A few weeks ago some of my students were complaining about their high school Spanish classes, and how some things they were taught do not apply here in Chile. Some of it has to do with differences in the vocabulary used in Chile (somehow this conversation always starts with students asking me how to say stapler…). But then I thought of a couple of things I was taught in high school Spanish that I have never heard a native Spanish speaker use.
First, let’s talk about telling time.
In every single Spanish class that I took in high school, I was taught to tell time like this. If it’s from minute :00 to :30, you would simply say the time. For example, 6:20 would be son las seis y veinte (it’s six twenty). For :15 and :30 you could use the words cuarto and media. In my experience this is fine, except people usually drop the y when saying the time, and would say son las seis veinte instead.
What I have never EVER heard from the mouth of a native Spanish speaker, is how you say time from minutes :31 to :59. As it is falsely outlined in this article (yet another reason to never trust about.com for anything), I was taught to use the next hour and then subtract the time, using the word menos. For example: If it is 6:40, I would say son las siete menos veinte, or literally translated “it’s seven minus twenty”. I can’t count the number of times this stupid rule would trip me up in Spanish class, and I found it really hard to believe that everyone in the Spanish-speaking world was so great at subtraction, and instead of saying “it’s six thirty-two”, they would say “it’s seven minus twenty-eight”.
Come to find out, Spanish speakers don’t use this method. Or at least I’ve never heard it. Maybe in Spain? Anyway, this is what I’ve heard. Either people just say the time as is. If it’s 6:37, people say son las seis treinta y siete. Or, if it’s a round number such as 6:45, people might say es un cuarto para las siete, in other words, it’s quarter to seven. The same goes with 6:50, it would be diez para las siete, or ten to six.
I’m curious to know if other people were taught this way in high school Spanish. And more importantly, does anyone know if this system of telling time is used anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world?
Now, let’s talk about wearing clothes.
I was always taught that the correct word for “wear” (as in clothes or jewelry) was llevar, which in Spanish is also the word for take or carry (don’t get me started on my frustrations with the difference between llevar and traer, that is for a different post).
I distinctly remember when I finally realized that (at least in Chile) llevar is not used to mean “wear”. I was at Farellones ski center with work and I said to my boss, “Pucha ojalá hubiera llevado mi banano hoy.” Meaning, “Shucks, I wish I had worn my fanny pack today.” (Can’t exactly remember WHY I was wanting my fanny pack, but yes, I do own a fanny pack, and no, you aren’t allowed to judge. They are very useful and practical.) My boss instantly corrected me. “Traído”, she said, because she thought I was trying to say “I wish I had brought my fanny pack today” and incorrectly used the verb llevar instead of traer (see above).
Then I realized. Chileans say usar when they are referring to wearing clothes, not llevar. Or sometimes they use the phrase andar con, like Ni se dio cuenta que andaba con la polera que me regaló (He didn’t even realize that I was wearing the shirt he gave me). Or sometimes they don’t even use a verb. Mi prima? Es la niña con la bufanda roja, allá sentada en el sillón (My cousin? She’s the on wearing the red scarf, sitting over there in the chair).
According to WordReference.com, wear can be llevar, so maybe this is just something that is not used in Chile.
What do you all think? Is it time to update high school Spanish text books? Can you think of anything else you were taught that isn’t used in common speech?