How not to speak Spanish

Speaking Spanish when you don’t really speak Spanish can lead to all sorts of trouble. Here is a cautionary tale.

A common thing that happens to me after a flamenco performance is that somebody will walk up to me and start chatting with me in Spanish. I’ll have to explain to them that “Sorry! I don’t speak Spanish”. They always look surprised. “What! You don’t speak Spanish? But you were speaking Spanish ten minutes ago on stage.” Well! Yeah! I only know how to say those few expressions. In flamenco there are common expressions that are called jaleos. Things like “toma que toma” or “fuego getano” and others to give encouragement to whomever is performing. I know how to say these specific expressions but I really can’t carry a conversation in Spanish. I guess “come se llama” or “me llamo Elen” doesn’t really count. The other thing that will happen is that somebody will walk up to me and ask me: “Where in Spain are you from?” or “How long ago have you immigrated here from Spain?” They look sooooooooooooo disappointed when I tell them I am not from Spain. They just look so confused. Because I have an accent, the next question is: “Well where are you from?” I tell them that I’m from Iraq. That is when they look so devestaed. They look like the can’t believe it. Does not compute. Doe not compute. Aaaaaaaaaaa! You’re from Iraq, but, but I didn’t know there was flamenco in Iraq. Why don’t you do belly dancing? Just because I am from Iraq doesn’t mean that I don’t have individual taste that allows me to appreciate things outside of my cultural boundaries. I guess the most weird question I got ever asked was: “So does that mean you do bull fighting?” Yes, yes. I listen to flamenco and I am gripped by enormous passion and all that rhythmic music just grips me and I can’t help myself. I grab the nearest spear, run outside looking for a raging bull to demolish. I have been banned from all the zoos in North America as a result. Just kidding. I don’t like bull fighting at all. I can’t even stand watching it.

I speak enough Spanish to help me get through a dance class with a Spanish instructor. For example I know how to count to 12 in Spanish because that is the maximum number of beats in a flamenco phrase. But I can never count 12 in Spanish in a normal way, I have to count it musically otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I also understand the common corrections that instructors like to give. Things like “lift your chest up” or “don’t rush” and many others. The sum of all these expressions I call flamencoese. But seriously people, I don’t need to speak Spanish to appreciate flamenco I just need to know how to feel.

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