Jamie the Very Worst Spanish Speaker

My Spanish is freaking awesome. If “freaking awesome” means “completely horrible”.

This is how I speak Spanish (I’m writing it in English so that you’ll have a really good feel for what the people I talk to experience.) This conversation really took place at church yesterday names have been changed:

VWM (very worst missionary): “Hi, Hector.”

Hector: “Hi Jamie, how are you? Hey, can you help with the kids in Sunday school today?”

VWM: “Sure. Yes, of course. Wait, what? Can I what?”

Hector: “Can you be the assistant for the Sunday school teacher?”

VWM: “Oh, SUNDAY school! Yes, I can….what? Can I do what for Sunday school?

Hector: “Can you help the teacher?”

VWM: “Yeah, sure. Wait…are you asking can I BE teacher? I can’t teach….I don’t speak Spanish.”

Hector: “No, no, it’s ok. There is already a teacher, do you know Enrique?”

VWM: “I don’t know. Is that, like, a person?”

Hector: “Yes. That’s his name. See that guy over there? That’s him. He’s gonna teach the class, all you would have to do is help him by taking the refreshment up at 11:15.”

VWM: “You want me to take a refrigerator up?”

Hector: “No, the refreshment..the snack. Do you know what ‘cookies’ are? You will take the ‘cookies’ up to the kids…for them to eat (he holds his fingers up to his lips and fake chews in the universal sign for eating). At 11:15.”

VWM: “Oooooh, food. Yes! I can take the food the the kids at… when?”

Hector: “11:15”

VWM: “Ok, eight, nine, ten, eleven… Eleven, right?

Hector: “Fifteen. Eleven Fifteen.”

VWM: “Ok, got it! Refrigerators, upstairs to the kids in Sunday class at 11:15!”

Hector: “Uh, yeah…. Thanks. It’s that the girl that was going to do it didn’t come this morning. So thanks for helping.”

VWM: “Yes, I happy I help with refrigerators any time need them.”

Hector: “Ok…. thanks. Hey, this is the teacher, Enrique. Enrique, this is Jamie, she’s going to bring the snack up to the kids.”

Enrique: “Hi, nice to meet you.”

VWM: “Hello. You’re welcome. I am going to carry the re..ref…refigidators…ah..I don’t know the word…but I am going to bring for those children in 11:15. Ok?”

Enrique (looking at Norman who’s nodding his head up and down to show him what to say): “Yes, Ok. See you later.”

So then, like five minutes later, I’m getting a cup of coffee:

Silvia: “Hi Jamie!”

VWM (like a robot): “Hello. How are you? I am well. Thank you.”

Silvia: “Good…uh… Ok, I was supposed to take the snack up for the kids this morning. I was running a little late, but I’m here now, so I can still take care of the snack. Ok?”

VWM: “Yes. Of course. Wait, what?”

Silvia: “You don’t need to take the snack to the kids. I will do it. (she does the eating signal while shaking her head ‘no’)”

VWM: “Ooooh, ok. Norman me asked to take..up…it… I don’t know….but now you take up it?”

Silvia: “Uh-huh, I’m going to take the snack up so you don’t have to.”

VWM: “Ok, wait, so WHO is taking up it?”

Silvia: “I am.”

VWM: “So I am not….. Right?”

Silvia (smiling and backing away): “Right. That is exactly right. Ok, Seeyalater!”

Can you imagine? Seriously, even I don’t wanna be friends with me…



  1. Michelle on November 2, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    I keep looking for the money-back guarantee from ILE because I was sure that I would be able to at least carry on a simple conversation, such as the one you described, after a year and a half of living here. I'm still struggling with "What is your name?". Conversations after church still have me nodding and saying "si" when I'm really understanding only about half of it. I can only imagine how many meetings, dinners, etc. we've missed because we have no idea what was being said. 🙂

  2. Rodger and Lynne Schmidt Mozambique on November 3, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Jamie, I'm sharing this with our new colleagues. Even after being here six years and understanding all the words, we sometimes still miss what is being asked of us. Sometimes they way we are being asked just isn't clear to us. When I had been here only 3 months, someone asked me to "ajudar(help)" with the children's choir. when I arrived, that someone left me alone with about 40 children. She never came back. I was annoyed and furious and felt stupid and taken advantage of. Still do because I think people just take advantage of our language inability. At least it makes me feel better to think that!

  3. Anonymous on November 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Fine, I'll leave a comment…jeez. Just get over it you big crybaby. We all speak bad Spanish so just accept the fact that you're going to sound like a meathead for the rest of your life, or at least your Spanish speaking missionary life, and get on with it. Hope that helps…love you bunches.

  4. Anonymous on November 4, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Oh my gosh, Eric and I needed a good laugh and you got us with this one. My mom told me I had to come read it and I absolutely love you. I have conversations like that every week, I think. Ugh… I don't know if that should be encouraging to you or not (since we've been there longer and it still happens) but I absolutely love you for posting that!

Leave a Comment