Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Say What?

You would think that as fluent as I am in Spanish (even though there's so much more for me to learn!), that I would have little trouble communicating in most situations that do not involve highly technical language. And yet, there are these little incidents that remind me that communication foul-ups are still bound to happen...they also keep me humble!

I wanted to add some squash to a soup I was cooking the other day, so I ran over to one of our local stores a few blocks down the street. The store is one of the bigger ones in the neighborhood, about the size of a small convenience store...they sell a variety of vegetables and fruits, meats, dairy products, snacks, grocery and household items, and also things like chile relleno (stuffed chilies) and frijoles (cooked pinto beans sold in bags). I looked over the vegetable counter, but no squash.

I decided to buy a gallon of milk and a couple of other things and while paying, I asked if they had calabaza, squash. One of the two ladies there, said sure! Right over here...but it turned out to be small, zuchini-like squash commonly called calabazín...not what I wanted. So I asked them if they had any other kind of calabaza.

Results...blank looks. I began to describe it, you know, it's big (motioning with hands)...a lot larger than these calabazín, green on the outside, orange inside, you can toast the seeds to eat? Again, blank looks.

Then the first lady said, oh, papaya? No, I said, usually you eat it in soups...the other lady then exclaimed chayote! I was getting kind of frustrated at this point because papaya is not related to calabaza at all and it's not common to toast the seeds to eat. And chayote isn't large or even orange inside!

I had pretty much given up all hope of successful communication and was feeling like a very silly gringa who can't talk right, when the first lady said, oh, calabaza! No, no, we don't have any.



Unknown said...

Girl - I can relate SO much to this kind of conversation. Having lived in the country for a year, the Spanish is definitely coming - but more to learn - and I often get those blank stares, and look at people KNOWING I said the right thing, but either my accent, or whatever, the blank looks I get back are a little disheartening...sigh...poco a poco...poco a poco (said to me OFTEN in language school from my teachers when they saw that I was about ready to blow!).

Cindy said...

the reverse of that happens, too

every once in a while I can only think of the spanish word....

ok I have spoken English for 50 years and spanish for about 17...
so you would think I would be able to pull the english word I wanted right out of my brain. but, no.
usually at that point I have to describe the thing to one of my kids and they say....yeah that's a _______________ whatever, word fits at the time.
so, be encouraged (not) you
could suffer the same problem in reverse :)