Learning a new language is hard. At least, it is for me. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school, and when I realized I was going to study in Madrid, I began studying on my own. My Spanish teacher, originally from Peru, was awesome, and she tutored me during my free time. I figured that by the time I got to Madrid, I’d at least be able to communicate.
That was not the case.
My husband tells me that I had a very tell-tale sign for when I didn’t understand. My smile would get very big and I would nod over and over like I understood what was being said.
Unfortunately, that happened a lot my first few months in Madrid.
I’m here to tell you that if you don’t understand, don’t just nod and say yes over and over. It’ll get you into trouble.
I accidentally agreed to giving someone piano lessons because I nodded and said yes at the same time. I agreed to play the piano for a funeral.
The worst moment was when I was waiting for my then-boyfriend to get out of a religion class. I sat out in the foyer, and someone else came and sat by me. I knew him a little bit, because of activities, and when he started talking, I started nodding. He talked for a long time, and I would respond with smiles, nods and “Si!” “Que Bien!” (Yes! That’s good!)
After he finished, and I gave another enthusiastic smile and nod, and narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. He spoke slowly and pronounced each word so I could understand.
“Entendiste lo que te dije?”
Did you understand what I said?
I realized I’d been caught and shook my head. No.
“Te estuve explicando de mi divorcio.”
I was telling you about my divorce.
The whole time he told me about his divorce, and the pain he went through, I was nodding and smiling and telling him, “That’s good!”
Here’s the moral of the story: If you’re ever traveling to a different country, and you’re not quite sure about the language, put on an interested face and tell them “That’s interesting.” Whether it’s good or it’s bad, it’s not going to get you in trouble.