I don’t speak Spanish.

I know I’ve been living in Colombia for about five months now. And, yes, they speak Spanish here. But i don’t speak Spanish. Sure, I can order at a restaurant and tell a cab driver where I want to go, but that’s not speaking Spanish. Not really.

My students marvel at this. ¨But teacher-¨ they call everyone Teacher rather than Miss or Mr Whatever ¨-how do you buy food? How do you ride the bus?¨ And others, quite brazenly, insist that I do speak Spanish. I suppose those students overhear me saying to the doormen, ¨Llave para tres-zero-tres?¨ That does not a Spanish speaker make.

It’s my own fault, mostly. I mean, I have conjured viable excuses, but if I wanted to be learning Spanish I could be. I’m just lazy, really. Well, and proud. It´s just that I speak English very well. And I pride myself on that. And I speak Spanish…well, I don’t speak Spanish, really. And I am quite resistant to making an ass of myself. Which is completely absurd.

My friend Dunia, who is Colombian, always tries to make me speak Spanish. Usually she speaks to me in Spanish and I respond in English – stubborn broad that I am. One day she said to me, ¨I don’t get it. Just try to speak to people in Spanish! They can see you. They’ll know you’re a gringa.¨ And she’s right. But here are my excellently crafted excuses:

-The accent here is difficult to understand. They drop a lot of consonants and run their words together. Plus, they just generally speak very quickly.
-They speak a slang dialect here called Costeñol. So, sometimes the people aren’t even speaking actual Spanish.
-The average person here sees me, assumes I can’t speak Spanish and then refuses to even try to understand anything I say. And pronounce something just slightly different than the locals and they’ll have no idea what you´re saying anyway.

A few months ago we hosted an Argentine couple that validated all of these complaints. Spanish is their native language and the said they had experienced all of these problems as well. They too were light skinned, as many Argentines are. Of course, by them saying this it just gave me further conviction to not learn Spanish. However, their Spanish, I could understand. So maybe I just don´t speak Costeño?

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