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An Englishman, a Spaniard, a Mexican and a Chilean in a Taxi....

By Mr Grumpy - Sun 30th Sep 2012

And no, this isnīt about to lead to the punch line of a joke.

Yesterday was the midpoint of my 2 week conference in Kuala Lumpur, and being the outgoing and gregarious kind of guy that my psychotherapist has come to love me for, I decided to ask the front desk of the Hotel for the cost of hiring a minibus and organising an impromptu tour of the city.

Most of the Americans decided that anything requiring movement was too much like hard work, and given that I was unwilling to negotiate the use of mobility scooters for them 'a'la Disneyland', just myself and the Latin kings hopped in a taxi and headed into the smoke.

I knew that they all spoke excellent English - it being a requirement of my company and all that - but they didnīt know that I spoke Spanish.

Ok, maybe I should have used inverted commas over the word "Spanish" for effect, or even used the word "Spanglish" instead, but you get my point...

So here we are in a Taxi, chatting 90% in English, with the Three Amigos in the back exchanging the odd remark or observation in Castilian about the weather, or just some throwaway remark that might not have translated into English.

I decided that I really ought to speak in Castilian at this point. Sure, their English was near perfect, but here we all were in a foreign country with the English speaker in the minority so I decided to challenge the commonly held ( but mostly correct ) stereotype that the English only speak the one language.

Clearly I had to chose my moment to ensure that my sentence was both grammatically correct, well pronounced, politically correct, and of interest to the rest of my party.

I waiting for a lull in the Castilian conversation before asking a question which I kind of already half understood the answer to.

"Why did you just use Ustedes instead of Vosotros ??" I asked the Spaniard (who actually came from Bilbao, but letīs leave that one there....)

After overcoming their initial surprise that I spoke and understood Castilian - or at least Iīm guessing it wasnīt shock at my horrendous pronunciation - he explained that he knew that "Vosotros" would be understood, but wished to be polite in "Americanising" his Castilian for the benefit of the South Americans.

Odd that I have spent the week doing the exact opposite in trying to get the North Americans to speak English properly.

Comment on this Blog

Nice one - as I'm always reminded that usted and ustedes is sometimes used in shops as a form of address when I hear the shop keeper use it to me. Most however, tend to drop the use of the impersonal 'you' (except for Spanish classes) and leave the 'you' as implied.
Mike - Wed, 5th Dec 2012

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