Aug 19, 2011, 12:03 PM
Post #1 of 49
There's a thread on a different Mexconnect sub-Forum about the trials and troubles of getting a car imported by ferry, where the very sweet OP had a lot of trouble getting his car. His stories left me wondering about how the problems might have come up due to languaging issues.
Idioms, Slang, Shibboleths, and False Cognates
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When we go to INM or Banjercito or Aduana, do we have someone with us who speaks excellent Mexican Spanish? Were our communications discusiónes or dialogos o monologos de seria?
Each time I hear serial stories of frustrations by an expat who did not get the systems to work as they hoped, I flashback on memories of waiting at Aduana, Banjercito, INM, CFE, and Telmex, and listening to various expats attempt to explain their problems and their desires in less-than-polished Spanglish. Rayas become Rayos, Martes becomes Marzo, they hear "En Absoluto" and they think "absolutely!", "Apologies" become "Apologías", and on and on.
On May 2, 2010, I listened to one very bright intelligent gringo friend explain to an INM agent that he was planning to fly to the United States on July 5, and that he absolutely must have his FM2 renewed before then. In reality, he said: "Yo necesito departo en El Cinco de Mayo! " The INM agents shook their heads and said it was not possible. He basically went ballistic inside. I stepped-in to try to explain the actual ( no "actual" ) date of his viaje. " En realmente..." The INM agents understood immediately, but the friend was annoyed...
I suspect that the combination of idioms, slang, shibboleths, cultural differences, and false cognates often bury our chances of effective communications. When we get hot, tired, frustrated, worn-out, or a little excited, I think our perceived abilities to communicate in Spanish far exceed reality.
I have heard many gringo stories that recount word-for-word quotations of what they said, followed by exact English quotations of the perfectly translated Spanish replies. Unfortunately, the quoted stories vs. what I heard or witnessed as a bystander, just do not jibe. The gaps between perception and reality widen when the stakes are higher (like trying to get INM to approve something), and when anxiety and frustration creep into the American/Canadian English brain.
I also note that many gringos launch into prolonged monologues that twist and turn, (where even small translation errors in the monologue send the listener off into blind alleys), and then they gradually reach their desired endpoint vs. making simple declarative statements of what's needed. Personally, I try to think of the bare essentials of what I need to communicate, and then rather than thinking in English and translating the English, instead, think in Spanish - form the thoughts/ideas/words in Spanish.
"Yo soy caliente." vs. "Yo tengo calor." vs. "Necisto ayuda, por favor. La clima en mi cuarto no funcionar."
In the Mexconnect car example, did the OP say "panga" or "feria" when asking about the car ferry?
I know that when I get an answer that smells a bit off, I intentionally look confused, and then try repeatedly asking the question in different ways - try to get them to repeat their answer in different ways. If that doesn't work, I look around for a helpful-looking soul who has quietly been listening and watching - someone who knows the insider-language & idioms, and urge them to help.
Anyone know where I can buy a "sapo", because I am tired of my "tina" going dry?
At one point, I realized that I needed help with these things, so, I pulled out three old printed lists of English-Spanish false cognates that I'd saved over the years, created a single Word document of them, and then I trolled 5 websites on the internet, and merged all the lists into a single shmear - culling out the duplicate items, and re-writing all of them into a single consistent format - and posted them on Yucalandia: Surviving Yucatan http://yucalandia.wordpress.com/...nish-false-cognates/
This list is a little cumbersome because it is a compendium of about 8 lists, but it helps avoid some confusions. Still, it does not deal with idioms or shibboleths.
Maybe an ongoing Mexconnect thread of Mexican idioms, shibboleths, and slang could help? ¿ Que padre ?
E-visit at http://yucalandia.com
(This post was edited by YucaLandia on Aug 19, 2011, 2:55 PM)