Oct 17, 2009, 5:54 PM
Post #20 of 43
gpkisner wrote: It seems very common for Mexican people to not have or know the word for fairly common things. E.g., a doctor friend had no word for "searchlights" (at a store opening) and my cleaning woman could not give me the Spanish for "window sill." Why is that?
One reason is that Spanish has many fewer words than English. A second reason is that many folks in service positions, e.g., maids, gardeners, etc., have a very low level of education compared to NOB. It's much easier to learn to read and write Spanish as a child than it is English, so expats often don't realize how little actual schooling folks in those lower-level occupations have in México.
You mention a doctor friend not knowing the word "searchlight". That too, I've found, is due to the difference between education in México and that NOB. A doctor in the U.S. graduated from high school with a very general education, then graduated from university with a reasonably general education (although tilted toward his post-graduate specialization), before he ever entered med school to become a doctor. This is true of nearly every professional pursuit NOB. Also, many, if not most, educated folks NOB read to a certain extent, as books are very, very inexpensive.
In México it's very different. Your doctor friend began specializing in prepa (high school) and after graduating went straight into a five year concentrated education in medicine at his university. Once he graduated, he had to do an internship, just like in the U.S. and may have been required to do up to a year's duty in some rural hospital or clinic to repay the state for his education. Once in private practice, he earns only a modest amount of money, placing him right in the middle of the middle class. There are few wealthy doctors in México compared to NOB. This means that he and his family probably have little truly disposable income and books are VERY expensive in México (besides which not offering—for the most part—the wide range of subject matter, viewpoint and even fiction that is offered NOB). Thus not many working class or middle class folks in México are readers to any extent. For example, I had an employee who graduated from the university and also had a certificate in English. He insisted there was no such word in Spanish as "enunciate" or "enunciation". Although he had a point in that standard spoken Spanish is NOT enunciated, I had to lead to him to the dictionary and show him there really was such a word in Spanish (although the most common meaning is a false cognate to English, and the Spanish word meaning approximately the same is articular). THEN I discovered that he hadn't had a single Spanish class, either in grammar or literature since he was in secundaria (junior high). I was aghast!