Mi Español esta malo

Just last week, devastation struck New York.  Hurricane Sandy pulverized many parts of the city, including Staten Island, Breezy Point, and Long Island.  I knew I had to do my part to help out once I saw parts of Staten Island were destroyed.  When I came back to the dorms late Wednesday evening, my friend informed me that she was going to Long Island the next day to help out with the Red Cross.  I decided to get up early the next morning to join her on the trip.

After brutally waking up before 6 AM, we made our journey to the Red Cross headquarters in Midtown.  Once it was time to leave there, three buses took volunteers out to scattered areas of Long Island.  I spent the first half of the day standing in the middle of the street advertising the free Red Cross meals.  Once four o’clock rolled around, I was called over to hand out dinner to the families who lost everything.  This process went smoothly for quite some time, until a large number of Spanish speaking families began to arrive.  Although I took three years of Spanish in high school, my Spanish is rusty because it’s been a while.

“We have bologna, cheese, and turkey sandwiches,” I said to a man.

He looked at me very puzzled and responded with “Que?”  I knew he was speaking Spanish, but I did not know how to tell him the types of sandwiches in his native language.

Luckily, my friend, fluent in both English and Spanish, jumped in quickly and said, “Tenemos mortadella queso y pavo.”

He smiled and answered, “Dos mortadellas, por favor.”

After listening to this conversation, I told her I would handle the next Spanish speaking person, thinking I could handle it.  Sure enough, there was a Spanish couple a few people later on line.

I said, “Tenemos mortadella queso y….” I forgot how to say turkey in Spanish.  After about a minute, I pointed at the turkey and said “El pave-o!”

Both the couple and my Spanish-speaking friend burst out laughing because of my horrible pronunciation, but they understood what I was trying to say.  My friend even told me after that I was massacring her language.

The wife then replied, “Mortadella y queso, por favor.”

I was then stuck with the challenge of asking how many sandwiches they would like.  Accepting defeat, I told my friend to take over, and she carried out the rest of the conversation.  From there on, she handled the Spanish speaking families for the day.  Even though I wasn’t much of a help to some of them, I provided a lighthearted, comic relief for those going through a difficult time in their lives with my broken “Espanol.”

Photo Credit: Red Cross Website

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3 Responses to Mi Español esta malo

  1. Sifan Shen says:

    The twist in this post is extremely clever. After your friend helped you out, I was anticipating you to respond the Spanish couple with decent Spanish. But boy, I was wrong. The “El pave-o!” reply is hilarious as well.

  2. nastassiashcherbatsevich says:

    I liked how you were able to create something positive out of a really tragic situation. Your post was enjoyable and lively. Best of all, it left a clear message: you don’t have to speak the same language to provide each other with a little bit of humor.

  3. tejjybear says:

    Great story John, I totally feel your pain when it comes to speaking Spanish to native Spanish speaking people. I took Spanish for five years through middle school and high school, but I still have trouble speaking to native speakers. But hey, at least you tried. If you think about it, you managed to make some people laugh while they were probably going through a very tough time.

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