This is the last (for the time being) of my favourite places in Spain…
“Sometimes the Spaniard will resent your attempts to use it (Spanish). Sometimes he believes it to physically impossible for an alien to understand it. Sometimes he cannot actually convince himself that you are speaking it…” Jan Morris – ‘Spain’
“Catedral?” I enquired and the poor man (victim) that I had selected just stared back at me with an expressionless face as though I was a visitor from the planet Mars. So I tried again but this time, remembering that upside down question mark thing at the beginning of the sentence I tried to sound a bit more Spanish, “¿Catedral?” but his face went so blank that I thought that he had surely died from shock and premature rigor mortis had set in.
I don’t know if you agree but I have to say that Catedral sounds a bit like Cathedral to me so I don’t know why this was so difficult but his solution was to call someone else over who was an obviously educated man who spoke excellent English and with optimism I tried again “¿Catedral?”
To my horror he adopted exactly the same blank face as the first man so I tried again in various different accents and voice inflections. “¿Cat-edral?” “¿Catedraaal?” “¿Caaatedral?” Nothing, Nothing, Nothing. I really could not understand why this should be so difficult.
If a Spanish man came up to me in Lincoln and asked for directions to the Cathedral, however he might pronounce it, I am fairly sure that I could make out what he was asking for! Eventually I gave up, added the Anglo-Saxon h sound and just asked in English for directions to the Cathedral and amazingly I immediately made myself understood and the man smiled and said “Ah, Catedral!” which, I am fairly certain is exactly what I said in the first place and then having cleared up this little confusing matter he went on to give very clear and very precise directions on how to find it.
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