Wednesday, July 6, 2011
In Which I Pretend I'm Bilingual.
Before the story begins, you need to understand that the Hispanic population of this area is maybe 2%. Then there's a group of migrant farm workers from Mexico who move from the strawberry farm to the pumpkin patch to the turkey farm, and probably a few places in between. And then there's my lawn service, owned by a guy innocently named Melvin. Melvin has an all Mexican lawn crew. And they work very hard.
Most of my lawn looks great. But, this year, our lawn service has been mowing the 20 foot square area just outside the kitchen with a weed wacker. It's not going all that well. Ryan has been taking Spanish in school, so I asked him if he could look up a couple of words and speak to the lawn service on my behalf. Nothing doing, responded Ryan, unless I wanted him to ask them if they sing well or where the library is. Glad to see that high school language courses are as useful as ever. (I took 6 years of French. I could introduce my dog to you, even now, and tell you that he is a good dog. Also a highly useful skill, don't you think?)
So, it was up to me and my dictionary to figure out how to speak to the nice Mexican man.
Hola! (I have this one down pat.)
No habla Espanol! (I know this one, too. Not for nothing I spent the summer of 1975 in California.)
Then it got tricky.
Tiene una cortadora de cesped pequena? (This should mean "Do you have a small lawn mower?") Evidently the sentence was understandable, because he nodded vigorouisly and said something enthusiastic.
Por favor, usa a la cortadora de cesped en esta area? (Pointing at the 20x20 area, and hoping that this did approximately translate to "Please use the small mower here."). He responded, "Si, Senora," trotted off, and came back with a hand mower, beaming. "Bueno!" I cheered, giving him the thumbs up sign.
Then he pointed at Thor and said something fast and long and Spanish. "Esta Thor!" I chirped. "Esta Bueno!"
"Good Bye, and Gracias!" I added. So my weedy little piece of lawn got mowed properly, and I pretended I could bumble through a tiny Spanish conversation.