Jun 4, 2008, 10:16 AM
Post #12 of 32
There are just some things about Spanish (I should qualify that by saying the Spanish I hear in Mexico) that I don't think will ever sit right with me. One of them is saying "Bueno" when you answer the phone. (Do females say "Buena" or does this masculine "Bueno" refer to something else other than the person answering the phone?) I was actually encouraged to read and learn here that this "Bueno" thing is apparently a Mexican phenomenon; that in some other Spanish speaking countries people answer the phone differently.
First of all, what people say when they answer the phone in various cultures (languages) has always fascinated me. I used to get a kick out of Italians saying "Pronto" (which means, "ready"...well, of course you are ready; you picked up the phone and started talking, didn't you?) and Germans who simply answer the phone saying their last name...Schmidt. If someone other than a Schmidt answers the Schmidt's phone, maybe Schmidt is otherwise occupied, you have to say "Hier bei Schmidt" "Here at Schmidt's". Also hilarious to me.
Anyway, I hate answering the phone in Mexico because I do not understand people as well over the phone as I do face-to-face. But sometimes it is necessary, when I am expecting an important call, for example. And I refuse to say "Bueno." I say hello or Hola. The ones calling me know I am a gringo. Invariably, however, not answering with the anticipated "Bueno" sends the caller into a tailspin and he/she is unable to utter a sound. I may say "Hello" again, or say "Quien habla?" or some such thing, but until I say "Bueno" it is a monolog and not by the person who made the call.
I am aware of something similar but more subtle and more complicated in my verbal, face-to-face communications with Mexicans, especially, it seems to me, if they are not particularly well educated. If my syntax, vocabulary, choice of words, pronunciation (accent) is not just exactly what they are anticipating, they apparently do not understand a single thing I say. They see this blondish/gray, blue-eyed oddly dressed gringo standing in front of them with Spanish words coming out of his face, with a slight Italian accent, they get a pained look on their faces and they just shut down. My partner can come along directly and say essentially the same thing, with different word order, maybe a different choice of a couple of words (nothing critical that would change the meaning), in his Sonoran accent, and voila!
I have been listening to foreigners mangle spoken English all my life, from my German grandfather down to the almost daily present every time I make a call to a "Customer Service" number. I work and struggle daily with my partner's English. He does not realize it is just as hard for me, just as taxing of my mental facilities to listen to his English and fix it up instantaneously in my head in order to make some sense of it, as it is for him to speak it. Why can't these people do the same for me? Especially when they are trying to sell me something and it is in their interest to make sure communication occurs? (Rhetorical questions. Nitpickers need not reply.)
I continue to work on my Spanish. It is better than the Spanish I hear spoken by any of the other, very few, gringos I know. But I know it can be better and one way to improve it is to try to say things the way the listener is going to anticipate them. That is going to take some time and a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end, I am sure.
I can start right now by saying "Bueno" when I answer the phone, no matter how "malo" the whole thing strikes me.