Saturday, 1 November 2014

When in Spain, keep your eyes open

This post comes hot on the heels of my return from a fantastic short stay in Madrid.
It was a chance to practice what I preach, being the appointed translator for the whole family.

One of the first things that struck me, now that, as I like to think, I'm fairly fluent, is just how little Spanish you actually need to get by as a tourist.

So long as you can ask for directions, buy tickets, order meals and drinks, and ask whether an establishment has toilets, you'll get by.
It gives you a real confidence boost.

The other bonus of the visit, apart from visiting an amazing city, is the opportunity to pick up new vocabulary, without really trying, and see some of the things you've learnt in class in action.

See? Not hear?
Well, I got some pretty odd looks, when I was pointing my camera at things that aren't exactly Tourist fodder but, for me, it was an opportunity to chronicle some examples of how the Subjunctive (and its close cousin, the Imperative) are all around you.

Look at this photo.

I spotted this in the Window of a bank.
'Vaya donde vaya' - wherever you may go . .
You can't get a better example of the subjunctive than that!

And this one

This was a paper place mat in a VIPS restaurant, where we went every morning for breakfast.
'Do you know what might feel as good as the good time you're having here?'
'Spending some time helping others'
What's interesting is the fact that the verb 'sentir' -  to feel, is in the Subjunctive mode, rather than in the conditional , which you might choose, if you were translating 'Do you know what would feel better' from English.
It's an example of how the Subjunctive is used to convey a sense of 'possibly' or 'maybe', rather than a concrete fact.

Here's a good one
Seen outside an 'all you can eat' restaurant.
Imperative and Subjunctive in one sentence!
The translation into English is succinct, but doesn't quite match the subtlety of the Subjunctive which implies 'as much as you want, however much that may be'

More of the same
The instruction 'contrata tu seguro de Sanitas y empieza a gestionar tu salud' has two verbs in the Imperative '
'Arrange your insurance with Sanitas, and begin to manage your health', followed by a clause with two instances of the Subjunctive 'estés donde estés' - 'wherever you may be'

Wait, didn't I just see 'wherever you may go' further up the page?
As a matter of fact this duplication of the Subjunctive is very common in Spanish, to imply 'no matter what' or 'no matter where'
Other examples include 'coma lo que coma, no gano ni un gramo' - 'no matter what I eat, I don't gain a gramme', or 'digas lo que digas, no voy a escuchar' - ' no matter what you say, I'm not going to listen.

And finally, an instruction, in the negative

'No te quedes fuera de juego'
'Don't be left out of play'
Apparently, if you order a bucket of four bottles of Coronita, you get a fifth free (plus a 'ración' of some tapas, thrown in, too)
I saw quite a few pavement cafes selling these buckets, filled with bottles of beer packed in ice, and at ridiculously low prices (and it was hot, in Madrid, in October!)

You might also have noticed that all bar the first of these examples use the familiar 'tu' form, no doubt to make the appeal, suggestion, or instruction feel more friendly.

One final photo

I took this in the Parque del buen retiro, in Madrid.
I'd just walked by a building with a sign outside, announcing that it was the 'Teatro de los títeres' and guessed that it was a puppet theatre (partly down to having come across the word 'titiritero' in the Spanish version of 'Game of Thrones: Book 2' - it means 'puppeteer')
The next thing I heard was the puppet asking the kids if they liked 'títeres', which pretty much closed the deal.

So, if you get chance to travel to Spain, or any Spanish speaking country (or area, if you live in a city which has a friendly Hispanic neighbourhood you can wander around) while remembering to keep your ears open, use your eyes too.
There are posters, and advertisements in every bus shelter, offers in shop windows and banners on the side of buses, full of examples of constructions you already know, but might not get chance to use or hear, in the limited context of tourist conversation.

Finally, I'll leave you with a tiny clip I caught in the Retiro, of a guy making music on what looked like a Wok!
What has it to do with Spanish?
Well, let's just call it Spanish Wok Music ;¬)
¡Hasta la próxima!

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