Who? Me? You? All of us? - Learning Spanish, Part three, El Puerto de Santa Maria, 1972

It's 1972 and I'm living in El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz.

I'm chugging along, getting used to not understanding what people are saying to me. I live in a cloud of words whose meanings are punctuated with lively eyes and hands that gesticulate. I try moving my hands, hoping that that will somehow make me understand people better, or that they'll understand me more. But it doesn't help.

It's not just the fact that I don't understand Spanish, it's also that I can't get the few words I know uttered in time before the topic of conversation changes! By the time I've figured out what I want to say, got the nouns and adjectives agreeing, it's already the end of the day and people are off to their beds.

The one BIG faux pas I make is one that is simply not acceptable. Says I, at any rate. I should know better, but I keep making the same error over and over.

Guess what it is?!

I talk to a group of friends and I say, "¿Quieres ir al Bar Central a tomar un cafecito?"

What's wrong with this sentence?


It should be, "¿Queréis ir al Bar Central...." That's if you're using vosotros. If you're being formal or speaking to Latin Americans, you should say, "¿Quieren ustedes ir al Bar Central..."

The point is that the verb should be in the plural for you are talking to more than one person. I'm too busy translating from English into Spanish and I come up with the singular. There is only one 'you' in English, that's why. Och. Who's daft?

I'm sure people are offended that I'm only inviting one of them and not the whole group to the Bar Central. But I don't know enough Spanish to explain why I'm making the mistake, or to quickly form  the correct part of the verb. So, I start gesticulating my hands, hoping that they'll get the idea. While they're gabbing to one another, their fingers dancing in the air, the conversation gets louder and louder, and I end up with a headache.

The good thing is, that we somehow all go to the Bar Central, and, instead of un cafecito, we have a nice wee glass of Tio Pepe. That's when I suddenly burst out with "¿Queréis vosotros ir al Bar Central?"

 I've finally got the verb!

They look at me as if I'm nuts.

"We're already at the Bar Central!"  They all laugh loudly in unison.