The internationality of NYC is kind of killing the novelty of my Spanish. I’ve had a few impromptu conversations with native Spanish speakers and while some have found my reasons for learning Spanish interesting, the fact that I speak it is not. “Tu español es bueno pero tienes un accento gringo,” said a giggling Mexican teen as she made my Vietnamese sandwich.
Most New Yorkers’ knowledge of basic Spanish makes my fluency less unique than in Spanish-speaking countries. I had a 10-minute conversation with an African-American shopowner as he first guessed that I was from Spain. I told him I was from Colombia and the haggling over T-shirts commenced. After yelling the final price to his associate in what must have been Swahili, I asked him how many languages he spoke: “ten,” he claimed “but only basics in French, English, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Farsi, Vietnamese, Tagalog and as predicted, Swahili. “Asante sana” I told him using the only Swahili I knew; impressed but not surprised that a gift shop owner two blocks from Times square would have the ability to communicate with so many different travelers from around the world.