Fear of Los Verbos

The most important human advancement of the late 20th century?

The most important human advancement of the late 20th century?

A friend of mine has an interesting theory about scientific and technical advancement in the latter part of the twentieth century.

‘I have no doubt in my mind,’ he says, ‘that the greatest invention over the last fifty years is Viagra. Forget going to the moon, smart phones, heart transplants… Viagra and a back pocket full of boyish good looks — aka a fat wallet — is the way to go for us senior citizens.’

Well, before you ask what the heck has this to do with Spain, Marbella or learning Spanish, or jump to some very inappropriate but understandable conclusions, I would categorically state that he is wrong.

The greatest invention over the last fifty years is Google Translate.

Google translate. Language schools should fear nothing

Google translate. Language schools should fear nothing

And this eureka moment arrived at precisely 10.46 yesterday morning when Dutch Rob demonstrated to the class how it is possible to point your phone at some Spanish text, pause it, and… drumroll… hey presto, the English translation appears on your screen.

Not only that, it is also possible to receive an audio version of what you wish to say, simply by speaking into the microphone. Praise be!

So let’s all go sit in the sun, and forget Spanish lessons because the omnipotent Mr Google can do it all for us.

Well, there are two problems here.

The first is that there is what I can only describe as apocalyptic rainfall outside our classroom.

And the second is that Mr Google is not always right.

Technology — it never really does what it says on the tin, does it?

Technology — it never really does what it says on the tin, does it?

In keeping with most aspects of technology, someone makes a breakthrough. It is hailed as ‘The-Next-Big-Thing’. It sort of does what you want it to do, but before it has reached any level of reliability, or is compatible with anything other than its own components, they move on to next generation, with its own built-in set of glitches before someone else beats them to it.

We have an expression for this in Ireland: ‘To be sure, it’ll do rightly.’

Up until this morning I would have taken Mr Google and ran. All I want to do, I explain to Isobel a tad rebelliously, is to communicate. Savvy? To understand and be understood. So the complexity of syntax that forms our daily diet is above my head and beyond my needs.

But then something happened to challenge this: I learnt something useful.

Te apetece hacerlo algun? This, literally, means ‘do you fancy doing it again?’ Now you can see that this phrase may well come in useful; I’ll leave that to your imagination.

But, according to Mr Google, it means ‘do you want to be doing something else,’ and that, in my book at least, is not quite the same thing.

And another thing: thanks to Mr Google I once called a young female shop assistant a little pig when I thought I had asked her to direct me to the kitchenware.

As usual, technology causes more problems that it creates solutions. And so we battle on at Enforex.

But it’s verbs, bloody verbs, and more verbs.

Alvaro introduces us to the Pasedo Simple, or more properly referred to as el Preterito Indefinito. My newfound thirst for knowledge is sated.

It has stopped raining, sun is breaking through and the beach with Mr Google to bamboozle everyone I wish to communicate with is so, so tempting.

I will finish this post with a little poem I wrote for Alvaro.

It goes something like this:



Verbs are just words

So why do I fear them?

They attack me in the dead of night

When no one else can hear them.

Temo, Tememos,

Temeis and Temem?

‘Oh… Alvaro’, I ask,

‘Where the hell is the logic to this?’

‘There is no logic’, he replies,

You just have to bloody learn ‘em!’


Goodnight sweet ladies, goodnight… goodnight.






Care to share?
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Patricia Garand says:

    Richard, your story made me laugh, well said. Patricia from the class this week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *