Monday, October 31, 2016

Read 'Em And Weep

“Awful. One star.”

Thus begins yet another satisfied customer after listening to my audiobook, Spanglish for Impatient People. And that’s just her parting shot. Egged on by the ever helpful review staff at, my assailant opens fire:

What would have made Spanglish for Impatient People even better?
“Any instruction, clear structure or organization to these random sentences would have been helpful. This is just Mr. Church saying something random in Spanish and then repeating in English. Most of the phrases aren't even things the average person would ever have the need to say. Plus they are not very understandable at all.”
Ouch! Just as well I don’t let the bad reviews get to me, isn’t it? Yeah, sure. Who are we kidding? Bad reviews sting like hell, and any author who claims otherwise is a liar. That said, I think it’s time we introduced a little objectivity into our analysis, don’t you? But to do so, we’re going to need some raw material to work on, so how about this unit?

Lección 7: en el banco / Lesson 7: at the bank

–Quisiera cambiar estas libras por euros, por favor.
–Ya lo siento, señor. Nos hemos quedado sin euros.

–I’d like to change these pounds for euros, please.
–I’m sorry, Sir. We’ve run out of euros.

¿Me está tomando el pelo?

Are you pulling my leg?

¿Un banco sin dinero?¡Eso sí que es bueno!

A bank with no money? Now there’s a fine thing!

Si abres una cuenta con nosotros hoy, te regalamos una sartén inoxidable.

If you open an account with us today, we’ll throw in a stainless steel frying pan.

–“Frying pan”? Es una palabra, dos palabras o con guión?
–¿Qué mas da?

–“Frying pan”? Is that one word, two words or with a hyphen?
–Who cares?

Pues resulta que no quiero abrir una cuenta. Y tampoco necesito una sartén.

Well, as it happens, I don’t want to open an account. Nor do I need a frying pan.

–¿Puedo ver su pasaporte?
–Lo dudo. Lo dejé en el hotel.

–Can I see your passport?
–I doubt it. I left it in the hotel.

–¿Qué solución me propone?
–¿De cuánto dinero dispone?

–What solution can you offer me?
–How much money have you got?

Coge un calendario si quiere. Son gratis.

Help yourself to a calendar. They’re free.

Gracias, señor. Que tenga un buen día.

Thank you, Sir. Have a nice day.

Well, dear reader, what do YOU think? Do you agree with our reviewer when she complains that organising my sentences by topic (at the airport, at the supermarket, at the bank, etc.) is no way to present a phrasebook? And how do you feel about my decision to repeat what I have just said in Spanish, only this time translating into English? Or what about her claim that “the average person” would never need such invaluable phrases as, “I’m sorry, Sir. We’ve run out of euros”, “Are you pulling my leg?” and “If you open an account with us today, we’ll throw in a stainless steel frying pan”?

Personally, I would argue that if we take the first dialogue and tweak it a little, we have before us one of the most essential phrases for human survival in the third millennium:

–Necesito dinero.
–Ya lo siento, cariño. Me he quedado sin euros.

–I need money.
–I’m sorry, darling. I’ve run out of euros.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rucyru – for that is her name – continues to let rip:

What was most disappointing about Mike Church’s rubbish story?
"The complete disorganized random rambling of spanish sentences, no rhyme or reason to their order at all. I have been studying Spanish for two years, have gone through all the Pimsleur phases and feel I have a pretty good grasp on the language, but could only make out an occasional word of Mr. Church's phrases (I do not have this problem with other Spanish audiobooks at all)."
Aha! Now I get it: She doesn’t like my book because she found it too difficult. And she is fuming!

Welcome to the real world of language acquisition, Rucyru! I’m sorry to tell you that there’s a limit to how far you can travel on, "Perdón, señorita, ¿entiende inglés?" – “No, señor, no entiendo.” (“Excuse me, Miss, do you understand English?” – “Piss off! No, Sir, I don’t.”)

But never mind all that! The best is yet to come:

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of The Other Mike Church?
"Someone who sounds either more American or Spanish, his accent almost makes it sound German or British at times which is not convenient when you are trying to pronounce Spanish words correctly."
Help! I’ve been rumbled! In fairness, Rucyru has a valid point: I really should have found a native speaker to record the Spanish phrases. (And possibly a German to record the English ones?) Then again, how was I to know that some poor sod would actually end up buying my silly audiobook? It’s so easy to be wise after the event, isn’t it?

Clicking on Rucyru’s profile, I discover that, to date, she has bought or borrowed 125 audiobooks, only one of which actually drove her into such a state of despair that she felt compelled to let off steam.

Furthermore, I see that, since registering on Audible three years ago, she has accumulated “0 helpful votes”. Not that I wish to rub it in, you understand.

In a moment of weakness, I find myself warming to the enemy and wondering whether this might be my first and last opportunity to use the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” in an appropriate context? Only time will tell.

Thanks, as ever, for reading. And thank you, too, if one of you readers happens to be the kind soul who posted the following review back in June, 2014:

"The British economy is lousy, but Brits still escape British weather (which has ALWAYS been lousy) to vacation in the sun. Most end up in Spain - close, cheap, hot, with miles of beaches. Spanish culture ("Manana! Manana!") and British culture ("Where the hell's my bacon butty?") have little in common. Culture clash starts at the airport arrival desk and ends at the departure desk. The one thing the two sides agree on is that both hate German tourists more than they hate each other.

The author has lived in northern Spain for thirty years, is married to a Basque woman, teaches English, and writes a very funny blog ("readable rubbish at reasonable prices!") With years of watching British and Spaniards butt heads (and participating in more than a few inter-cultural exchanges himself) he has written this series of books to introduce the English speaker to the basic Spanish needed to survive a vacation. Of course, there's only so much he can do for you. If you go to a night club and hit on the cleaning lady, no handy phrase in any language will save you from looking like a fool. And if a local hooker rips you off, the policia will NOT be on your side.

This guy is hilarious. I'm now on to the second volume in this series. I just hope he keeps them coming."


–¿Qué asientos tenemos?
–Diez B y veinticinco E
–¡Nos han separado!
–Y encima nos han dado los peores asientos.
–Más no volamos con esta línea. ¿Quiénes son?

–What seats do we have?
–Ten B and twenty-five E.
–We’ve been separated!
–And on top of that they’ve given us the worst seats.
–We’re not flying with this airline again. Who are they?

–Apague su móvil, por favor.
–Ahora mismo estaba apagándolo.
–Y póngase el cinturón, por favor.
–Sí, señor. ¿Algo más?
–Sólo cumplo con mi trabajo, señora.
–Y lo hace magníficamente.

–Turn your mobile off, please.
–I was just turning it off.
–And put your seatbelt on, please.
–Yes, Sir. Anything else?
–I’m just doing my job, Madam.
–And you do it brilliantly.

–¿Tiene miedo?
–La verdad es que sí.
–¿Es su primera vez?
–No. He tenido miedo muchas veces.

–Are you frightened?
–As a matter of fact, yes I am.
–Is this your first time?
–No. I’ve been frightened many times.

–¿Viste Aterriza como puedas?
–No. ¿Y tú?
–Once veces. La tienes que ver.

–Did you see Airplane?
–No. How about you?
–Eleven times. You have to see it.

–¿Qué estás haciendo?
–Estoy rezando.
–Relájate, hombre. No nos vamos a morir. Hoy no, por lo menos.
–Sí, ya lo sé. Rezaba para que quiten esa maldita música de fondo… ¡Ha funcionado!

–What are you doing?
–I’m praying.
–Chill out, man. We’re not going to die. Not today at least.
–Yes, I know. I was praying for them to turn that bloody Muzak off... It worked!

–¿Qué tiene?
El País y El Mundo.
–¡Si no hablo el español!
–Ya es hora de empezar, ¿no?

–Newspaper, anyone?
–What have you got?
El País and El Mundo.
–But I don’t speak Spanish!
–It’s about time you started, isn’t it?

–¿Quiere tomar algo, señor?
–¿Se nota tanto?

–Would you like a drink, Sir?
–Is it so obvious?

–¿Cuatro libras por una copa de vino peleón? ¡Qué timo!
–¿Quiere o no quiere, señor?
–Más que querer, lo necesito.

–Four pounds for a glass of plonk? What a rip-off!
–Do you want it or don’t you, Sir?
–More than want it, I need it.

–Disculpe, ¿vamos a aterrizar pronto?
–Eso espero, señora.

–Excuse me, will we be landing soon?
–I hope so, Madam.

–Señoras y señores, gracias por volar con Big Bang Airways. Que tengan un buen día.
–¡Lo que nos queda!

–Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying with Big Bang Airways. Have a nice day.
–What’s left of it!

Spanglish for Impatient People 2, Lesson 1, “on the plane”


  1. This is so funny, Mike – like your books. Poor, sad Rucyru, who doesn't appreciate it – one can only weep for her! But, I know, tell me about it, 1 star reviews are the pits!

    1. Thank you, Gerry. You are far far too kind. And I appreciate your support ENORMOUSLY xxx