Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Don's Amazing
Anyone-Can-Speak-Spanish Method
My friend Don was a can-do, persistent guy, but on a scale of one to ten for Spanish
Aptitude, Don rated a minus three. The Marines created his can-do attitude by teaching Don
that all obstacles were surmountable inconveniences. His persistence got him into a Spanish
In 1963 Don fell in love with a Mexican girl, the hotel owner's daughter whom he met in
Guaymas on the Sea of Cortez while fishing. During this short romance, Don learned a few
phases and cordial greetings, “Mi casa es su casa,” most of the items on a Mexican menu,
road signs like “tope” which means “speed bump,” and other basics. But most of all he
learned that he liked Mexican girls.
Later, he got a job in Mexico City with a real estate development firm selling condos to
Americans. But he couldn't put a Spanish sentence together. Conjugation, masculine and
feminine nouns requiring adjectives to agree with gender, just wouldn't stick. He studied
Spanish, took a private one-on-one course, and drove the instructor nuts, or as Don said,
Then it clicked. He invented Don's Amazing Anyone-Can-Speak Spanish Method. Cour-
tesy and infinitives were parts of the secret formula. Don learned, “Perdóneme,” (excuse
me), “Usted es muy amable,” (you are very kind), “Usted es muy simpático,” (you are very
nice). He would compliment a child, “Muy guapa,” (very pretty) or “muy guapo,” (very
handsome). Parents would smile, nod approval, and say, “Grácias, Señor.”
Don could keep a half-understood conversation going by looking interested and asking, “Y
por qué?” (And why was that?). He played dominos in the bars, slapped the tiles down like
a Cuban, and when one of the players added his piece to the game, Don would look intense,
and say “Por qué?” as if he were calculating the odds of the remaining pieces outstanding
and thoroughly intimidate everyone at the table.
But his real coup de language was “es possible?” (Is it possible?) plus an infinitive. “Es
posible?” plus an infinitive gave Don a leg up on a language. All those conjugations were
put on hold. Don was a pragmatic, can-do, and get-it-done guy.He believed, “Marines do
the job; others made it look nice.” So he memorized infinitives, added “es posible?” and
spoke Spanish. Sometimes he stuck a noun after “es posible?” as circumstance required,
and later he added “es necesario?” (Is it necessary?) to his amazing method.
Don would travel and ask at the hotel desk, “Es posible dormir? (to sleep) and even if the
clerk spoke some English, he'd answer Don in Spanish. Don usually got the idea, the room
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