Hit Pay Dirt

January 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

Right wing. Let’s hang out. Kick the bucket. Nutty.

Hit pay dirt

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Someone I know is learning a new language, Spanish. He was born speaking Russian but moved to the US before puberty. So he’s not a native English speaker but in New York City where borough accents sometimes mask a person’s origins, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell where he was born if you had to guess based solely on the sound of his voice.

His texts are interesting. Half the time I’m not sure if he’s simply a sloppy texter, a bad speller, or just doesn’t know the difference and never learned the proper word to use.

Then and than is a common one. …and the specs worked out even better then I hoped!

It was supper awesome! is one that makes me chuckle.

I send lots of foodporn photos to which he responds: dilicious!!!

It’s charming of course. And who am I to correct him? So I don’t and I won’t.

I’m certainly not immune to the misuse of phrases. At least a few times a week I’m asking my marketing coordinator…of course I can’t think of an example now when I need one…but trust me, I have plenty of immigrant moments.

Reminds me of when I was a freshman in college. It was about a week into my Western Civilization course. The lecture ended and I was walking out with one of my classmates when he said, I don’t have the syllabus.

You didn’t get one? Just ask the TA, I said. I’m sure he has extras.

So we buy it from him?

Uh. No, I said. It’s free. He handed it out on the first day.

We went back and forth that way for several minutes, and it turned out that he missed the first day of class and when our professor would refer to the syllabus, he felt lost. He didn’t know what a syllabus was. He thought it was a book we had to get for the course.

Higher education.

Of course the Internet is ripe with blogs and posts devoted to humorous fails and mistranslations. Menus. Food descriptions. Notices of daily specials that announce that you can HEAR EAT!

Can you? How do you hear eat?

And the famous LOL Cats I can has cheezeburger? which continues its global spread of its language…there’s even a translation of the bible.

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I’m proficient in Spanish. But I rarely use it so I’ve lost the ability to think in the language. Whenever I see my friend I ask him how the Spanish is going. He’s confident, says he’s learning so much more from the app he uses than he did with Rosetta Stone.

We had a mini scuffle recently when I refused to tell him how to say something in Spanish.

There’s more than one way to communicate a sentiment, I said. If you don’t know the word, find another way to say it.

I urged him to work it out. He said that he didn’t learn that way. That if I told him the answer, he’d remember it.

Eventually I capitulated and told him.

He said that it wasn’t what he remembered having learned.

“Everywhere” and “nowhere” were the two words my friend couldn’t remember in Spanish. At the time, in my mind, I thought he likely knew the Spanish for “all” and “parts” which is how my head connects the two, Everywhere = todas partes, all parts. And if he would just focus on communicating rather than getting stuck on the word, that maybe he’d come up with the Spanish phrase.

I realize now that it’s easier to work backwards, reduce, deduce, break down when you know the answer, have the whole. Building from scratch is harder. And he’s still building.

I’m not learning a new language right now but I can certainly empathize with him and others who are struggling to express themselves in a foreign language.

I’ll end with a mistranslation my mind did today while I was listening to a podcast about racial discrimination in the military.

I heard the phrase “ethnic makeup of the military” and this is something along the lines of what my mind visualized.

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¡Buenas noches!

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