Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, July 20, 2018
You got one shot
Thursday, August 30, 2018
A time when nothing was everything

Adventures in Span-glish!
Among the many goofy signs hanging on the walls in our Tailhunter Restaurant in La Paz, one reads:


(You are my friend!)

For the unsuspecting, if you don’t understand Spanish, it really means “You are an idiot.” Hehehehe…

After more than two decades down here, I’m kinda proud that I sort of have a handle on Spanish. By the same token, I regret that I’m not better at it. I should be fluent.

I think I have a good ear for it. I can parrot it back. It might not always be grammatically correct, but I can get my meaning across. My problem is that I don’t understand it as well as I should. So, sometimes I fake it.

If you’ve ever listened to a native Spanish speaking person or, better yet, tried to listen to your captain talking on the radio or even listening to a Spanish radio station…HOLY COW…it sounds like one continuous word!

I pretend I understand!

I’m sure English sounds the same to a native speaker also.

On the other hand, my wife Jill is fearless with the language. She understands Spanish way better than myself. She doesn’t speak Spanish as well. But, she doesn’t care. She goes for it. She just talks!

I wish I was more like her. I still find myself having to think about what I want to say. Formulating in my small brain how to properly articulate it…then, I say it.

But, I’ve had my ups and downs.

Like many of us, I had Spanish classes in high school. I even had several college semesters of it. But, I couldn’t talk my way out’ve a Taco Bell.

To learn a language, you really have to live the language where you “think” in Spanish. I’m getting better.

But, you see, I pick up my Spanish from the folks I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. Those are my employees, my fishing captains and my drivers.

That’s a bit like someone who learns English working on the shipping docks, fishing boats or construction sites.

My Spanish reflects that. And, since my “teachers” don’t exactly instruct me from some language book, my conversation innocently often comes out “unfiltered” and I’ve had some awkward social moments.

For example, caballo is a horse. Cebolla is an onion. I once asked the waiter for some “grilled horse” on my hamburger. You can imagine his face.

Worse yet, on a different occasion, I thought another waiter was going to bust a gut in laughter. Cola is a tail. As in “lobster tail.” Culo is slang for a certain rear orifice. Yup…THAT one.

People sometimes curse and call somone a “culero.” You get the idea.

I was invited to dinner and the clients told me to order whatever I wanted. This was in the early days. Wow…whatever I want? Really?

So, I whipped out my Spanish and asked the waiter for the “culo de langosta” (lobster orifice). With melted butter of course!

The waiter grinned…took a breath to compose himself… and very nicely corrected me.

“Culo is not on the menu but we do have COLA de langosta!” He probably went back into the kitchen and told his buddies, “BAHAHAHA…You’re not gonna believe what some guy just ordered…”

I’ve had some fun with it too. Especially as I got better.

I”ll have some young guys down here who are going out on the town a bit.

I’ll say, “You guys want to great pick up line for the senoritas? Would like to know how to ask a girl to dance?”


“Walk up to a girl and very politely say, ‘Dame una nalgada.’”

I make them practice that phrase. Over and over. Lock it in! The girls will really love it!

The phrase really means “Give me a spanking.”

Yeah, my mom and dad always said I had a rascal streak in me!

I get some funny comments and looks the next morning. Mostly taken all in good fun.

The best honestly, however, is listening to tourists try out their Spanish. God bless ‘em for the effort. It’s appreciated.

It’s one thing to order a plate of tacos and pronounce it “TAY-koe” instead of “TAH-koe.” I get it.

But, especially owning a restaurant and fishing fleet and often the visitors do two things.

For one, they will add “El” to the beginning of everything. And they will add “O” to the end of every word.

So giving Spanish their best shot, “I want a taxi to take me to the hotel” becomes “I want-O an el-taxi-O to take me-O to the el hotel-O.”

Definitely an “A” for effort. Bravo!

Or conversely, when a local doesn’t understand the tourist, the tourist just says it louder the next time. And then louder again! Right. Maybe if I just say it even louder I’ll be understood!

In all honesty, I love Spanish. I love being able to speak it and I envy those who have mastered it where it just rolls so smoothly on command like so many other gringos who have relocated here.

I’ve taken my Spanish to other countries and I’m pretty proud of it.

In Costa Rica, I was asked “Where did you learn your Spanish?” I told them I lived in Baja, Mexico. They said, “Well, you have an accent!”

Wow! Me? I have an accent? Right on. Give me a high-five!

But yes…there’s different dialects of Spanish too. Kinda like “English spoken by people in Great Britain compared to Alabama compared to Massachusetts compared to Australia.

Spanish in Spain is different from Mexico City. It’s different in Baja. It’s different in East Los Angeles!

Knowing another language is a wonderful ability. It’s like knowing a secret code that will open so many doors to communication and understanding. It’s one of my most valued treasures. I keep practicing and learning.

Five new vocabulary words a week.

Next time you come visit, don’t be afraid to use it! If we don’t understand. Just say it louder!

Andale! Viva Mexico, Cabrones!


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