Ser or Estar : Embarrassing mistakes in Spanish
You are so false!
We all dread them! False friends! Can there be anything as vile and dangerous as a false friend? In fact the whole concept is quite abhorrent. Unfortunately, I have come across lots of them since I came to Spain 30 years ago!
Don’t misunderstand me. I am casting no aspersions on one of the most sincere and hospitable peoples on the planet and among whom I count most of my friends…but linguistically, that’s a different matter.
I’ll never forget the night I met my very first ‘false friend’. I was an under-graduate student of Spanish on my ‘year abroad’ with three other students on the same course in Bilbao at the University of Deusto. It was my first time in Spain and I was elated at being able to actually use some of the Spanish I had been learning from text books for so long. My friend Eva and I were in one of the local student bars in the area and were being chatted up by two Spanish men. I was desperately trying to find a way to get us out of this uncomfortable situation. These two Spaniards just wouldn’t take the hint (or refused to accept they were being rejected by two attractive foreigners (but then that’s another story).
That’s when I made the dreaded mistake, intended to be an excuse to get away and leave them to it. My feeble excuse was: “¡Estoy caliente!”
The irony was that I DID feel very hot and needed to get outside… The bar was full of people dancing and chatting but the music was deafening. The reaction of these two men to what I intended to be our escape plan soon made me realize I had made a big mistake. The effect of my comment was completely the opposite of what I had intended. And so enter my first false friend, dismayingly treacherous at such a key moment of our escape. NOTE: If in Spanish ‘Yo estoy’ is ‘I am’ and ‘caliente’ is ‘hot’, then would it not be completely rational to conclude that I had tried to infer that the temperature in the bar was too high for my personal preference and that my friend and I were about to leave the premises, but that it had been very pleasant chatting and we hoped they would continue to have a stimulating evening; Thank you and Good Night. But oh dear! Nothing so far from the truth!
Make friends with those false friends
I had actually met my first false friend because I had effectively told them that I had the ‘hots’ for them and, as we made for the door, they had assumed we were inviting them to come away with us outside as we wanted to get to know them better in a more appropriate venue. First they looked at me in great surprise (it had only taken a few minutes chat in broken English and Spanish) then they hastily followed us outside almost disbelieving their apparent success in their chat-up lines. Fortunately we were lucky and no damage was done once they clarified the meaning of what I had said. Although it was quite embarrassing we were able to laugh about the linguistic error, even with them. Needless to say that I have never forgotten that lesson and have never spoken to that that 'false friend', that mischievous mate, that cheeky chum again.
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