Friday, October 17, 2008

Como se what?

Not the sound you want your car to make when you are trying to start it. I have been in that situation more times than I care to remember so when I saw it was a woman who looked like she needed help at the gas station, I went over to ask if I could help.

"Do you have jumper cables?", I asked.

She just looked at me so I repeated the question a little louder and slower.


She just looks at me and smiles sheepishly and sort of raises her shoulders.

"Do you want a big dog to bite you on the nose?", I said in a language she obviously didn't understand. Frustrated that I couldn't help, I walked off.

Three times this week I have been in businesses where the owner of the business could not speak any English. Look, I don't mind you people coming over here. In fact, I don't blame you at all. It's the greatest country in the world and will continue to be great as long as we can all communicate but without communication, how can anything survive? Marriages crumble, contracts are broken and businesses fail because of lack of communication.

It is more than just an aggravation. What if that woman was having a heart attack? What if her baby needed medicine? What if...a million things. I would like to help but I can't because we don't understand each other. Is it now going to be my responsibility to learn Spanish so I can be ready in case of emergency? It's bad enough that I have to press "1" to hear the options in English.

Living in this country comes with a few basic responsibilities. You need to register when you get here so we can make sure no bad guys come in and learn a little English so we can communicate when you get here. That's not so hard, now is it? Oh, and bring jumper cables!


Anonymous said...

De verdad!

As I always (siempre) say: "Una lengua nunca es suficiente hoy."

Maybe technology will save us, as we can all get micro-tablet computers, with which to pull up translation websites for just such instances. You might, por ejemplo, find the phrase "Mi aerodeslizador está lleno de anguilas", meaning "my hovercraft is full of eels", if that helps.

Some of the late-noche comedians have pointed out that with the state of our economy, and the leadership of our gobierno, Mexico is erecting a fence on ITS side of the border.

Maybe we can all order those Rosetta Stone tapes or CDs or MP3s and listen in our cars, so that we can become good "world citizens" by the time they change the name of our country to "Estados Unidos".

Good luck (-iete)!

Anonymous said...

Was she caliente?

- Dew

Anonymous said...

On reflection, perhaps the woman's lack of communication stemmed from unique differences in pronouncing certain consonant sounds, specifically the 'j'.

We, of course, pronounce it 'jay', whilst our friends from south of the border(s) pronounce it like our 'h', a la jalapeno.

So, upon hearing you propose some helpful banter including the word "humper", maybe she got cold feet and feigned uncomprehension?

It's a theory.

Anonymous said...

Of course, in some of the other areas where you have to walk into businesses, as I also did, you would need to learn Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Cambodian, Indian (How!), Farsi, and quien sabe what else.

It's a tower of Babel out there, and while it's a great testimony to the drawing power of our country, one can't help thinking sometimes that we're beginning to look like a third world nation.

The late, estimable Col. John D. "Jeff" Cooper, in the preface to one of his best books, paraphrased British novelist L. P. Hartley (1895 – 1972): "The past is another country. They do things differently there."

In metallurgy, one can study to understand the positive benefits from creating steel alloys containing molybdenum, chromium, nickel, manganese, vanadium and tungsten. In proper proportion, and depending on the intended application, the engineer can specify an alloy superior to standard carbon steel.

Conversely, 'pot metal', usually using a zinc base, is created by alloying with copper, lead, tin, magnesium, aluminium, iron, and cadmium, with little or no regard to specific proportions. The resulting metal, often adequate for the task at hand, lacks strength, durability, resistance to corrosion. It is to quality steel what particle board is to hard maple or oak.

We have long prided ourselves on being a nation of immigrants, a "melting pot". But, in the days of yore, of Ellis Island and the Golden Gate, we seemingly were more cognizant of the alloys we were trying to produce.