Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I am not fluent in Castilian Spanish. I have gotten to be an amazing guesser and I’m pretty sure I could kick anyone’s butt in charades. I am even starting to dream in Spanish. Have I picked up anything? Thankfully, yes. A ton. So here are some things I wish I knew as a beginner in Spain:
1. The lisp. Do not fear it. Just respect it.
2. Do not by any means use sarcasm. Leave this to the advanced bilinguals. Otherwise you will be doing something you never wanted to do out of sheer shame.
3. Spaniards are very forgiving of your language ignorance. Just give it your best try. The other day I was locked out of the apartment lobby and the janitor was giving me the stink eye. He opened the door just enough to look at me when I said “Lo siento no habla Espanol.” He gave me a huge grin and let me in.
4. The way people in Spain try to explain something in English can be really funny, so don’t laugh. My example? “The children of the snake fish.”
5. Accept that no matter what you say in Spanish, you will sound stupid. You just have to leave pride at the airport because at least you are trying. Spaniards get that.