Friday, February 7, 2014

Pesce out of Agua

We're taking a little break from my usual inane descriptions of life in Dublin, because I'm on vacation. In South America! Looks like I picked a perfect time to go, because the news out of Ireland is all flooding and gale force winds, while I've been sipping cocktails on the beach under perfect cloudless skies. My life is so hard. There will be pictures later for those of you who have interest in such things.

It occurred to me today that this is the first time in ages I've been on vacation someplace where the official language is something besides either French or English, or functional enough to make it seem that way. (That's right Iceland, I mean you.) It's been interesting. I speak no Portuguese aside from the obligatory obrigada. While it's hard to spend your youth in Texas without picking up any Spanish at all, I've never taken a class in it. I speak waitress Spanish, which essentially consists of nouns related to food and serving (la carne, los cubiertos), a small range of verbs in first person singular present tense (necesito, quiero, tengo), and an assortment of words not appropriate for polite company. I can also count to ten.

So I'm currently making my way through Brazil and Argentina with my pathetic grasp of Spanish, not infrequently mixed up with the smattering of Italian I learned a few years ago for grad school, and failing that, either French spoken Spanishly or words that sound like they belong to one Romance language or another but that I probably just made up on the spot. It's ugly, but it's mostly getting the job done.  Thank god for that. Communication is good. Even just crossing the Brazil/Argentina border and switching into Spanish has been such a relief - even if my speaking still sucks at least the comprehension is better. And when it all falls apart there's usually someone around who speaks English, the Most Useful Language in the World.

I have nebulous plans for a number of Eastern European trips to tackle while I'm living in the neighborhood, though after this experience I don't know how I'll manage in a linguistic environment where I don't even have two words to rub together. I guess there's always pointing and hand gestures, and probably English too. 

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