Words are a wonderful thing. I have not always been fascinated by words. It wasn’t until I entered into the profession of nursing did I truly appreciate words.
Medical terminology completely hooked me on how the words sounded, where they originated, how the combination of two words created one, how they would describe a medical condition or give instant meaning and understanding to the situation. In the immortal words of Spock – fascinating!
We diligently took Spanish lessons on arrival to La Paz, spent a month in class four times a week. You would think our understanding and language skills would be passable. Well, not so much. We did however speak as much broken Spanish at every opportunity and always were received with understanding and helpfulness from the locals. This certainly gave me a new perspective and deep appreciation for those who have immigrated to a new country and their struggle to cope with a new language.
Technology has been indispensable. Translation apps have helped enormously what with the practice of words and inflection. I would practice a sentence such as “where are the soups”, only to be given a puzzled look. My pronunciation was off and so the meaning and sentence was basically meaningless. It takes practice, practice and more practice and the only way is to keep diving in. Numerous times I have asked – “how do you say” and with great delight you will be instructed in the correct pronunciation. Most people are very forgiving and appreciate the effort.
Which brings me to my most memorable translation error yet.
During our stay at one marina, the first thing I noticed were the signs with an outline of a crocodile and what clearly was a warning. Crocodiles? Really? In the marina? YES, and big ones. Apparently, the marina was once all land and the kingdom of the crocs. The marina was dug out but as is the case with all creatures, their habits and territories are hard wired and so they continued to frequent their area although it was now a marina busy with the comings and goings of boats.
This marina provided bathrooms and showers. We are not fussy (ok, I do have my limits) and all in all we were glad to have an available shower etc., BUT the cockroaches were becoming HUGE! as in Godzilla raging through downtown Tokyo huge. When you initially entered the hallway, it was dark until the motion sensor came on and, in those steps, leading to the washroom is when you knew Godzilla would be waiting.
I must state they were dead, on their backs, legs straight up. In my mind however they could easily be faking it and suddenly go AHA! In this age of fake news, they could be faking death!
In the most apologetic manner possible I spoke with a young woman at the marina office about Godzilla.
Cocodrilos is the Spanish word for Crocodile. I loved how that rolled off the tongue and would often say let’s go see the Cocodrilos. One wide 12-foot-long one would often spend its days at one spot waiting for the fishing boats to come in or as we thought it was most likely hoping for a tourist taco.
So, I was explaining how big the cockroaches were and could they be removed, being certain to roll my r’s (which I thought was expertly done) she shook her head gravely and said “no, I am sorry, the government looks after these”.
I was truly dumbfounded and said, “THE GOVERNMENT??” again she nodded gravely.
OMG! There is a government office for cockroaches? It flashed before my eyes – queuing up in a local office to voice my desire to have the cockroaches removed only to be told – “go over there, make payment, then come back, then go back there and get your paperwork, then come back here”.
A voice behind me interjected and said, “I think she means cockroaches” to which the young woman said “ah, cucaracha”, rolling her r’s in the most musical way.
Well, giggles on all sides. Assurances were offered that the offending creatures would be taken care of and they were.