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On sounds

When Spanish people are trying to learn English they have enormous difficulty with some sounds. For instance, the S at the beginning of a word is always ESS and the Y becomes a J sound something like the J in Jaw. Words that sound quite different to English speakers like "peach" and "pitch" or "cup" and "cap" sound exactly the same to most Spaniards.

On the coach to Santiago I tried to use the phrase "Like sheep to the slaughter" in Spanish. The Spanish word for sheep is "oveja" but the Spanish person I was speaking to heard "abeja" which means bee so she told me the equivalent in Spanish was "like bees to honey!" - it was an odd exchange. Or yesterday I used the word taco (used to mean a swearword) but the person I was speaking to heard "Tajo" and thought I was talking about the Spanish river.

Maggie was out for a retirement do meal yesterday. She was made welcome, as always, but slowly but surely the conversation got away from her as the background noise increased, as people relaxed into conversations that required prior cultural kowledge etc.

I don't consider my life to be at all stressful at the moment but our pal Sagrario who we use as an intercambio (half an hour of English, half an hour of Spanish over a couple of coffees) said I should relax more, that the language thing was stressing me out and she's right. As I watch the news I have no problem understanding the main point but lots of the detail escapes me. Even some of the adverts pass me by and it is unfuriating when the simplest phrase, something that I've used successfully hundreds of times, suddenly fails because I mispronounce something. It sounds OK to me but it confuses my audience. And I know the feeling. Someone once asked me where the ornirons were and it took me a long time to work out that she was after onions.

I feel quite at home in Spain, it's where I live but the language seems to be an unbeatable problem that makes every conversation a potential disaster, every phone call a trial and every little job so much more difficult.


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