Posted by: pastorafrank | January 19, 2014

Language Barrier

We only thought we had a language barrier in India, but at least there a good many of the folks understand English.  Very few here in Barcelona seem to.

Yesterday we declined the breakfast buffet here at the hotel because its 16 Euro per person cost would have taken almost $45 out of our pockets.  That wasn’t going to happen to this Dutchman, so we wandered down the street to find a coffee shop selling pastries and breakfast sandwiches.  Passed up a McDonalds to do so because she said, We’re not going to eat there!

We communicated well enough with the barista, but when we asked folks at the stoplight which way to go to the Tourist Bus (Hop on Hop off – I almost even demonstrated that maneuver to them), all four of them gave up almost immediately, even though they did so with smiles.

We eventually found what we were looking for, but not without stopping a few more people with little success.  The one exception was the owner or manager of the shop designated as Llibreria Angles.  That looked a lot like “English Book Store” to me, and it proved to be right.  He was able to direct us.

He and the barista at Starbucks.  (Note, I did not write “the” Starbucks because there seems to be one of those businesses on every other street in this city of over 1½ million.)  With the help of these two English speakers we found the tour bus.  The young man that handed us our earphones and literature for the 2-hour ride also spoke our language.

2014-01-18 04.58.07He was the last one we encountered that did.  You’d have laughed at these two senior citizens as they searched for the café that was supposed to be across from the Picasso Museum in the old part of the city, the Gothic part with the narrow cobblestone streets running every which way.  We ran every which way, asking directions again from folks who could only shrug.  Either that or give us erroneous information.  Couldn’t even find the museum.  Eventually stumbled upon what we thought was the eatery that had been recommended by our British seatmate on the plane.

It wasn’t exasperating, however.  Produced mirth in both of us…eventually.

Part of the problem, obviously, is that most folks here haven’t taken the time to learn English.  Another part of the problem is that neither of us has taken the time either to learn or polish Spanish.  But a bigger part of the problem lies in the fact that Barcelona was established as a Roman colony before Jesus was born.  This area of Spain is actually the ancient country of Catalonia, a buffer between the rest of the Iberian Peninsula and France.  The language is Catalan.  To be sure it is related to Spanish.  It is also related to French, Italian, and Portuguese.  All share a Latin foundation.  They are all Romance languages, similar but different from each other.

Therefore, my “habla usted Ingles” probably didn’t even communicate.  The word for “speak” in Catalan is “parlar,” much like the French “parler.”  Not at all like the Spanish “hablar.”  And “English” is “Angles” in Catalan.  So, who knows what the people were hearing when I asked if they spoke my language?

Screenshot 2014-01-18 23.47.30We plan to go today to the Maritime Museum down by the huge statue of Christobal Colon near the Mediterranean seashore.  You probably know him as Christopher Columbus. He’s supposed to be pointing towards the New World (our side of the Atlantic), but somehow he’s got his directions mixed up and is pointing towards Constantine, Algeria.

Columbus was an Italian.  Maybe he asked a Catalan for directions?



  1. Too funny! Hope you’re having a good time despite the communication difficulties. Looking forward to having you home. Love you both so much.

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