Monday, December 18, 2006

Chileans: They speak so fast, even when they think they are speaking slow

She opened up her mouth to speak and I swear it sounded something like “ahahejaha JA JA JA hgdah… cachai?” I nervously looked around to gage the response of the others in the group, and as they laughed and gave what appeared to be a detailed response, I resigned to pretending to understanding her as well. Apparently my bluff did not work so well.

“Daniela, there are gringos in the group, say it slower.” A bitter defeat but at least one that opened the door to the mother victory of victories, saying I understood and meaning it. Unfortunately, as Daniela smiled and audibly apologized that she forgot, the words out of her mouth, call it the SLOWED DOWN FOR THE GRINGO version were equally alarming… “ahahejaha JA JA JA hgdah… cachai?”Cachai is Chilean for you know? Needless to say, I don’t know!

And so the rest of my day became an art in theater, a failure in language. I smiled and laughed, studied cues from others around me and responded with the least amount of words possible. In Bolivia I got to a point where my Spanish was not perfect, but I could get by pretty good. Chile is a different world, different game, the mantra always went. I believed it, but I never knew it would be so dramatic.

They drop the s off the end of all their words so the sentence “the women (plural) have two bottles of beer but no more wine, but I suppose that’s life right?” sounds something like “la mujere tienen do ma bottela de cerveza y no ma vino pero supongo que e la vida cachai?” My Spanish speaking friends if you will, humor me and repeat that out loud, but repeat it as though it is on fast forward… Bienvanido a mi vida, welcome to my life!

There are words here that are common but not used in other Latin American countries and words that are used in every other Latin American country that just don’t really make it down to Chile.

And worst of all, they speak like that guy at the end of a radio commercial that rapidly in a fast forward like motion declares that “prices and participation may vary, etc…” and that speed, for Chileans is normal. I never knew the human mouth had the ability to express language in the speed Chileans do. Last Thursday the smile was unmistakable as Daniela spoke, it was that reassuring look that said don’t worry, we’ll slow down until you’re up to speed. She couldn’t see the look of fear clouded behind my Oscar nominated smile, the realization that will haunt my next few months in Chile” even when they think they are speaking slow, it’s just so damn fast!” Three months in the Bolivian jungles never prepared me for the communication Chilean jungle. And yet, after a few months of this life you get to that point where you learn that life isn’t always about being the one to know it all, sometimes you just got to smile and laugh at yourself, a habit as regular as sleeping in my life. Cachai?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Patrick, that Spanish sounds horribly tricky! I am now thinking about doing a year in the DR next year, and I wonder what special slant they add to their Spanish...And how useful it will be when I get back to California

PS -- that alpaca looks like it has a HUMAN FACE! Eerie. Are they eaten, or just shorn?