No Habla Espanol

Perhaps the greatest challenge during my travels [no worries, I’m not done talking about my travels just yet! Interlude begin!] was the language barrier. At most hostels I could speak English with people, but aside from that, I know very very little Spanish, a little more French, and zero Italian. The only things I could say were the things I had written down before I went traveling [aside from my elementary/intermediate knowledge of French]. I didn’t really need to say much in Spanish or Italian, but here are some things I noticed about the languages.

In Italy, pretty much the moment you walk into a shop you say “Ciao” or “Buongiorno”. Then you say “Ciao” and “Arrivederci” when you leave. [Excuse my horrible spelling] Now, most people know ‘thank you’ in Italian is “grazie”, but most people probably assume it is pronounced /grat-zi/, but you know what happens when you assume! From listening to other Italian people say the word, /grat-zi/ is okay, but most people pronounce the word as /grat-zia/. Yes, the “e” at the end is pronounced! There’s a little bit of knowledge for you the next time you go to Italy.

In Barcelona, the main language spoken is Catalan, not Spanish. In most places you go to there will be a translation into Spanish. If you speak Spanish they will understand you [kind of] but they will realize that you do not belong to the region. That’s okay, though. A lot of people spoke English or enough to understand what you were trying to say. Hand motions help too. That’s another thing. In order to specify eating, if you don’t know how to say “eat” in Spanish, the motion is putting your fingers together and putting your hand by your lips. So your hand kind of looks like a bird’s beak and then it’s by your hand. Now you know how to motion that you are there to eat if you have no idea what the waiter is saying to you!

I spoke the barest amount of Spanish in Barcelona and most of the people understood what I was saying, so for anyone else who knows Spanish, you’ll be fine.

Since I am a student, you can mostly get student prices for museums. If they ask for ID, only European school IDs work. If they don’t, then good for you. Try to skip the ID portion by asking in Spanish for an “estudiante des billetes”, or if you’re like me and have choppy Spanish, I usually asked “estudiante ticket” and that worked out fine. In Italy, when you get to the ticket booth, specify the number and then the reduced ticket, so for one you would say “uno riduto”.  Usually they’ll have it written in Italian by the prices so if you forget the word, just take a quick look before you get there and then ask. Italian ticket offices are not very friendly. They get straight to the point, so if you specify it exactly then you should get through no problem. Although sometimes they only gave reduced to people part of the European Union, which sucked, but if you’re under 26 sometimes they’ll let you in!

Be polite!

The second part of this post has to do with the first night at my hostel in Venice. There were two Oriental girls in our dorm and they were telling us [in English] about some things they had encountered during their stay in Venice. Then after a little while they asked me where I was from. I am Chinese American, so most Asian people I have met since being abroad tend to ask me where I’m from [actually, most people ask me where I’m from]. I told them I’m from America and they kind of let it rest. To me it seemed like they were a little disappointed. And then they asked where my parents were from and I told them Taiwan and then they just kind of dropped the subject. Then they started talking to each other in Chinese. At this point I kind of felt like they were kind of disappointed to find out I wasn’t from an Asian country, so I asked them something in Chinese. The looks on their faces. They seemed really surprised that I knew Chinese! This was perhaps one of the things I’d been told before, but never actually experienced it in real life.

I’m not sure who, probably my mom, by someone told me before that Asians who meet other Asians that are from America are usually under the impression that these Asian Americans cannot speak an Asian language. I’m guessing that’s what these girls thought and thus they were surprised when I could speak Chinese. Previously, at my university here in England I have had other Chinese people come up to me and ask me in English if I can speak Chinese, then they’ll ask me to clarify something or ask me where something is. I guess because they didn’t know I was from America they assumed that since I’m Asian, I must speak an Asian language. Out of the possible choices, there is a high possibility that I speak the language they need.

I don’t know. I guess I was just surprised to actually have that happen to me. We had a nice conversation afterwards. Short, but it was nice talking in Chinese for a little while. My Chinese has gotten quite rusty being here.

Post on  Florence coming soon!

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