The mysteries of the Spanish language

by Nia Thomas

So, before I came out to South America armed with my bike and not too much else, I took Spanish evening classes, to try and at least have a hope of being able to communicate once I arrived... Well there's only so much that 8 two hour long sessions can teach you, and so I've mostly be learning on the road, through making A LOT of mistakes and causing many a questioning face. Thankfully my Spanish is definetly getting better, but that certainly doesn't mean that I don't make a fool of myself daily (luckily everyone here is just a ready to laugh as me)!

So here are a few of my best mistranslations...

  • Rico - this means 'lovely' but only in the context of food. DO NOT use 'rico' to describe just anything you think is lovely...including young girls dolls, they may get confused and upset.
  • Invierno and Verano - For me learning which means Summer and which means Winter has been an uphill battle (invierno = winter and verano = summer, incase you were wondering). Which lead to an embarrasing moment in Cusco where I got them mixed up and told the hostel owner with great wonder in my eyes that "The Summer in Peru is warmer than the Winter in my country" to which he replied "of course"
  • Cansado vs Casado - This is a tough many words in Spanish sound SO similar! And with the elimination of an 'n' tired turns in married. Many many times I have told people that I am married while yawning....
  • Verb endings - Spanish, like many European languages, has different verb endings depending on the person (I, you, he, they etc), getting the right one every time can be a little tricky. My favourite two to mix up are the 'I' ending and the 'you' ending. This means I often end up telling people that THEY should be doing whatever I want to be doing, or vice versa. One time I told a youg boy that I should go and eat his dinner, instead of him!
  • País vs Pies - The first means 'country' and the second 'feet'. Leading me into telling many an unwitting Peruvian that there are "more sheep than people in my FEET!!"

Of course this is by no means an extensive list, and there are soooooo many mistakes we make and don't even realise! As we leave Huamachuco today to pedal the final miles to the Ecuadorian border I can only imagine what mistakes we have instore for the expecting Peruvians we will meet on our way...