Friday, October 26, 2012


In 2001 I took a 6 week Spanish course at our local University in preparation for my first Camino. 

We learned to count to 100, say the days of the week and months of the year, all the colours, name all the rooms in a house, the buildings in a town, to introduce ourselves to Senor Gonzalez and to make appointments, shop, cook and entertain in Spanish.  We learned to say, "My hamster is behind the sofa" and "the bird is on the window sill".

I typed out five pages of verbs and their conjugations - I, You (singular), He, she, You (formal), We, You (plural) and They.  We learned about common verbs, AR verbs that change, ER verbs, IR verbs, O-UE verbs, E-IE verbs, IR verbs E-I.  Accompanying these are pages and pages of present tense verbs, stem-changing verbs etc etc e

It makes my head spin just to look at all the pages on Grammatical structures, Interrogative sentences, rules on gender, diphthongs, cognates and so on. 
No wonder I didn't remember much Spanish when I finally got to Spain.  There I learned to ask for a coffee and the toilet and to say, "Beun Camino" to all passing pilgrims.

In 2006, in preparation for my walk on the Via Francigena in Italy, I did a 6 week Italian course at the University.  I wasn't very good at it and the strange thing was that although it wasn't a difficult course, all the long forgotten Spanish words kept popping out!  Instead of saying Grazie, I was saying Gracias! 

In between walks in Spain I've tried online lessons, bought Spanish Words and Phrases books as well as CDs which I listen to in the car.  Most of them are aimed at tourists and have lots of words and phrases that a Camino pilgrim will never need. 

Last year I started taking small groups of pilgrims on the Camino and decided that I should take Spanish classes again.  I contacted my friend and Spanish teacher Reinette Novoa and after a couple of weeks of useful verbs, adjectives and grammar rules I told her that all I really wanted was to learn words and phrases applicable to walking the Camino.  I didn't want to be able to ask where to launder my suit or where to take my car for a service!  She suggested I write out in English the words and phrases I needed and she would provide the Spanish and pronunciation.  It worked like a charm!  I learned more in two weeks than I'd learned in all those weeks of lessons and listening to CDs!.

I then had the idea that she and I use these lists and collaborate on writing an English-Spanish Words and Phrases book for pilgrims on the Camino.  We decided to call it CAMINO LINGO - which means that although it is not a perfect English-Spanish book, it is pefect for the Camino pilgrim!

 In the Introduction we started with the polite words one would need in Spain, like hello, thank you and please - hola, gracias, por favor etc.  Then a few not-so-polite words like 'bugger off', 'shut up' and 'F#@* off'!    The five chapters follow a pilgrim on the Camino from packing the backpack, flying to Spain, arriving and asking questions, using bus or train to get to the start, checking into a hotel or albergue, washing clothes, eating, shopping, walking the trail, sightseeing, making friends and arriving in Santiago.  There is a chapter on health and medical as well as cycling words, money, banks and  post office.  Five appendices offer basic pronunciation, a menu reader, and an extensive English-Spanish dictionary with over 650 words and phrases aimed at Camino pilgrims.

My friend Sandi Beukes, who did the drawings for YOUR CAMINO, offered to do the illustrations for CAMINO LINGO as well and her delightfully quirky drawings bring the chapters to life. 

In text boxes Reinette gives advice to the pilgrim.

 Reinette says:
If you don’t have sufficient words to ask for something - smile, make a questioning face and use hand signals. You can also show Spanish people the words and phrases in this book.
Blisters    las ampollas  ahm-poh-yas
(Point to your blisters!)

Pilgrimage Publications have agreed to publish the book in print and eBook form and I know that it is going to be a great help to English speaking pilgrims on the Camino. 
CAMINO LINGO should be available before Christmas.