Stop, Look and Listen!
I recall coming across the commands in Spanish very early on in my language learning journey. I have to say that initially I was uncomfortable. Why? I suppose it was for two reasons. One was that the very word ‘commands’ sounded a bit strong for my liking. Who was I to command people around?
The second issue I had with the Commands in Spanish was the fact that I was born in Britain. For those who are familiar with the British culture, you’ll know that we have terrible problems saying exactly what it is that we want. Whatever the reason behind this reluctance to express our real needs, our fear of making excessive demands on others manifests itself in sentences such as:
I’m sorry but I wonder if you would be so kind as to help me? But only when you have time, I don’t want you to rush on my behalf. I’m more than happy to wait.
At the same time, in Spain, all that ‘farting around’ would never be tolerated. People simply say what they want and be done with it. A typical translated interaction in Spain might go something like this:
Hello. Give me a pack of cigarettes. Thanks. See you later.
Commands in Spanish are perfectly normal.
It’s not that we don’t use commands in English. We do so all of the time. We are always telling others to stop, look and listen, just as did the Green Cross Code man.
Where we have the issue is when we are in interactions con others. For example, when we buy goods. (As opposed to ‘bads’.)
In Spain, although for the most part, people are polite in their interactions, the use of the commands in Spanish happens far more between people who don’t know one another than would ever happen in the UK.
It’s a cultural thing.
Telling people what you want in Spain is expected. Telling people what you want in the UK is an art form that goes straight over the heads of many of the Spanish living in in the UK. They can often come across as rude if they say: Give me… to a Brit, or if they don’t say: ‘Yes, please.’ or ‘No, thanks.’ after every question offered to them.
Equally, in Spain, the interminable stream of pleases and thank yous coming from the Brits can be viewed as quite in-genuine and false by the Spanish. And it’s all down to the culture. After all, rudeness is only rudeness if it doesn’t comply with the expected norms of a particular society.
So, tread carefully with the commands and always aim to copy what you hear being said by natives. If you hear ten people saying ‘Oíga’ and none of them have been punched in the face by the waiter, then it’s probably safe for you to do so also.