Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spanish Conversation 101

Mexicans are big talkers. Darting from the shower to my room in the 15 minutes I give myself to get ready each morning I can often become trapped in a long conversation with Conchita about the anything and everything. It does not matter that I am half naked and dripping wet, she loves to talk.

Meals go on for hours this way. Halfway through the conversation you might need to eat again. While in the US dinner party guests may have moved on to coffee in the living room, here no one has even moved from the table.

Often stuck in these conversation myself, I try to think of an appropriate way too excuse myself. There is probably some polite remark that can be made to remove myself from the conversation, but usually it involves me slinking out of the room at the first change of subject. I return to my room only to find the AIM chat I had left to go to the toilet is now 2 hours old.

I do value face-to-face conversation. The long meal is something Americans should aspire to. Get to know your family. Check up on day-to-day events. Current news or social theories. But being an impatient American, I simply cannot sit still in my chair for three hours. Or in the hall. Or the kitchen. Or wherever conversation comes up and strikes me.

The other problem is probably more of a cultural one. I’m sure there must be some sign to excuse yourself from a conversation here, but certainly none of the ones I’m used to rings a bell for my Mexican conversationalists: Shifting in my chair. Gathering my dishes together. Glancing at my watch or towards the door. Even verbal signals like, “Well…,” or “Ok then…” go either unnoticed or unheeded.

I guess it’s just time to buckle in and practice my Spanish conversation skills. 

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