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Ben’s Terrifying Spanish Exam!

Yesterday I (Ben) had to take our car for the annual Inspección Técnica de Vehículos (ITV – a bit like the British MOT), where they check the brakes, lights, chasis, seat belts etc are all road-worthy.

It’s a job I dread, mostly because it’s one of the last bastions of ‘really difficult real-life Spanish’ that I still feel very nervous about!

If I fail to get the Spanish instructions right as I take the car through the test, then maybe the car won’t get ‘passed’ at the end, and that means big car headaches just before we take it on holiday!

Things didn’t go well from the moment I arrived.

There were two queues, one for turismos de gasolina (petrol engines) and one for turismos de diesel (diesel vehicles) – and I only discovered I was in the wrong queue after I’d been lined up for an hour already in the 36ºC sun!

If I tried to jump over to the other lane for the right queue, I was going to get in big trouble with everyone in that queue – the Spanish really hate people that push in!

So I went to the pay desk and was told to find la chica de seguridad con el chaleco amarillo – the security girl with the yellow jacket.

She was nowhere to be seen. I fretted and sweated in the sun for 10 minutes until finally she appeared, and I explained my predicament.

“Mira yo aviso a todo el mundo cuando llegan,” – I tell everyone when they arrive – she said (not true! she was nowhere to be seen when I got there), “tendrás que hablar con alguien a ver si te dejan cambiarte,” you’ll have to speak so someone to see if they let you change lane.

A gap appeared in front of a car in the other lane as someone else moved forwards, and I asked the driver behind the gap if I could cross over and get in front of him.

No, he said, “te toca dar la vuelta y hacer la cola desde el principio otra vez,” – you’ll have to turn round and start the queue from the beginning again.

Which would mean losing the whole hour I’d been in the wrong queue! There were already about 20 new cars behind us in both lanes!

I tried a friendly looking woman in a Smart car a few cars back in the other lane, “perdona, es que me he equivocado de cola y tengo que cambiarme a este carril,” – Excuse me, I got the wrong queue and I have to change to this lane…”

“Vale,” – OK – she said, “¡Muy amable!” I replied, totally relieved! Whenever you want a favour in Spanish, it really pays to start with “Perdona, es que…”

Finally I got to the head of the queue, and the terrifying exam started!

It works like this: you sit in your car, and the ITV technician barks orders at you as he walks around the car checking everything works.

The vocabulary is highly test/car-specific, the noise in the warehouse is unbearable, and it’s almost impossible to hear what he’s saying!

As I said, I’m terrified that if I misunderstand his instructions, the car will fail and my 2 hour wait in line will have been for nothing!

Here are a few of the orders that came flying at me from all sides as the test progressed:

abre el capo – open the bonnet
luces de posición…. largas – dipped headlights, full beam
antinieblas – fog lights
pisa el freno – step on the brake
quita el freno de mano – release the handbrake
dale un poco de agua – squirt some water…
toca la bocina – sound the horn (I’d never heard the word ‘bocina‘ before, so had to take a guess at that one – lucky I got it right!)

It went on and on like this until finally he sent me on to stage two – even worse!

This involved listening to a guy who was underneath the car, giving me orders via a tiny, hissing loud speaker next to my drivers window:

Darle con el volante de un lado para otro – swing the steering wheel from one side to the other. Etc!

So how did we do?

At last I made it to the end of the test, and got the piece of paper with the crucial test results:

The Car: Resultado de la inspección: Favorable con defecto leve – escobillas defectuosas – The car passed the test, but with a minor infraction, worn out wiper blades…

Ben: Hecho polvo – totally worn out as well! … But I guess I passed the test too!

What’s the hardest ‘real life’ Spanish exam you’ve ever been through?

Related To This Post:

Ben’s Anatomical Spanish Simultaneous Translation Nightmare!

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