence these incidents bring to students are always great to hear about.

Here is one example from a while ago that has always stayed in my mind.  A retired gentleman was about half way through my complete Beginners course.  He had learnt to say the days of the week and we had also done some work on talking about our families, including the words for alive, “vivo” and dead “muerto”. The gentleman concerned was a keen fisherman and one day went to buy some live bait from a fishing shop.  When he came to use it he found that all the bait was dead so he took it back to the shop, showed it to the shop keeper and said “lunes vivo, miércoles muerto” – “Monday alive, Wednesday dead”.   Of course the man in the fishing shop understood immediately and sorted the problem out in the appropriate way, (by that I don’t mean that he revived the bait).

Another favourite of mine was when one day we were talking about going to the hairdresser and a lady, whose husband is completely bald, asked me how she could say to the hairdresser “a bit more on top” while she pointed to her husband’s head.  I suggested she said: “un poco más arriba”- all words we had learnt early on in our Beginner’s classes.  A few days later she told me she had gone to her usual hairdresser with her husband by her side and said just that.  There was a stunned silence while it dawned on the hairdresser that this elderly English couple was pulling her leg, and then she burst out into hysterics along with them at such an unexpected joke!

One final example was another student who learnt the expression “ni fu ni fa” meaning “neither here nor there” or “neither one thing nor the other” in one of my classes.  He wasn´t the greatest of students, as he admitted himself, but he took a liking to this rather drole expression.  I bumped into him several years after he had left the class and he regaled me with all the times he’d made Spanish people laugh by using the only bit Spanish he’d remembered from my class, namely “ni fu ni fa”.  It seems to get him awfully long way in making contact with people by making them smile, and in a way, that to me is what it’s all about: using whatever you’ve got to communicate more than you think is possible, including your strange English sense of humour!



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