Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Language Barrier.

Palacio Real, Madrid.
I'm a language student, French and Spanish being the two languages I study. As you can imagine, it is challenging enough to switch between the two when it comes to everyday conversation. When I first arrived in Alcalá, I was very stressed; I had moved straight from Toulouse to Madrid, was living in a hotel, and had no permanent accommodation set up (stressful situation to be in). Coming straight from Toulouse meant I had been surrounded by the French language, and suddenly I was expected to communicate in Spanish, a language that I had not spoken in about seven months. 

Somehow, I managed to sort out accommodation. My Spanish-English and French-English dictionaries were a great help! I went to register at the university and I remember walking in feeling quite confident...then the person I was talking to turned round and said "Ah, vous etes francaise?" ["Ah, you are French?"]. Cue minor meltdown on my part. I explained that I was English, but had been living in France and was now here in Spain for the second semester. He then understood my meltdown. Again, somehow I managed to get through registration and after that it was Spanish as much as possible. It took me ages to stop talking French, but I think I'm just about there now. 

Now, explaining something as vocab specific as diabetes in Spanish has proven a challenge, as I've mentioned in this previous post. Factor in alcohol and trying to explain diabetes and you are asking for trouble! I went out at the weekend with some friends, one American and two Spanish. When I'm drinking alcohol, I like to stay on top of my blood sugar levels, so I test frequently. I took out my blood testing kit, and tried to do a test discretely under the table, but what I was doing did not go unnoticed and questions were asked. 

I was trying to explain that when my blood sugar drops, I have to eat or drink something sugary, and that I always carry sweets in my bag. In Spanish, the word for sweets is golosinas. Now, I ask you please to remember the fact that I had been drinking! I said I have gasolinas in my bag. Gasolina definitely means petrol! I did not have petrol in my bag! I was so embarrassed! And things just went from bad to worse! Again, remember that alcohol had been consumed! I then proceeded to say "estoy muy embarazada". Embarazada does not mean embarrassed. It means pregnant. So after my first language mix-up, I then said I was very pregnant! Not embarassed, pregnant! 

So...what have I learnt from this? Golosinas and gasolina are two very different things, embarazada does not mean 'embarrassed'! (The word I was actually looking for was avergonzada (avergonzado if you're male)) and to just not talk in Spanish after alcohol has been consumed! 

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