It was early Sunday morning, Mother's Day, when I met quite the handsome couple for my Savannah Architectural Ramble on Johnson Square. During the initial introductions the husband was a bit guarded about his heritage, saying he was from Washington D.C., his accent said otherwise, but I let it go - no point making a guest feel uncomfortable. His bride was more open, speaking of her Chilean homeland in a Spanish cadence which bordered on musical. I was snapped out of a momentary trance by the realization that there could be a communication problem here as I was about to talk for the next two hours about Savannah's architectural heritage in American English using American concepts.
As has been the case many times during the last three years, it was all for the good. Occasionally, the husband would repeat a phrase in Spanish for her, but for the most part, she reacted to my stories the way most people do, so I could tell I was getting through. Knowing I've connected gives me a great feeling of satisfaction, something I really was not expecting when I started down this road as tour guide a few years back, especially as it pertains to our international visitors.
I have toyed with the idea of brushing up on my conversational Spanish to help me with my tours. To be honest though, the only language common among my customers so far has been English. The strangest part has been the realization that the old sitcom standard of the American who just speaks slower and louder when he realizes the other person does not speak English is really not that far off the mark. For me, the ability to speak English clearly actually seems to be more important than speaking another language simply because there has been such a wide variety of languages spoken by my customers.
For this I have Mom to thank. (bet you didn't think I could tie this back in to that first sentence did you) As a teenager I found her corrections to my speech annoying at best. Now I hear her voice as I correct myself, usually before speaking. While I am far from being a guardian of the English language, and my dear friend Karen, known affectionately as "grammar slammer" will readily attest to that, I do want to thank Mom for caring enough to take the time with me so many years ago. I think of her every time one of my customers mentions their appreciation for being able to understand the way I talk.
Oh, and by the way, as soon as finances permit I still plan on brushing up on the Spanish. Feliz dia de la madres! ( Happy Mother's Day!)