Sometimes a Spanish phrase will come rolling off my tongue and I’ll realize I didn’t even have to think about it. Didn’t even translate it from English first in my head.
Other times, I accidentally curse about dog poop.
I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with the Spanish language here. I minored in Spanish in college, just because I loved the classes so much. But like an unused muscle, I haven’t really spoken Spanish in nearly 20 years, and I’ve lost much of what I once worked so hard to learn.
And even when I’ve had the opportunity to speak Spanish in the past, I’ve defaulted to English instead for fear of making a mistake. But I told myself I wouldn’t allow that on this trip – I would try harder to speak Spanish and rely less on English here.
In Nosara, it’s easy to do. Most of the people in the professional and tourist trades are at least somewhat bilingual. In restaurants, they typically approach and just begin in English, or maybe ask if I speak Spanish. I always try to reply in Spanish, saying that I speak some of the language and need to practice.
This usually earns me a smile and their patience. They listen politely, they help me search for a missing word or phrase, and they speak slowly and deliberately to me.
I’ve had more than a few stumbles, but two that make me both cringe and laugh.
Just a few days after we arrived, Camille developed an ear infection. I took her to the pharmacy, and explained the situation in Spanish. The pharmacist brought over some ear drops, and we began discussing dosage. How many days should I treat her? How many times should she get the drops each day? All in Spanish.
I thought it was going very well until I asked how many drops in each ear, using the word golpas for drops.
The pharmacist replied back that I should give her two gotas. I noted the correction, and paused, before remembering that golpas are punches. I’d just asked the pharmacist how many times I should punch Camille in the infected ear each day.
I laughed, and she laughed while making a punching motion at her own ear.
Just today, we had a local tica woman clean our house for the first time. She speaks a much more rapid and accented Spanish that I find nearly impossible to understand. I gave her a ride to our home, and she attempted small talk along the way. Sometimes I would nod, just out of courtesy, but mostly had no clue to what I was agreeing.
On the way back to her house, determined to appear friendly, I attempted some small talk too. A dog walked leisurely across the road in front of my car, as they often seem to do around here. We both shook our heads at the dog as I swerved to avoid it.
“Sometimes, the dogs don’t have any fear!” is what I meant to say. But the word for fear is also very close to the Spanish expletive for poop. So what it sounded like I said was, “Sometimes, the dogs don’t have any sh*t!”
We spent the rest of the ride in silence. Silence seemed safer.
I’m going to keep trying though. And may all of Nosara forgive me for punching my kid in the ear and talking about dog poo.