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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Foreign Desk
Viva España?
by Mark Budman

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Why don't the Spaniards speak English? The Dutch do it, the Germans do it, even the French in the privacy of their tourist shops do it. Why can't the Spaniards do it? In the souk (a mediaeval bazaar) of Marakesh, an elderly Moroccan man haggled with me in fluent bazaar English over a smelly leather camel. In Turkey, another man led me to a museum that turned out to be his brother's rug store. But he spoke to me in English all the time.
     Over the Western border of Spain, the Portuguese struggle to explain to me how to get to yet another tourist trap.
     "Ah, Bl-a-n-e!"
     The Spaniards don't struggle. "No English," a shop proprietor or a waiter would say. In a shop, you point with your finger. In a restaurant, you find a picture menu. When asking for directions, you just raise your voice. As all the experienced tourists know, raising your voice usually works when nobody understands your language. When one travels to Betelgeuse, one has to shout really loud for the aliens to understand. But no loud speaking is enough for the Spaniards.
     During my visit to Spain, a British guide showed us the final resting place of Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen who united Spain. The head of the Queen's effigy sinks deeper into the stone pillow than her husband's because she was supposedly smarter and therefore had a heavier brain. Did she speak English? I doubt it. That wouldn't be smart and queenly, would it?
     Watching the statues of the two most famous Spaniards who never lived, Don Quixote and his spear bearer Sancho Pansa, I asked myself the same question. Did they? Naaah. They had nothing for sale. Nothing. Even if they did (spears to attack the wind mills with, for example) they would still say "No English" when asked for the spear price. Having accomplished that, they would return to their business as usual.
     Come to think of it, the Spaniards don't even speak Spanish correctly. The Spanish of Madrid is a bastardized version of the Spanish of Brooklyn. "Velasquez" becomes "Velathquez" and "plaza" becomes "platha". A total thcrew up!
     Can it be that they don't know English? Naaah! I'm sure it's a conspiracy dating from the time of the Spanish-American War or maybe even from the time of the Grand Armada.
     So, I'd say, if you plan to do cultural, soul enriching traveling, forget about Estramadura or Prado or Alhambra. Instead, go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Cooperstown people speak good American English and, by the way, will feed you beer and hamburgers instead of those useless Sangria and tapas. And if it's international travel you seek, you can follow up by driving across the border to Toronto. Canadians speak good English, too. For foreigners.

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