“Your Spanish is very clear. I can understand you better than most foreigners.” Wow! I was blown away by this compliment I received while chatting with a man from Tijuana. I really think Mexicans are just nice, but I must admit I hear “Where did you learn to speak Spanish so well?” almost daily.
“Bolivia” is my answer. Although I studied Spanish in high school and college, I never spoke it until I moved to Bolivia in 1990.
Today, while chatting with the chef at a restaurant overlooking the beautiful lake in Bacalar, I was complimented once again on my Spanish skills. Later, while floating in the warm blue waters, I realized that I always get these compliments in the first minute or two of conversation, never near the end.
I must have picked up some kind of accent in Bolivia all those years ago that makes me sound authentic at first, but as the conversation lengthens, I speak more hesitantly, with many errors, and struggle to find certain words. Learning a language is a continuum. I’m glad to be able to communicate with local people here, but I know I still have a lot more to learn when it comes to speaking more fluently.
Foods, for example, are so confusing. Each region has its own names for similar dishes. And then there are endless new fruits to learn in tropical regions. And the accents change as well, not just with Spanish travelers from other countries but also within Mexico.
There has been one notable exception to this showering of compliments about my linguistic skills. I met Javier in the plaza of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas. He offered to clean my Crocs. I’d never had it done before, so I agreed and we ended up having a long conversation.
Javier, 12, works about twelve hours a day, seven days a week. He never takes a day off. He lives with his uncle and basically works to feed himself. He has attended school in the past but is not currently enrolled. He is very friendly and had lots of questions for me as well.
We talked a lot about languages as his native language is Tzotzil. He enjoyed teaching me some phrases in Tzotzil and learning some in English. After about 45 minutes of chatting in Spanish he said, “So you don’t really speak Spanish, do you?” Now there’s an honest evaluation of my Spanish skills!
Besides practicing Spanish, I have been exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. Here are a few sites.
You should see captions when you click on the images (as in previous posts) but I just discovered that they only seem to appear when on my computer, not on my phone. So, if you want to know the whole story – get your computer, until I figure out how to fix the problem!