Learning the Lingo

Whether you’ve just made the move to Mallorca, or are a seasoned expat with many years of living in Spain under your belt, I’m sure that your first ever priority, upon arrival, was to ‘learn the lingo’. Mine sure…was. When I first got to the island I started out at full speed and, with ‘mucho gusto’, sunk my teeth into the ‘Me llamo’s’ and ‘Hola, Que tal’s’ of the first few language lessons. I bought all the books and even organised for my teacher Miguel to be put on the crew list as a chef, just so he could troop down to STP twice a week to teach me some Spanish. However, a few months later, español took a dip behind those new, cool yoga classes I found in town and, a little later, became something I only practiced if there was any time left at the end of the week. Which, sorpresa sorpresa, there usually wasn’t. And still isn’t. So now, after having been a guiri for two whole years I can at the most label my skills as being basic. So, what happened? Or, to be more precise… que pasó??


It’s not that I don’t find it important, because I definitely do. I have oodles of reasons why I want to be able to speak Spanish.

Firstly, it’s a matter of respect. I’ve chosen to make Mallorca my home: I soak up their sun, slurp their Rioja, munch their patatas bravas and loll around their beaches. The least I can do is learn to ‘hablar espagnol’ while I enjoy these things, right?

Secondly, it makes life a helluva lot easier. Ordering a cafe con leche is one thing but getting vodafone to sort out your wonky internet connection is quite another, is it not? A man came unannounced to my house the other day in overalls and armed with a clipboard. I let him in and it took me a full 5 minutes to find out why exactly this guy was sniffing around my kitchen. Turned out he was there for the gas digits. I cook on electric. So only twenty minutes later we both knew we were completely wasting each other’s time. Hmmm, it made me think

Last but certainly not least, being able to converse makes every experience so much more meaningful. Shooting the breeze at the bus stop or having a giggle while standing in line at the supermercado; it’s little impromptu jokes and chats shared that make day-to-day life so much more fun. And equally as funny are the many mistakes. Just yesterday at the dog park I used the phrase “un ano y un pico”. I’d heard that being said somewhere, or in any case, something like it. The guy I was talking to belted out a big laugh and asked me what I thought I’d just said. Err…a little over a year? Apparently my concocted sentence literally meant a year and a shot of heroin. Quite an odd thing to say about the age of your dog…

text here-3But, unfortunately, as abundant as my incentives, so are my excuses: “This week I’m too busy with work”, “I’ll start next month, I’ve already spent all my money on a remote controlled boat”, “Today I have a cold and I’m sneezing too much to be able to speak Spanish’.

One week rolls into another until suddenly you’re a year further and you can still only converse in the present tense (hands flapping forward means the future, hands flapping backwards means the past, well, what else?)

This is the thing though: learning a language is hard work. A couple of lessons won’t do the trick nor even doing your homework as we’re talking daily dedication to get to that unimaginable level of being able to use the preterite and the imperfect tenses, perfectly.

And while there’s plenty of apps and sites to help you on your way at home, nothing beats having an actual teacher, with fixed times, dates, a healthy dose of pressure and you promising you’ll really do your homework.

Un copa de vino blanco  por favor ;)

Palma based language school Glossolalia boasts scientifically proven, modern learning techniques like Superlearning and Suggestopedia. It sounds pretty snazzy and it also actually really works.

We’ve teamed up with this school and will be running a little quiz monthly from the start of May. A sort of win win situation really, as we’ll be able to learn bits and pieces and be in to win a bottle of vino tinto on top. Perhaps, that’s just the kind of incentive I was looking for…

At Glossalia they make learning fun, and wouldn’t it be cool to finally have full on conversations in Spanish rather than just being able to order a glass of wine? 😉

A Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Tetley’s Tea from the English Aisle..

Whether you live in Barcelona, Binissalem, Palma or Puerto Banús and whether you’re a Brit a Kiwi or a Clog chances are if you’re reading this you’re what the Spanish call a ‘quiri’. As I’m sure you already know this is not a derogatory term it just means you came here for the sparkly blue bay and the sunshine. Like I did, almost two years ago.. Now, there are quite a few things I’ve caught myself doing since I made the move and I’ll admit maybe they’re just me, but I do have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone on some of these quirks.. So have a look at the following list as maybe you’ll recognise a thing or three and if not you’re very welcome to frown -God knows I’ve become used to baffling people on a daily basis by mixing words, muddling tenses or making stuff up by sticking an O at the end..

IMG_0190Although I’ll be using the royal ‘we’ we all know who I’m talking about here. Me.

1) When prowling around Carrefour Planet you have a trolley full of Seville Oranges, sobrassada sausage and enough local wine to sink a ship (Two for one!!) but when you all of a sudden ‘happen’ to find yourself in the English aisle you can’t help but squeal: ‘Minstrels’!! And feel the need to stock up.. just in case.. (what?) You never ate them at ‘home’ and now you have 16 family packs. Why?

2) You can’t help but feel smug while complaining about the heat, a smirk plays around on your face while you try and compete in a ‘my house is hotter than yours in summer competition’. It’s not just that you’ve escaped from the dark and drizzle to a place which boasts 300 sunny days a year – it’s even accepted to complain about it. Double whammy or what?! You’ve made your beach and are oh so happy to lie on it and bitch about it 😉 On the other side when you speak to friends that still live ‘over there’ you try desperately to play it down. “Yeah it’s ok. We had a day that was part cloudy a few weeks ago so you know the weather’s not perfect all the time”

3) You’re first in there with the eye rolling and tongue clicking when it comes to those red faced tourists. There are too many of them, they stop in the middle of the street to look at a map, they’re too loud, they order beer in English/ German/ Gibberish and wear pastel coloured shorts. We sigh ‘cos we’re so not like them and never have been, we’re special.

IMG_00214) Just like some like to lie about their age or the price of their shoes we lie about the amount of time we’ve lived here. Well I do, I halve it. And then I gleam with delight when told my Spanish is pretty good for someone that moved here only a few months ago. “Muchas gracias” I then humbly mumble sometimes even complemented with a “Estudio mucho, si”. Oooh, yes! Shame on me!

5) Which brings me to my next one: the big, manic smiles on entering a shop / bank / hairdresser when you have a question or query which you know you’re going to struggle to explain. Subconsciously you’re thinking the banana-sized, bare toothed grin and over animated ‘HOLLLAAAAA! ¿Qué tal?’ is going to make up for the fact that there’s bound to be a lot of “Lo siento no comprendo’s”, more than a few “Más lento’s” with some helpless hand gestures thrown in the mix as well. ‘At home’ I rarely used to walk into a shop smiling like a moron, here it’s part of my cunning plan of masking my Spanglish with a cheeriness bordering on the crazy side. ‘She’s loopy but happy, let’s help her and get her the hell out of the shop’.

6) You just love showing off to visiting friends. You take them to those bars where you can only hear a local dialect and choose from dishes no-one’s ever heard of before even though you’re usually to be found in ‘Hogan’s Burger Bar’. You’ll miss no chances of really rolling out those only few sentences that have had plenty of practice like: “Una-copa-de-vino-blanco-por-favor”. You say it with such speed even the waiter struggles to catch it. You throw in words like’”Venga” and “Vale” while keeping a straight face and your friends almost fall of their chair in astonishment as they were right there with you fifteen years ago when you couldn’t get a c for foreign languages even if your life had depended on it. But look at you now! In Spain speaking Spanish, and hanging out with your ‘amigos’! Such a showoff.

IMG_12687) You get all labrador-like when you meet someone from the same region as you even though hearing that accent when back home makes you break out in a sweat.. Without hesitation the tail-wagging is reciprocated and you both feel compelled to talk about the school you went to / the bakery you used to get your bread/ the postbox you used etc after which you launch into a full five minute session of ‘You knows’ : You know Barry? No? You don’t know Barry? He’s from Hastings/ Hilversum/ Hamburg. Sara then? You know Sara? Oh you must know Sara! And so on..

My Spanish teacher says that ‘we’ all know each other I thinks she imagines us all meeting up to drink the wrong coffee at the wrong time to talk about the weather and where to buy Tetley’s. Do we?? I then asked my Spanish friends whether there were things they thought only us expats do. What followed was a lot of elbowing, glance exchanging and sniggering. Which ones in particular was their answer? The Scandinavian ones, Los Ingleses? Los Alemanes? Apparently we all have different quirks depending on which testing climate we left behind. Oh, ok let’s say the English then. More glancing. Then silence!? So maybe we’ll keep that for another blog. Or you know what? Maybe we’ll just leave that one altogether 😉 …