Learning a new language is never easy, as Mallorca Olive Press’s own Lesley Keith is finding out

Attending council-run classes twice a week can end in laughter

LAST UPDATED: 13 Jun, 2017 @ 14:07
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By Lesley Keith

LIVING in another country has many challenges, as you all know, and one of the main ones is definitely learning the lingo.  

Now I have tried, I really have, but living in a resort in the North practically everyone speaks English.

Throw in the fact that locals talk to each other in Mallorquina and notices are in Catalan, what hope have I got?

SPANISH LESSONS: Hard work does pay off, says Leslie

I dress in Spanish clothes, have my hair cut by a Spanish hairdresser, drive a Spanish car etc yet I am always addressed in English.

How do they know? It soon became apparent that I was not going to learn without making a major effort. I didn’t want to be one of those expats I’ve met who proudly informed me that after living here for 45 years they still couldn’t speak a word (more common than you’d think).

I have enrolled at council-run classes and drag myself along twice a week, doing my homework like a right little swot. Most times we all end up in peels of laughter as we’ve all got it hopelessly wrong except the Dutch pupils who make the rest of us look like idiots.

Our patient teacher Inez has a great sense of humour and makes it an enjoyable experience. Plus it is a brilliant way to meet other nationalities and who knows we may even be able to even understand each other one day (not anytime soon though). It’s a very long time since I was at school and I had forgotten how nerve-wracking it is being put on the spot in front of a class.

The brain goes blank, the room goes silent and your face goes red – and that’s when you know the answer!

The next thing I am trying is a free phone app called Duolingo. You probably know the one, it has a little green owl and sends you annoying reminder texts if you don’t do your daily lesson.

It teaches you very useful phrases like ‘Luis is not a yellow football’, I can’t tell you how much I’ve used that one.

I always try to talk in Spanish whenever I get the chance.  Nothing says ‘ Oh my dear God ‘ more than a waiter’s face as you stumble through your order.

Sitting with a friend the other day in a very Spanish bar I tried to ask the waitress if we could wait a minute as someone else was joining us. That was greeted with a big sigh and rolled eyes plus the comment ‘Look, could you just speak in English as I can’t understand a word you’re saying’… Gutted.

CONFUSION: Waiter unable to understand my Spanish, says Lesley Keith

Finally, beware the translation app. Useful as it can be, it can also cause great confusion. In a well known DIY warehouse my partner was trying to buy wood for fencing. I stepped in but the app had given the wrong translation, as fencing is also a sport using swords. Waving my arms around descriptively really didn’t help.  The assistant’s face was a picture and we never got our wood. What if we’d been asking for decking I wonder?

All my hard work sometimes does pay off though. I did manage to order dinner and drinks perfectly the other day requesting no cheese and extra bread only to be told by my English octogenarian companion to stop showing off.

Sometimes there are no words in any language.

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