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Do you know the language?

Just curious: (I know, I know, bad habit)

Is language a factor when you plan your vacations?
Are any of you fluent in Spanish? Do you carry dictionaries with you on trips or just wing it?

The moment we booked our first trip to Cuba I set out to learn as many basic words as possible (travel and AI-related) so I’d be able to converse with the employees and people we’d meet.

Still at it today ;D, although not fluent, with a little bit of humour and lots of “lo sientos”, I manage to do just fine. I carry my word lists with me each trip, practice every chance I get, and learn more each time. And now that I have friends in Matanzas, it’s all the more reason to keep it up!

I’m pretty much the same as you. Not fluent but try hard. I make it a point to ask anyone I talk to, to tell me how to say a certain thing in spanish. Every trip I try to learn more words. My ability to form proper sentances is pathetic though…lol

We do always take a Spanish-English dictionary with us. Although, we tend to learn more from the staff than the dictionary.

I started out with English, then reached way back in my brain for some high school French and then added a new dimension of charades to get my thoughts across (much to my wife’s chagrin but the amusement of the locals) and they understood what I was trying to say. I’ve taken a few weeks of Spanish basics which seems to come to me before the French now, which is a good sign.

I still travel with an electronic translator but after the basics I find my number one Spanish phrase is Como si dice “…” en espanol. It’s how I try to pick up new words but sentences, forget it. Lol More like a string of words.

I consider myself to be reasonably fluent.

I took on Spanish as my fourth language as an undergrad university student knowing I would need at least one second language as a requirement for getting into grad school. I could have done german, which is my mother tongue, but that would have been too easy and I could always fall back on that if necessary. After four years of university spanish, I also had the opportunity to spend some time in Spain which further cemented my language skill.

Of course speaking Cuban spanish is a whole different ball game! The slang takes time to learn and I do sometimes have to ask them to speak more slowly. Cubans don’t seem to have problems understanding me though.

I carry my trusty ‘cheat sheet’ with me. And have no shame pulling it out of my bag to reference it. Have used charades also. I don’t use Spanish enough to be able to speak more that short sentences about very basic stuff…but it’s fun and I enjoy it.

Just the cheat sheet and a few small sentenes to say good morning, how are you etc. I took a test years ago because I wanted to learn French and was told I’m lucky I can speak English.

The only word I’ve ever needed in Cuba is Hola - well, maybe add ‘rum’ to that list.

Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel in a ski resort in the Dolomites in Italy. Much more like Swiss or Austrian Alps. I know zero Italian and have gotten along just fine. We ordered lunch in a very small town along the road. Paninni was just fine in English or Italian and he easily understood ‘beer’ and CocoCola. The waterbus station we needed to get off this morning in Venice was under a foot of water, so they changed to another station. Even with a Venice map it was tough because I didn’t know which streets were open or flooded. An elderly gentleman came along and using no English at all told me how to get to where we were going. You can tell the ‘locals’ because they are wearing rubber boots.

Smiles go a long way when you don’t know what they are saying.

I guess I was a bit off topic. Just testing the waters - literally.

IMO knowing the language of country you’re visiting would be a great asset. While I’ve gotten along just fine in Cuba with no spanish it certainly limits interaction and communication, especially off resort.
For example, last trip I met a musician that I would really liked to have had a chat with but he spoke no English.

I was so frustrated not knowing any Spanish when I went to Cuba as an adult in 2005 (I had been in 72 as a kid). I got my hands on some Spanish textbooks and started listening to the Spanish radio station. I now can understand a lot of speaking and reading, but my speaking is not as good. Wish I’d taken it in school, but they didn’t offer it in those days.

I do find that sometimes I can’t remember French and Spanish has taken over that spot in my brain.

My travel friend knows Gracias, and Vino blanco, por favor! It works!

Well Zen, you dragged me out. I’m part Acadian, Irish, English, Dutch and All Loyalist.
I learned Latin and French (the Parisian Kind) in school and can pick apart a verb with the best of them. Gimme’ one.
Cuban Spanish is to Spanish like Quebec French is to Bordeaux French. :wink:
Like a Texan talking to a Cockney or the reverse.
Like most in NB, I find the act of trying, is more important than getting it right. But what would you expect from someone who lives in Canada’s only Official Bilingual Province, eh?
I’ve met 4 or 5 Cubans here who would help me but . no excuses.
I take a cheat sheet and try my best to pick up local slang to modify my Rosetta crap, my best translator friend, Zen. :sunglasses: :sunglasses: LOL

LoL, Spunky, I’ll have you know that I’m 75% Acadian… and the other 50% is Irish! :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s nothing better than seeing Cubans smile when you try to say something in Cuban (and it comes out in Chinese), and they do the same thing most Acadians do when tourists say “I’m sorry I don’t speak French”:
“No worries, I can speak English” ;D

I’m a cheat sheeter, too. I find I can grasp more, reading, than trying to understand someone speaking to me in Cuban Spanish. If I want to have a simple conversation with soemone, I’ll write down what I want say (simple sentences) and then read it to them. I get them to write their response (again, keeping it simple). Then I get them to speak it back to me so that I can try and get a bit of a grasp on pronunciation. It’s fun trying to learn a bit of another language. Hola and ciao only go so far ;D

I always have my book and my cheat sheet. I have picked up quite a few words and phrases over the years. Nothing beats the Cuban laugh and smile when I try to say a new word or get them to try and teach me how to say it. Priceless.

The most difficult for me is the gradener, as I know most of the plants in the English/Latin names so I say them in both then they want to learn the English. Now that is laughter for sure. Because they know I’m a gardener they think I can understand their rapid Spanish…not a chance. LOL

…“I take a cheat sheet and try my best to pick up local slang to modify my Rosetta crap”

Mmmm, I’ve been tempted to get the Rosetta Spanish but it’s pretty pricey and I’ve put off getting it as I don’t know how effective and useful it would be. So, Spunky, I’m gathering, from your comment, that you weren’t impressed with the program???

A few years ago, I bought the Spanish for Dummies (cringe…I’d change the name if I could ;D ;D) and, when on our long drives to the Okanagan, I throw in the c.d. and we would practice. Worked pretty good especially when done relatively close to the trip. I’ve downloaded the sections I want to practice to my Ipod and listen to it on the flight down. No way close to fluent (I wish) but every little bit helps.

i get this word of the day service and have another on iPad.

Thanks for the link :slight_smile:

Pimsleur is pretty much the gold standard as far as language learning goes. They are often criticized for being out of date with current usage, slang, and so on. Quite true, but you can always pick that up once you have the basic grammar and vocabulary of a language wired, and you’ll never get that with word-a-day and the like. It’s the carefully timed repetitions that work the magic. Even if you sound like someone who learned the language 30 years ago, you’ll still be ahead. And the locals are not going to think you’re a native speaker just because you use a few trendy words or phrases.

Pimsleur beginner levels are priced quite reasonably, and then the price gets cranked up quickly once you realize that it works.

I’ve been upgrading my Spanish every year, taking classes, studying at home and listening to a lot of latin music (which I think is the best way to do it). I’ve found that it makes my trips SO MUCH more interesting because the Cubans I meet on resort and off resort all move to a different level when they realize that I can carry on at least a basic conversation. Very worth the effort!

Thanks, trent, for your comments; much appreciated and food for thought :slight_smile:

what is great fun, is when you comment on something they have said, either about you or another quest…lol in spanish…