May 31, 2024

There’s almost nothing that makes me more nervous than speaking to someone in Spanish on the telephone. And worse yet, placing orders or making appointments by telephone when I’m initiating the call.

Of course, when your phone rings it’s a surprise and you don’t have time to be nervous so you pick up the phone and start in directly. But when you HAVE to make the call yourself, not knowing the person to whom you’re calling, and speaking on a topic which you’ve possibly never discussed before – IN SPANISH – well, it’s terrible.

For a few months now I’ve been a member of a wine club here in Spain, called “Vinoselección Club de Vinos“. While they’re not giving me any benefit for mentioning their name here I will because I like their product. It’s a monthly wine club where they offer you a box of a particular wine, usually red, at a very good price. Different months offer different kinds of wines. Some are Rioja, some are Ribera del Duero, etcetera, etcetera. It’s a good way to get to know different kinds of Spanish wines and different wine producers and the prices are always very good, usually about 40 Euros per month for a box of 3 or 4 bottles of wine. And when you become a “socio“, they send you, for free, a very cool mechanical cork-opener. And maybe best yet, while you can order them online (which I’ve yet to do), you can order them by phone, give your member number, and they send it directly to your home and you pay upon delivery.

My member number was lost/misplaced shortly after I got my membership information for the wine club. Without that, I can’t/couldn’t order wines through their website – which I always prefer for reasons I’m about to explain.

So without the member number, I have to call by telephone, give my full name, they look up my account, and I make my order. UNTIL NOW, a Spanish friend has always, kindly made this call for me. Bu this time was different. My usual “Spanish suspects” were all busy and it’s the end of the term for the monthly wine selection so I had to make a choice; a) re-register online, b) ask a neighbor to make the call for me, or c) make the friggin’ call myself and quit being a wimp!

I chose “C” – but didn’t make the choice easily. I’d spent about 2 days whining and waining, procrastinating and rationalizing. UNTIL TODAY. And today I didn’t take it easily either. I delayed the call at least 3 hours because I had “more important things to do.” Uh-huh.

Having gone to the restroom, brushed my teeth, took a sip of water, and simultaneously grabbed the phone with one hand and the monthly wine description with the other. DIAL THE PHONE!!! And I did. I was anxious. Oh god. Oh god. “What if I don’t understand them? What if they don’t understand me? What if they have a strong accent? What if I can’t think of the words?”

They answered. My 2 days of anxiety had passed in a matter of 60 seconds. Done.

Funny thing is, as with most things we delay for reasons of nerves, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. In fact, just the opposite. I understood EVERY word the Spanish woman said, understood every question, she understood my order, and she understood my request to be given my member number. She verified my address and it was done. Over. Order placed and finished in 60 seconds. Wow. That’s that.

It was at this moment that the anxiety was replaced first by relief. But soon after, relief was replaced by utter embarrassment for having slaved over the agony of making the call in the first place.

Events like these not only test our resolve as humans but also our level of understanding of a foreign language. Sure, 60 seconds doesn’t say whether or not we’re fluent in “X” language but it certainly is a good measure. With every “event” such as this one you, that is WE gain confidence in ourselves in our foreign environments. WE gain confidence speaking and being understood in a foreign language. And also, WE gain acceptance from those natives all around us and helps to become more assimilated. It’s a slow process but we grow a little more because every new day is a challenge.

And when you complete such a task you say, “Hey! I DID IT!! I REALLY DID IT!” We almost feel the same as when we started playing baseball as a child and, for the first time, hit the ball solidly.

What sends me into a spiral of panic is when I confidently ask a relatively simple question to someone at the store or on the street and they krinkle up their face and reply, “¿Qué?

Oh god…….”

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2 thoughts on “Understanding and Speaking Spanish on the Telephone

  1. The 1st 3 weeks that I worked here – whenever I had to answer the phone I would literally break out into a sweat, even my palms would sweat! now I’m not in the least bit bothered, cold-calling? – no problem!

  2. Wow! You got over this in 3 weeks?!?! I’ve been here nearly 4 years and I STILL get very nervous making phone calls. Receiving them seems to go a little easier for me, though. Not sure why that is.

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