Thursday, January 27, 2011

lost in translation

While studying Spanish at the Mariposa Spanish school I was a good student and I did in fact learn a little Spanish. I showed up with my notebook and pen every morning and dutifully copied down new vocabulary words and tense structures until I"d filled pages and at night before turning out my light I'd peer at the new words and examples and recite them in one quick attempt to commit them to memory.

But after I've long since forgotten how to conjugate irregular past tense verbs, I won't have forgotten (don't begin to name the tense that just flew by!) one of my conversation teachers, who -- like all my instructors there -- easily bridged the distance between us, getting down to real stuff pretty quickly and easily.

On day two, Raul, let's call him, asked what the last present that my husband gave me was. How that came up, dunno. I thought back. Was it my birthday present -- a top from my favorite catalog, presented in its original mail order wrapping? It was beautiful. Don't get me wrong! But I didn't mention the top for some reason, and said something about how travelling to Nicaragua was a joint present to one another. Raul smiled. And what about you I asked? "I give her grapes sometimes, or apples." I think I said "oh." And Raul looked a little embarrassed suddenly, saying "we don't have a lot of money." My "oh" wasn't, of course, about the modesty of his gift. I didn't know how to express how beautiful I thought a gift of grapes was. How sensual to buy a piece of fruit for your wife. How flattered she must have felt! But though we were both speaking English (this would have taxed the limits of my Spanish) I couldn't express it without then sounding like I was making a big deal out of it, which would make it seem like I didn't really mean it. So I said nothing. And that little missed bit of communication was probably the one regret I had during our trip.

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