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Hablo español

Country Roads

April 29, 2013
Arvid Huisman (huismaniowa@msn.com) , The Daily Freeman Journal

Hablo espaol. That's Spanish for, "I speak Spanish."

For me, that's a very long stretch of the truth. What I should say is, "Hablo un poco espaol." That means, "I speak a little Spanish" I think.

I have wanted to learn the Spanish language for some time. We have an increasing number of Spanish speaking neighbors here in Iowa and I enjoy meeting new people. It's frustrating when I am unable to chat with someone because of a language barrier.

A couple of years ago a Hispanic acquaintance in The Salvation Army's Multi-Cultural Ministries Department in Chicago gave me a DVD with some very basic Spanish phrases. While it was well done, I wanted to learn more.

Late last summer I received an e-mail advertising a "learn Spanish in 10 days" set of five CDs for only $10. It boasted of teaching one to be able to carry on a conversation in Spanish in ten 30-minute lessons.

Even an old country boy like me knows you cannot become fluent in a language in ten days or ten lessons but I took a gamble and ordered the set. It was quite good and, in fact, at the end of the ten lessons I could carry on a very basic conversation in Spanish.

Had I been in Mexico I could have asked how to get a restaurant, how to order from the menu, how to ask where the restroom is and some other basic tourist phrases.

Then it got tricky. About the time I wrapped up my $10 introductory lessons I received the complete set of Spanish lessons on CDs in the mail. It was a busy time and I thought to myself, "They sent that on their own so I'm in no hurry to return it."

A month later, I noticed a charge for the complete set of lessons on a credit card statement. I called the customer service number ready to chew some fanny. Imagine my chagrin when a polite customer service rep told me that when I signed up for the $10 package I gave them permission to send me the full set a few weeks later and that I had not returned it in the required amount of time. I did recall then that I had agreed to those terms.

The customer service worker was extremely good at what he did and successfully held my anger at bay. He ascertained that I felt the introductory CDs were of value and that I had indeed learned some Spanish.

He then offered me a generous discount if I accepted the full package (as if I really had a choice.) In fact, I did want to learn Spanish, the lessons were very effective and with the discount I could actually afford to buy the entire set.

So now I owned a complete set of excellent Spanish language CDs but it was the beginning of the Christmas season and in my job that's haymaking time. November and December are the two busiest months on my calendar.

I intended to resume the Spanish lessons after Christmas but my world was turned upside down in January and I still haven't resumed my Spanish lessons. The set of CDs is in an attractive simulated leather package so I keep it on my home office desk as a constant reminder of my need to get back at the lessons.

Meanwhile, while helping get set up for an event at a local hotel recently I struck up a conversation with a hotel employee who was assisting us. I had met him a few months earlier and knew him to be Hispanic.

Unable to come up with an intelligent phrase I asked him a real "duh!" question. In Spanish I asked if he spoke Spanish. That's as stupid as asking Brigitte Bardot if she speaks French but, hey, I was not my class valedictorian.

He assured me that he did indeed speak Spanish so I told him that I had learned "un poco espaol." I asked him where to find a restaurant, where to find the rest room and how to order a Coke and a beer.

He laughed and said, "You know everything you need to know to survive in Mexico."

One of these days I'll get back to those Spanish lessons and hope to someday carry on a real conversation in that beautiful language.

Adis amigos.

 
 

 

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