Well, the nights are drawing in, and, as some of you know, I'm looking towards my winter trip. To Cuba.
And this time I'm trying to do something about my linguistic ineptitude. I'm trying to teach myself Spanish. I have a book and a CD and have found websites to help with pronunciation.
It's a slow process. I'm not naturally good at languages (well, I like to think I'm good at English, but you know what I mean). I can, now ask someone how she is (though who know why I might want to do this before I buy my bus ticket, I'm not sure). I can tell them I have four daughters and four grandchildren (though words can never quite capture how wonderful they all are). I can ask the way to the bus station - though think it unlikely I'll ever understand the reply. And I can order a beer.
Yet there are many questions which aren't included in my basic Spanish - questions which, in my experience, are vital to know when you're a tourist. Such as:
There is no toilet paper in my room.
I think I am on the wrong bus.
Is that spider poisonous?
I shall happily play with your children but will not take them home with me.
No, I will not marry you just so you can get a visa.
Is there a collective noun for cockroaches?
I know I'm white-skinned, but the war in Iraq is not my fault.
Some years ago, when I was in Spain, I sent a text to a daughter, then teaching in Caracas, needing the Spanish for cake. (She understood cake emergencies). She now has three small children. Is it stretching her good will too far to contact her in the middle of the night to ask for the Spanish for, 'A rat has eaten my rucksack'?
When you're on your travels, have you come across phrases you need translated, urgently, and cannot possibly mime?