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The Radio of the Bolivian Taxi Involves Broken English

Published November 28, 2021 in Bolivia , Learning Spanish & Portuguese - 0 Comments

Some odd years ago, I was living in Bolivia for a few months.

I was staying in a city called Cochabamba and decided to travel to another city.

I forgot what city it was but I think it was Sucre as I write this now.

Regardless, I remember being in some Bolivian city of importance and needing a taxi.

There was a group of foreigners that I was with and we all decided to get into a taxi together to take us to some hostal in the city.

Now, in hindsight, this Bolivian taxi driver really wanted to take us for a ride.

Pun intended.

There was the question before we got in regarding how much the ride would be and he came out saying something like “5 bucks.”

Oh good!

Only 5 bucks?

“5 BUCKS PER PEROSN!!!” he replied.

For whatever reason, he went along with the arrangement.

No idea why.

Granted, 5 bucks per individual isn’t much – even to a 20 something kid.

And, to be fair, I don’t actually remember right now how much he wanted per individual but it was basically something like 5 bucks.

Not much but also a rip off when, as we all know, no other taxi driver charges the ride “per person.”

This dude was just milking it.

And, for whatever reason, we agreed to it.

As we got into the taxi, he began trying to talk to us in broken English.

And it became one of those conversations.

Where, while I was not engaged in the conversation, I could hear the taxi driver try to speak in English and a few of the other folks trying to speak in Spanish.

The second language skills of both parties being shit.

With the Bolivian not being able to speak English very well and the few foreigners struggling pretty strongly with Spanish.

At some point, the taxi driver gave up on trying to hold any conversation with them.

But they persisted.

Wanting to “practice that Spanish” with the dude who was trying to listen to the radio.

He even turned up the radio a tiny bit with some local music of whatever playing.

The louder music didn’t stop anyone though from trying ot speak Spanish to him.

And, in the moment, it felt like he was kinda annoyed.

Of course, we could speculate on why he was annoyed in this situation.

For one, maybe he was trying to convey something important and found it difficult to do so with this strange broken bilingual conversation.

Or maybe he was hoping to “practice that English” and found any attempts to switch the conversation to English to be useless.

Though I would argue that this situation was evident of something else that is a minor point about life in Latin America but kinda funny when it happens.

“Motherfucker, I work 12 Hour Days. Shut the Fuck Up.”

Personally, I don’t think the dude was trying to practice his English necessarily.

He didn’t seem like the type to do so.

I notice that behavior more among richer folks and those in touristy areas.

He wasn’t a man who seemed from a upper class background and, as far as I knew, we weren’t in a heavily touristy area.

Though Sucre does get some tourists – it’s still nothing like Cancun or Condesa or whatever.

And he didn’t seem like he was trying to convey or ask anything important – I could more or less understand whatever he was trying to say and it was all small talk.

Usual basic questions – where you from? How long you in Bolivia? You like Bolivia?

So on and so on.

It wasn’t like this dude was confused regarding the direction of the hostal and needed to know RIGHT NOW how to get there.

So what could he have been seemingly slightly irritated about?

It’s something that I think does happen to a few locals in Latin America in specific situations.

The situation being that you, as a local, have had a long day.

You having been working some 12 hour shift perhaps.

Maybe rent is due next week and you are preoccupied with how to pay it off given your gambling addiction hasn’t been a positive contribution to the household finances.

The wife is getting fucked by the neighbor next door.

Whatever your issue might be!

And you’ve had a LONG day working and you just TIRED as fuck.

Then, nearing the end of your day, you got some foreigners trying to turn YOU into a Spanish practicing dildo.

They want free Spanish classes using you and your patience is thin.

It’s difficult to understand them!

They got this weird ass accent.

Only a few months learning Spanish so it’s not very good.

And, while you’re not trying to be a jackass about their desire to learn Spanish, you’re just too tired for this shit.

You want to go home already to open up the cheapest liquor of the country, kick your feet up, yell at your children to not break any windows playing soccer in the street of some run down neighborhood and try to drown out the sound of your wife bitching at you about the shower running out of water.

But you can’t do that yet!

You got some random ass foreigners who don’t speak your language very well turning you into a free tutor for Spanish.

While I complain about locals turning us gringos into free tutors for English, you also got plenty of gringos who do the same to the locals.

It can be tiresome!

Especially if the language skills of the other person aren’t very strong and you really have to focus to understand them.

That doesn’t mean what they are doing is wrong necessarily.

After all, the main language in Bolivia is Spanish.

Good on them for trying to learn a little bit of the language before their trip.

Still, from what I could only guess, the Bolivian taxi driver was just tired that day and tried his best to drown out the broken Spanish thrown at him by others in the vehicle as he probably had a long day and just didn’t want to put in the mental energy to understand what they were trying to say.

I get it.

And, to be fair, that might’ve not been why he seemed slightly irritated at their Spanish.

I’m speculating.

But it is something I’ve seen, especially in my earlier years in Latin America, among the locals down here.

And it’s understandable their irritation in a situation like this.

Never seen a local be an ass about it in a context like this but I can get the annoyance if the local is simply tired and wants to finish his day already.

Anyway, it’s a minor detail to life down here – especially for new gringos improving their Spanish.

If you have any comments, drop one below in the comment section.

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Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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