The other morning I walked into an office and a man leaning on the counter turned to me and said "¿Cómo estás?"
I stopped for a beat, thought and said, in English, "Not too bad."
After leaving, I though on my discomfort for a while. What should I have said?
I ran a few ideas around in my head. ¿Cómo estás? What does that mean? Idiomatically it means How are you? But literally? literally it means What is your state?
What is my state? Well, 'Georgia'. But more than that, the United States. Los Estados Unidos. Personally, I prefer not to learn Spanish. I am not Xenophobic. I had high school Latin. Three years of high school French and placed out of the language requirement in college (my only out-placement). I used to be able to speak and understand Vietnamese (hardest language I know of) after being in their country only a few months. I Speak some Japanese (better than most sushi-bar patrons. I actually took classes from the local Japanese association) I can say Thank You in seventeen languages, Merry Christmas in six.
But I reserve a special place of contempt for Spanish. You see I live in an area that has been a special target of the Mexican invasion. Some of my schools are 70% or better children of recent Mexican immigrants. Others have immigrants from as many as 100 countries. But there is only one group that will not learn English -- the Spanish.
So my answer to ¿Cómo estás? henceforth will be "États-Unis". Close enough for them to get the point.