Language is a funny thing…
I grew up being the translator for my family. Mom could understand some Spanish, but didn’t speak it at all, and my brother was much younger than me. I was fluent at 7 or so, so I did a lot of strange things like negotiate salaries for babysitters, get car tags, translate from the phone company for my mom. I loved it honestly, that peek into the grown-up world.
I can remember going to Mexico City when I was about 12 for vacation. Mom had this cool idea whenever we traveled to get a cabbie to take us around for an entire day. She’d have them take us to places that they would go on a day off and we always saw the coolest things. (Example: in Costa Rica the cab driver took us to his mom’s house for popsicles, a shoe store where they made the shoes to your feet, a drive by view of a mafioso’s house in town…)
Well, the cab driver in Mexico started talking and I went “huh?” I had never talked to anyone from Mexico and didn’t realize they don’t really speak Spanish. I didn’t know that different Spanish-speaking countries had such different vocabularies and accents. I managed to muddle through to get the point across to him somehow, but when mom looked at me like “What is going on?” I told her “Mom, sorry I don’t speak Mexican.” (A couple of years in the restaurant biz in the U.S. and I quickly learned Mexican by the way!)
After most of my college I moved back to Panama to finish my senior year there. My degree was in Spanish and most of my profs had studied in Spain. I guess I’d been paying attention because people at home would give me looks. “Are you from Spain?” They’d ask.
My biggest challenge was moving to Arkansas. I was in a co-ed dorm (NEVER put your kids in co-ed dorms by the way) and had some kids come up to me the first week of school.
Them: “We fixin ta go up ta tha sto, you want we should carry you?”
Them: (louder now) “We’re fixin’ ta go up to Walmart, want us to carry you there?”
Me: (Thinking, I know how to walk, why would anyone offer to carry me somewhere? What are they fixing?)
Now my roommate jumps in.
“Michelle, they are going to Walmart. Would you like them to give you a ride there?”
That’s my attempt at writing this week. Forgive me, I’ve been sick so my brain is still mushy.
Come join up on Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop!
1.) Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you.
2.) If you could do your wedding over, how would you do it?
3.) Who are you giving a timeout to?
4.) What do you dream about? Explain a dream you’ve had recently without using the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘drunk as all get up”.
5.) What’s so good about it? Write an interesting poem or piece of writing where the last two words of the writing are ‘good-bye’