Thursday, November 04, 2010

What you really need to know how to say

While visiting the family, I helped one of my brothers (the one who is 14 going on 40) with his Spanish homework.

He pulled no punches when we started. "My book," he informed me, "sucks."

Unfortunately I think many language instruction books fall into that category. When my dad and I visited Japan in 1999, our tour guide told us that when she began studying English, the first sentence her English textbook offered was, "The boy is holding a pencil."

(OK perverts, you get the point.)

My brother's homework assignment included sentences such as these gems:

"The employee sits at a desk."

"The hospital is full of patients."

And my favorite:

"Who drives a car with lights? The police."

I told him, "You're right. Your book does suck."

One of my favorite teachers in high school got me a book of Spanish slang when I graduated.

"Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea," she said. "But I also don't want you to get in trouble in conversation!"

I wish I could find that had helpful translations, especially when it came to textbook Spanish words that worked in some countries, but were extremely naughty in others.

Examples from this book that I will never, ever, in a million years forget:

What you want to say: "Where can I catch the bus?"
How it sounds to native speakers:"Where can I fuck the bus?"

What you want to say (don't ask me why you would)
: "The policeman hit him with his stick."
How it sounds to native speakers: "The policeman hit him with his dick."

So back to my brother's homework. None of these are phrases he's going to need to use if he is on his own in Mexico, Spain, Central or South America, etc. So I made him a cheat sheet with the important stuff, which included:

"Where is the bathroom?"

"Hi beautiful, are you traveling alone?"

"Are you treating?"

And, probably the most important,

"Do you sell comic books in English?"


Aliceson said...

Now, those are useful! "where is the bathroom" is by far the most important phrase to learn, in my opinion. If you don't have a potty, you don't have shit. Quite literally!

Welcome back, RK!

Granny Annie said...

I was a first year Spanish student in high school and volunteered to work with our church migrant ministry. I made A's in my class and believed I could communicate with the Hispanics who followed the wheat harvest. We would go out on Tuesday evenings and the small children enjoyed laughing at me. "Why? I asked and the leader told me I was speaking Spanish not Mexican.

G said...

And on that note, here is a little tidbit about a now ex-coworker of mine (fantastic person as she is a FB friend of mine). She is Mexican and speaks fluent Spanish, although at my job, believe it or not, there is a bit of clique when it comes to speaking Spanish (Puerto Rican flavored vs. everyone else).

Anyways, she was telling me about a job opening she applied for with the Dept of Labor in which the main criteria was that you had to be bilingual.

They gave her a document and told her to translate it into Spanish.

On her job app, which most HR people go over with a fine toothed comb in order to find something that would let them 86 it, she answered "yes" to the question of "do you speak any other languages?"

She wrote down Spanish.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

As long as he can say "Dos huevos por favour," he'll never stave.

Yes, I learned Spanish from watching Bumblebee Man.

Lynn said...

Ah - perfect phrases for future use! You are a great and talented sister.

I once had a French textbook that contained the translation for "We do not like those damn chickens!"

Mama Zen said...

The only thing that I remember from any of my Spanish classes is how to order a beer.

Green Tea said...

You always cheer me up Kitty :)

I have always wanted to learn a
foreign language, but am to lazy.
I have a friend who feels the same way . When she went to Italy she carried a Italian/ English dictionary with her and just pointed out the questions she had.

LL Cool Joe said...

You are such a wonderful sister. My younger daughter has just started to learn Spanish, maybe I should send her your way for help, or maybe not. :D

Darth Weasel said...

mas cerveza por favor. donde esta el bano?

Ugh. Spanish is hard enough to learn without the banal examples and ...well, I am about to start ranting so I will stop here.

Scarlet Ily said...

Chica, we've found our calling! Let's write a Spanish book full of practical phrases! :)

Riot Kitty said...

LOL everyone!
WIGSF: Depending on where you are, you know that's dirty, right?

Mike_D said...

Mi esposa y yo tenemos sus margaritas en el yate...

My wife and I will have our margaritas on the yacht...

And, scene!

Maybe you two should write a book!!

Claire said...

You are such a good sister! I love learning useful things in other languages!


PS How *do* you ask where the bathroom is in Spanish?

Mike_D said...

Donde esta el bano?

Is that correct RK?

Oddly, my verification word is eigna.

Riot Kitty said...

Mike: You are right! But there is a tilde over the 'n' - baño. Tildes are very important. It can mean the difference between the word "year" (año) and "ass" (ano.)

This cracked me up a few years ago when one of my hometown papers ran an article about Año Nuevo beach: "Ano Nuevo Needs Volunteers." I kid you not!

Senorita said...

You're such a wonderful sis !

In Barcelona, the argentinians I worked with told me he laughed all the time when hearing the Spaniards talk about catching a bus, train, bike.........

Logical Libby said...

I thought Spanish was just English spoken louder with o on the end of each word.

You blog teaches me so much.

Riot Kitty said...

S: I bet he laughed his ass off! I know I would have.
L: Happy to help ;)

alessandra said...

You cracked me up!