Su Majestad (Pt. 2)


I didn’t intend to keep you hanging for so long! I spent the last few days attending a conference in the beautiful costal town of San Sebastián.

Where did I leave off? Ah, yes…

I said “Hola” as introduction to the King of Spain. Brilliant.

In my defense, no one in the half circle of four Fulbrighters correctly addressed him as “Su Majestad”.

Thankfully, he did not take offense and greeted all of us warmly in Spanish. He asked us all where we were from and what we were doing in Spain, then listened patiently. Feeling bold, I tried to tell him how much I was enjoying Spain.

Estoy muy emocionada vivir en Madrid,” I said in nervous Spanish. “Madrid es muy… muy…” I tried to search for the Spanish word I was looking for. “Interesante.” I exhaled.

My choice of adjective elicited a chuckle from a few individuals around our circle.

Embarrassed, I quickly apologized, “Perdón, mi español no es muy bueno ahora. Sin embargo, espero que mejore mucho durante el año.”

The King responded, “Me parece que hablas muy bien.”

I was stunned. The King of Spain told me that I speak Spanish well. I’m pretty sure this means that I now have dual citizenship to Spain? Perhaps I’ve just been knighted?! Maybe I now have a seat in the Spanish government??

I managed a meek, “Gracias” while these thoughts of grandeur passed quickly through my mind.

During a half-second-long lull in conversation, another women jumped in to shake his Majesty’s hand and talk with him briefly.

While they were talking, the rest of us shifted a little uncomfortably, unsure whether or not our allotted time with the King was finished. I leaned over to the Fulbrighter next to me and whispered, “Am I allowed to ask the King a question?”

She paused, then whispered, “I don’t know, you can try! I’m sure its fine.”

Like I said, we all felt clueless.

When His Majesty stepped back into our circle, I said, “Tengo una pregunta. Es… poco extrano.”

He held up his hands asking for a moment, turned around quickly to put down his glass, and was approached by another group of people eager to meet His Majesty. To my surprise, he asked them politely to wait, turned back to me and asked what was my question. Despite my surge of confidence a few minutes prior, I suddenly felt that my question was a bit rudimentary. I asked anyway.

I asked how many languages he spoke. He then asked me to clarify if I meant “SPEAK speak or just speak”. I laughed at how seriously he asked for the clarification and asked him to share both.

For those who are curious, the King of Spain SPEAKS speaks English, Spanish, Greek, and French (though he wishes that he had more frequent practice with French to maintain his skill). He “speaks”, i.e. can understand, read, and write, Portuguese, Catalán, and Italian. He also told us how his daughters are learning both Arabic and Chinese!

Our group ended up having a great conversation about travel, language, and culture. It didn’t last longer than 15 minutes but it was awesome talking to His Majesty, Felipe VI as a person.

What. A. Day!

Update: The group photos were published! Check them out here.