Buenos Aires, Argentina
I was determined. Not even a six month trip through South America, which inevitably could include the prospect of having to read subtitles for three hours, was going to stop me from watching the latest instalment in the brilliant Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie, the Two Towers, had just been released to the big screen and was the second in the trilogy if my memory serves me right. It was early January 2004 and we arrived in Buenos Aires only a few days before for the start of our six month backpacking adventure through South America. We planned on spending about a week in Buenos Aires and it seemed like the perfect place to make sure we watch the movie while it still showed on the big screen.
We walked several blocks from our hostel in San Telmo to the city centre of Buenos Aires where there were many people out for a night on the town. We took our place at the back of the queue in front of the ticket office to buy our tickets for that night’s main performance of the movie. We stood in line and patiently waited for our turn to buy our tickets. While in the queue, we also tried to learn the Spanish for ‘Lord of the Rings’ as it was displayed on the billboard outside the movie theatre. We were after all armed with a couple of good Spanish phrase books and were determined to display an eagerness to use the native language as much as possible. After only a few days in South America it was already clear that many people did not speak English all that well. Certainly, if we asked for our tickets in Spanish it would make the whole process run a whole lot quicker and smoother.
Finally we stood in front of the ticket booth and were ready to buy our tickets. The friendly girl behind the counter was eagerly waiting for us to tell her which movie we wanted to see. We proudly announced that we would like: ‘Dos para El Senor de los Annilos por favor’. Or at least that is what we intended to ask for. We did rehearse for ten minutes after all. The girl had a confused yet sympathetic expression on her face and was probably thinking something like: ‘Intento triste del extranjero para hablar Español’, which would roughly translate to ‘Another sad tourist trying to speak Spanish’.
At first we thought that she did not hear us and we tried again in our best broken Spanish: ‘Dos para El Senor de los Annilos por favor’. But by the third attempt it was clear that she had no idea which movie we wanted to buy tickets for. Clearly our pronunciation was not nearly as faultless as we believed.
Just as we were about to throw in the towel we decided to change tactics and asked for ‘Dos para Lord of the Rings, por favour’? ‘Si!’ the girl exclaimed as her face lit up with joy and relieve and a few seconds later we were presented with two tickets for the show.
Half an hour later, we were seated with a fresh box of popcorn and were delighted to see that the movie was in the original English with Spanish subtitles. So my advice? When you are in Buenos Aires and you cannot speak a word of Spanish, try English first. You may be pleasantly surprised with the result.