How to get out of awkward situations in Spanish
Published on December 11, 2020 / Updated on November 4, 2022
In the process of learning Spanish, you are sure to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. If you learn Spanish at home or take online Spanish lessons, the real world of unpredictable conversation is going to throw a spanner in the works. When a conversation goes all pear-shaped, how do you fix it? Nobody likes to feel incómoda/o or uncomfortable and awkward. Saving face for yourself and the people around you takes special vocabulary. For those delicate situations, Alison is here to go through how to get out of four common awkward moments in Spanish.
Listening skills are important when you learn Spanish. Native speakers have different Spanish accents depending on their home country. Some speak extremely fast. Others don’t fully pronounce words. Imagine you are meeting somebody for the first time. They introduce themselves. “Soy Maaldskjflakjdf. Mucho gusto.” You didn’t catch their name. If you don’t get it now, it will be too late. How can you ask for clarification or a repeat?
You’re sitting around the table at your Chilean girlfriend’s house. It’s sobremesa or as I call it, post-meal gossip time. The aunties have been talking endlessly about relatives you’ve never met for hours. You want to excuse yourself to go scroll social media in peace but you don’t want to appear rude. What should you say?
You just arrived in Mexico City. It’s your first walk around the Roma Norte neighbourhood and you see a line of people waiting at a food vendor. The smell of bubbling meat and fresh tortillas is intoxicating. You have no idea what food it is and aren’t sure how to eat it, but you want some. Should you walk by without trying? Absolutely not! Admitting that you don’t know what something is will get you out of so many awkward silences. Get yourself a plate. Live your best life. P.S. This is a true story about my first encounter with birria.
You just sat down and ordered in Spanish at a restaurant. The server brings you the wrong food. Or at least you think it’s wrong. Who can be sure? Again, don’t be afraid to point out the obvious. Blame your own lack of knowledge even. This way, at least your server has to take a second look. If there is a mistake, these questions will help them to notice and fix it.
Whether there’s been a mistake or not, there is no need to feel guilty in these moments. As a language learner, you have the added insecurity of imagining these situations are your fault for not understanding correctly. Remember that even fluent Spanish speakers find these situations uncomfortable. At the end of the day, most awkward Spanish situations can be solved by a simple sorry (disculpa, perdón, lo siento) and a question.
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