My Most Embarrassing Spanish Moments

Everyone likes a good butt joke. But not everyone likes being the butt of the joke.

So you can imagine how embarrassed I was one holiday season in Quito, Ecuador long ago when I wished everyone I knew a cheery “Feliz Ano” instead of “Feliz Año.”

That little squiggle mark over the n transforms it into a sound something like “nyah” which I had, unfortunately, overlooked.

This simple pronunciation mistake meant that instead of wishing everyone a Happy New Year, I’d been wishing them a “Happy Anus.”

Yikes. And this wasn’t the first or the last time I put my foot in my mouth…

Another time, on a bus careening through the mountains of Costa Rica, I grabbed the armrest of my seat and whispered to my husband (a little too loudly, apparently) “Tengo mierda.”

Why, I wondered, did all the locals collapse in giggles and cover their faces with their hands?

You see, I thought I’d said “I’m scared,” or more literally, “I have fear.” But the word for fear is miedo…and not mierda, which means I had literally said (in terms that won’t be censored here) “I have poo poo.”

That did it. I decided then and there to get serious about learning basic Spanish.

You see, I knew that before I would ever really “fit in” in Latin America…and more importantly, before I would ever quit looking like an idiota, I’d need to learn to speak at least a little bit of Spanish.

I didn’t need to be fluent. Or perfect. I just wanted to be able to ask directions, make reservations, answer the phone, and talk to the people I met…to ask about their lives, their jobs, their children…without embarrassing myself or them.

And eventually I did that, of course. When I found the right system, everything just clicked. But it was tough going at first.

It appears that I don’t have as many memory cells as I once had. (And no, I don’t regret a single one of those cervezas.) I certainly don’t have as much time on my hands as I once did. So for me, language courses based on memorization and homework just don’t work. I needed a better, easier way.

Luckily, a few years ago I met someone who turned everything around for me. He intimately understands the “mature brain.” (Because he is one of us.) I call him the “Zen Master of Spanish” because his calm, no-pressure approach helps you relax and enjoy the entire process. And the “experience” he’s created makes perfect sense and is easy to grasp from the very first minute.

It worked for me. And I’m pretty sure it will work for you. If you’ve ever wanted to quickly and easily start speaking Spanish, here’s how to do it.

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