Posted on | March 5, 2012 | 9 Comments
The last guest post from Rick on living in a bilingual household got a lot of comments, so I thought I’d continue on that track just a little bit. Actually, I’d been planning on writing about it for a while -especially on the topic of “Spanglish”. It came to my mind when I was talking to my friend Samantha about it over on her blog What Little Things. Then there was a post about some embarrassing translation goofs on a post over at Expat Peru that reminded me about the subject.
See, in my house, we don’t really speak Spanish or English. My husband and I speak a weird sort of “Spanglish”. It started when I was just learning Spanish. I would tend to use his accent, because it’s easier for him to understand, and I speak mostly Spanish unless I didn”t know the word, then I would throw in the English. Even when I spoke English to him, I would use a Spanish accent – and I think that’s part of what has helped my Spanish sound good.
After eight years in Peru, my Spanish is actually pretty good. I still don’t know all my verb conjugations, but I get a lot of compliments on my accent.
What’s funny to me is when I speak English now, I use Spanish phrasing. Because I’ve been living in a Spanish speaking world for so long now (next month will be eight years!), I have a tendancy to think in Spanish. That means that sometimes that when I’m speaking English, what comes out of my mouth is a poor translation from Spanish.
Like when I was commenting on Samantha’s blog, in English I would have normally said I was at the mall – but instead I called it the “commercial center”. Not that big a deal, still obvious what I was talking about, but not really typical US English.
It reminds me of the movie “Casablanca”. There’s a scene where a German (or maybe Austrian?) couple are talking about their plans to go to the US, and how proud they are to be learning English so well so they’ll feel more at home in America.
And those are the kind of mistakes I make when I start speaking English – Instead of saying “I don’t know how to say this” or “I don’t know what that’s called”, I say “I don’t know how you call this.”
Visiting my sister, and I couldn’t hear the television well, so I said “Hey, can you up the volume?” instead of the usual “turn up the TV”.
I often confuse similar words –
- Puno (a city) with puño (a fist);
- rama (a branch) with rana (a frog);
- digerir (digest) with dirigir (direct, like in directing traffic).
My husband has the same problem- I can’t tell you how many times he has asked me if we would be eating in the dining room or in the chicken for lunch! (chicken/kitchen)
But one of the funniest “lost in translation” moments was when my the Hubs and I were both still learning each other’s languages. I was trying to figure out how to say the “Average” of something… I didn’t know the word in Spanish, so I was explaining the definition of the word I needed, and he said “the promity?” It sounded right, so I went with it. We went with it for a couple of years, actually, whenever we needed – the promity of people say this, what is the promity of Chato’s grades? (I actually thought it was promite, but pronounced it more like promity”. )
Then one day as I was speaking in all Spanish, I used promity – and he corrected me to “promedia”.
I said “….. What? What is promedia?”
He answered “That’s promity in Spanish.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, “I thought promity WAS Spanish!”
Turns out all along he had thought that promity was the English translation of the Spanish promedia, which actually translates to average! So for years we both had been using some made up word!
I’ve fortunately never used any mistaken words that got me into trouble or embarrassed me too much. How about you?
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