Ein Boot. Un Barco. Whatever – It’s a Boat.
I knew before we came to Costa Rica that the language situation would be a challenge. And when I say “language situation,” I mean the fact that I speak next to no Spanish. Nada. Remember?
I’m lucky so many people speak English here, but I still feel like a standoffish gringo bitch whenever one of the non-English-speaking employees tries to talk to me at work. I grasp at the air, desperately trying to pick up a few words I might recognize in the outpouring of one-sided conversation.
This “situation” has led to more than one embarrassing moment, not excluding the time last week when one of my co-workers came into the restroom a minute after me. She was chatting away, presumably asking questions, judging from the inflection in her voice. Hearing no one answer her, I assumed she was talking to someone on her cell phone. I couldn’t tell, since – you know – I was sitting in the stall, pants around my ankles, oblivious to even the most basic of human interactions in any country – women gabbing in a restroom – that she was talking to me. Duh.
I literally let her go on for 2 minutes while I sat there as she searched for some type of response – any type of response – to let her know that there was, in fact, another woman sitting in the stall next to her and not some psycho person creepin’ in the girls’ restroom. Finally she started calling out names… Vivian? Carla? Erin? (I love how they pronounce Erin’s name here – Aireeen? With a lovely roll of the “r”.) Then, finally – Katie?!
In retrospect that really should’ve been her first guess. I mean, everyone here knows that I’m the ignorant one. So really, the total confusion was her fault. Right?
Anyway. I am picking some stuff up. I’ve learned how to say bitch (puta), dickface (carapichá), and of course, una más cerveza, por favor. I think the most confusing issue for me (and everyone around me) is the fact that every time I try to speak, I’m mixing English, a wee bit of Spanish, and… wait for it… German.
Yes, I’m that girl.
I took German classes all throughout highschool and 3 years in college. So, when I try to speak a language other than my native tongue, I automatically deflect to German. It’s what I’ve always known.
Ein boot? Un barco? A boat.
But crappy Spangermlish aside, I hope my minuscule improvements – no matter how slight and wrought with errors – at least make it known that I am trying. I didn’t want to come down here and presume everyone would accommodate me by speaking in English. In fact, I originally assumed that I’d pretty much be a social outcast, lurking in corners with a drink in one hand, cigarette in the other (no mom, I did not pick up smoking – it ‘s for visual effect), mutely surveilling the Ticos and my American friends as they talk about me not behind my back but in front of my face because I’m just. that. dumb.
And I would have deserved that.
But it’s really not that way here. The patience of some of these people as I struggle through a simple sentence that comes out sounding like a 2-year-old crack-addicted schizophrenic with Tourette’s (Yo quiero un… shit! – como se dice “ride”? – ah, paseo… al la… al la… oh puta. Tienda?) is astounding. And sure – there’s probably the occasional – okay daily – chuckle at my expense, but that would be a human thing – not a Tico thing.
Even while completely surrounded by it, learning a new language is hard. At least for me. And I’ll tell you one thing – it’s far more difficult for the people living in Latin America to decipher my Spangermlish that it is for me to “push 1 for English” in the United States.