Conversations at Casa Quezada – a guest post!

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I absolutely adore Tracy’s posts that share the hilarious, family moments that make up her bilingual household. I can relate so much, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to add a few of our own family’s multicultural conversations.

I’m an American girl, born and raised in the South. I am “bilingual-friendly,” meaning I know just enough Spanish to be dangerous. My Guatemalan husband Billy and I are raising our two bilingual-ish kiddos in Atlanta, Georgia. Here are few of our favorite Spanglish-y moments!

Me: (looking around the parking garage) Okay, we’re parked in Aisle 8.
Billy: THAT? (pointing at the sign) That. That is how you spell aisle?! Eye-eez-lay???

Billy: (hanging pictures) Does it look straight?
Me: Hmm… I’m not sure. Are we sure we want them there? Maybe a little higher?
Billy: (handing me a hammer and some nails) Go kill yourself!
Me: Um… What?
Billy: It’s an expression. You know…
[long pause]
Me: Oooh, knock yourself out!

Me: (reading a picture book in Spanish)
4 YO Daughter: Mom, please stop. I know that you don’t speak Spanish.

When dad has two languages, and mom has only one, you get this:
4 YO Daughter: My daddy is my Papi. And my mama is a big girl!

At a fruit stand in Los Angeles

Me: Hola. Por favor quisiera piña, sandía, mango, y coca.
Vendor: (eyes widening) Coca? Quiere coca?
Billy: No, no, no. Ella quiere coco.

Basically, I ordered a bunch of fruit and then “coke,” which, similar to English, is also slang for cocaine. I just wanted some coconut!

Me: Where are the chips I asked you to buy?
Billy: (hands me a bag)
Me: (putting away the Ranch dip) Awh, man. I asked you for chips, not tortilla chips!
Billy: Wait. What? You wanted potato chips? But you asked me for chips, not potato chips!

Stranger at the airport: Are you going to Guatemala?
4 YO Daughter: No, no. I’m going to Wat-te-ma-la. Wat-te-ma-la is Spanish. Gwah-tuh-mall-uh is English.

Thankfully, this kind man turned to my husband to ask if we were raising her to be bilingual and then offered some sweet encouragement.

Sitting in the OB/GYN office with our first pregnancy.

Me: “I’ve been having Charlie Horses at night.”
Billy: What are those?
Me: Leg cramps.
Billy: Why don’t you call them leg cramps?
Me and the midwife: I don’t know!
The midwife: Have you been having any Braxton Hicks?
Me: I don’t think so.
Billy: What is that?
Me: False contractions.
Billy: Why does everything in English need a first and last name?

My daughter’s toddler friend trying to work out our bicultural household:
Well, her mommy’s name is Sarah. And her daddy’s name is Papi.

We were visiting a Spanish church for the very first time. I was about seven months pregnant.

Stranger: Bienvenidos! (Rubbing my belly with both hands.) Hola bebito!
Billy: (looking at my panicked face and laughing) We’re not in an English church anymore! (leaning in towards me in mocking compassion) Do you want to go hide in the corner?
Me: (eyes wide, nodding) Yes!

sarah-quezada Sarah Quezada lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a talkative, Spanglish household with her Guatemalan husband and two amusing kiddos. She writes about culture, family, and immigration on her blog, A Life with Subtitles. Sarah is a big fan of travel, basketball, and peppermint patties. You can connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Conversations at Casa López – Part 6

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Here we go – my family’s most recent “bilingual moments” and funny conversations. (Be sure to share your recent funny conversations in comments!)

Tracy: Mejor el perro malo que conoces que el perro que no conoces.

– Tracy mixing up the dicho “Más vale lo malo conocido que lo bueno por conocer.”

Carlos: “Tracy, why are you talking so loud? You’re like a vieja tamalera. ”

– Carlos when I was apparently talking too loud early in the morning

13 year old son: How do you say ‘pig’ in Spanish?

Tracy: Cerdo.

13 year old son: … But I thought it was ‘cuche’?

(“Cuche” is Salvadoran slang for pig.)

Tracy: The boys both need new earbuds again.

Carlos: Again? Both of them?

Tracy: Yeah… Hey, is there a Salvadoran Spanish word for someone who always breaks or loses things?

Carlos: Yeah, irresponsables.

13 year old son: You’re always watching that.

Tracy:: [shrugs] I like it and they always play re-runs.

13 year old son: But you never finish it. Is “La Fea Más Bella” a series or a movie?

Carlos: It’s a soap opera.

13 year old son: What’s that?

Tracy: A telenovela.

13 year old son: Oh. Why didn’t you just say that?

Tracy: ¿Estas tortillas son hechas de harina o de trigo?

Carlos’s friend: Maíz.

[I was trying to ask if they were flour or corn tortillas but for some reason I stupidly asked if they were tortillas made from wheat or flour – which is the same thing. Basically, “Are these flour tortillas or flour tortillas?”]

Carlos: I got everything we need to make the Smurfs.

Tracy: S’mores.

Carlos: Oh, right. Smurfs are pitufos.

Gracias a los policías colombianos

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

A veces es difícil tener fe en la humanidad. Hay tantas cosas malas pasando en el mundo y tanta gente eligiendo hacer daño a sus hermanos en vez de ayudarles. Pero lo hermoso es que toma sólo un pequeño acto de amor y bondad por llenar mi corazón.

Hoy el acto que tocó mi corazón hasta el punto de llorar venía de estos valientes hombres – policías colombianos que arriesgaron sus vidas para salvar a un perro siendo arrastrado por las aguas de la inundación.

Son increíbles y sólo quiero agradecerles públicamente. No hay palabras suficientes para expresar lo que siento, pero policías colombianos, si ustedes están leyendo esto, yo les mando un fuerte abrazo de los Estados Unidos y les deseo un millón de bendiciones. Gracias por todo lo que hacen por proteger vidas – grandes y pequeñas.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Sometimes it’s difficult to have faith in humanity. There are so many bad things happening in the world and so many choosing to harm their brothers rather than help them. But the beautiful thing is that it takes only one small act of love and kindness to fill my heart.

Today the thing that touched my heart to the point of tears was these brave men – Colombian policemen who risked their lives to save a dog being swept away in flood waters.

They’re amazing and I just want to thank them publicly. There aren’t words to sufficiently express how I feel, but Colombian policemen, if you guys are reading this, I send you a big hug from the United States and I wish you all a million blessings. Thank you for all you do to protect lives – both big and small.

Pingüino Rodríguez

notes

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Ustedes ya saben cuanto me gusta el tema de malentendidos entre lenguajes, entonces les presento este video bien chistoso sobre hispanohablantes que cantan mal las letras de canciones en inglés. ¡Disfrutenlo!

(Gracias a Nyn Vasquez por mandarme el video!)

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

You guys already know how much I like the topic of misunderstandings between languages, and so I present this really humorous video about Spanish-speakers singing incorrect lyrics to songs in English. Enjoy!

(Hat tip to Nyn Vasquez!)

Conversations at Casa López – Part 6

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Carlos has been on a roll lately with bilingual mix-ups! Here are a few of my favorites. (I’ll definitely have to do a post like this soon with just my own Spanish mistakes to keep things fair!)

Carlos: The coffee doesn’t taste good with just a little sugar.
Tracy: The problem is you don’t want to go cold turkey. You’ll get used to it faster like that.
Carlos: But I don’t want to be a cold turkey.

[Watching “The Hunger Games”]
Carlos: Wait, so where is Cactus right now?
Tracy: Her name is Katniss, not Cactus.

Tracy: You need to just let it go and move on.
Carlos: No way, I’m not going to just throw this under the rock.

[Carlos confusing the idiom “Sweep it under the rug.”]

[Switching around the radio stations in the car. “Sweet Home Alabama” comes on the radio.]

Tracy: I’ll leave it for you, I know you like this song.
Carlos: Yeah, but I like better the one with Chris Rock.
Tracy: I think you mean Kid Rock.

El Escarabajo Dorado (a guest post)

Image source: José Luis Celada Euba

Image source: José Luis Celada Euba

Today’s guest post about a humorous turned enlightening moment had while living in Peru, comes to us from Fabianne, a high school Spanish teacher, world traveler, and the blogger behind “Blogging Is Narcissistic But…

Last year I shared an apartment in the noisy city of Trujillo, Peru with two Spanish roommates. One night, I found myself in the kitchen when a big, scary something started frantically buzzing around the room, smacking its chunky body against the walls, seemingly desperate to escape. Meanwhile, the window was, as always, wide open to cleanse the space of my roommates’ tobacco habit. I let out a little yelp and waved my hands in the air, which only seemed to offer the opposite of my intended message as it zoomed toward me in a state of panic.

I heard one of my roommates say, “She’s shouting in English again,” and the two of them came rushing to my rescue.

Cucaracha?” (Yes, that is actually how you say cockroach) asked one.

“No! I don’t know what this is!” I gasped as it propelled its seemingly light-brown body toward us. All three of us screamed simultaneously and ran for the kitchen door. Mar shut it behind us and we laughed at ourselves.

“What is that?” she shouted. “It’s enormous!”

At the time, I didn’t know the word for moth in Spanish. (Now I do. Polilla. I’ll never forget it. High stakes situations make for great learning experiences.) So I opted for the word for butterfly because once I read that most insects that appear to be butterflies are actually moths. I figured it was my best bet.

Una mariposa?” They asked, skeptical.

Algo como una mariposa pero con un cuerpo gordo,” (“Something like a butterfly but with a fat body,”) I explained. They both stared at me.

“Well we can’t just stand out here,” my other roommate Vanessa said, entering the kitchen and heroically grabbing the broom. She struck at the fat-bodied butterfly, which was still making circles around the kitchen, using two hands to wield her domestic weapon. Mar and I screamed and laughed from a safe distance, when suddenly, after one swift sweep of the broom, we watched it come spiraling down. She got it. It wasn’t dead, but injured beyond flight, rattling on the kitchen floor. Vanessa leaned over her kill to get a closer look, and let out a little gasp.

“It’s not a butterfly!” she shouted, almost angry. Yes, that much I knew, I just lacked the necessary vocabulary. “It’s an escarabajo!” A beetle, she said.

Escarabajo!” I shouted, not particularly out of concern but mostly because I love that word. So onomatopoeic. When I hear it, I picture a little black beetle scraping and digging through the dirt, making a whispery noise that sounds like, “escarabajo.” I actually only know the word because a little black one crawled into my backpack one time, and a Spaniard pointed and shouted, “Escarabajo!” I remember she told me not to kill it because “los escarabajos no son malos.” They’re not bad. Fair enough.

It turns out the escarabajo in our kitchen was a bit different than the one in my backpack. “It’s a golden beetle,” Vanessa explained. Escarabajo dorado.

I had never heard of a golden beetle and didn’t care too much until she said, “It’s a symbol of immortality.”

For some reason those words resonated with me. To be fair, this is a girl who lit the end of a small branch and waved it around our apartment to expel bad energy, and who charges her crystals by moonlight (though I know of no better way), and while I love her and admire her earthy spirit, I usually remain unaffected by her beliefs. This is not because I claim to possess superior spiritual ideology, just that I’m kind of lazy when it comes to these things. Afterlife? Can’t be bothered…But this time I felt bad. Was I an accomplice to the murder of a bug that only wanted to offer us immortality?

“It’s suffering,” Vanessa said looking at me seriously, “and you have to kill it. I did my part.”

“I don’t like to kill things!” I protested. She shot me a look of death. I get it. OK.

Both of my roommates returned to their respective rooms. The golden beetle squirmed on the floor, its gem-like shell glistening under the fluorescent kitchen lights. Not knowing what to do, I swept it into a dustpan and tipped it out our seven-story kitchen window, hoping maybe it would catch flight.

“It committed suicide,” I announced loud enough for Vanessa to hear, though she didn’t respond.

Later that night, I Google searched “golden beetle.” I found various articles about the insect, my favorite from a gardener saying she is both frustrated and delighted when she finds these beautiful pests among her plants. Another funny bug-nerd article said something like, “Everyone keeps talking about golden beetles.” Oh yeah. People just won’t shut up about them! Nowhere did I find anything about immortality, though the words that affected me most came from an article about insect collections. It recommends that you not add the golden beetle to your collection as it loses its golden color once it dries out, saying, “these bugs are most beautiful kept alive.” Ouch.

The Magic That is The Latino Community

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This week I’m giving thanks for community, and the Latino community specifically. Let me tell you a story about something that happened last weekend.

Carlos and I had just returned from grocery shopping, literally still in the driveway with bags in the trunk to unload. My 16 year old son, who hadn’t seen me since leaving for school early that morning, greeted us and then launched into a “Mami, I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to need some money…”

This is a good moment for me to dispel a myth for some of you. Young parents have a tendency to believe that kids get less expensive as they get older — it isn’t true. Maybe this feels true for a few years after the diaper days, but there comes a point where your children out-grow the kid’s menu at restaurants and it’s downhill from there, financially speaking. Soon they start needing things they never needed before – cellphones, deodorant, face scrubs, and all manner of personal hygiene products.

They become increasingly conscious about the way they look, so your famous bowl haircuts will no longer suffice – now you must shell out for a trip to the barber for fancy Cristiano Ronaldo-style haircuts. (If you think you can recreate this look yourself with a pair of clippers, trust me that you probably can’t and your kid will hate you for a couple weeks.)

Then they start eating twice as much as you do. Groceries that used to last a week are gone within days. Just when you financially start to catch your breath and think you can make it work somehow, they start talking about getting their license. You can’t afford a car for them but you call your car insurance company to find out how much it will cost to insure them at the very least – You end that phone call sick in your gut, because you have to tell your kid that they have to wait for their license because you can’t afford to insure them. Meanwhile “all their friends” have their license already, and some of them were even gifted cars. You have a good kid though, and while disappointed, he understands. In a way, this makes you feel even worse because he’s a good kid and deserves things you can’t provide.

On top of these expenses, your kids’ free public school education is not so free after all. In addition to increasingly expensive school supplies, laptops, a printer, printer ink and paper to ensure your teen can type up and hand in presentable assignments, there are fees for everything imaginable. Dances, clubs, science projects, yearbooks, class trips, fancy calculators, musical instruments – God help you if they want to play a sport. And when you have an especially ambitious teen who wants to take advanced college-level classes, you pay even more.

When your child becomes a Junior in high school, it’s time to start seriously looking at the cost of college. There are days your brain just can’t take anymore. Your child will be talking about tuition, room and board, meal plans, books, and other expenses. With glazed eyes you will just nod your head while fantasizing about running away, except you don’t even have enough gas in your car to make it out of town, let alone enough money in the account to book a flight to Cancún.

So, back to the original scene – we had just grocery shopped, which is less and less fun the older I get. When I make it home, I’m just thankful the whole process is over – and then my son tells me he needs money.

What does he need money for? He needs to buy a suit. We’ve long put this off because of the expense but it was becoming unavoidable. His admittance into the National Honor Society and various other upcoming events would require it.

I felt panicked, frustrated, exhausted.

“I don’t know how we’ll find the money for a suit.” I sat at the dinner table surrounded by the bags of groceries and put my head in my hands.

My older son, thrift-minded thanks to his upbringing and the necessity of being so, offered, “We could look at Goodwill and Salvation Army?”

“Maybe,” I responded, but I wasn’t optimistic about the idea. I had looked for suits there before and even when I’ve been lucky enough to find the right size, they’re usually horribly outdated.

“What’s wrong?” Carlos asked, because apparently he had tuned out the whole conversation. So I explained that our son needed a suit within the next two weeks and I wasn’t sure how we’d afford one.

Carlos was uncharacteristically calm. (It seems we switch personalities every now and then.)

“A suit? Hmmm… Let me make a phone call.”

Carlos disappeared into the bedroom and came back 10 minutes later.

“I may have found a suit for you.”

Carlos had called a local Salvadoran woman who has been somewhat of a surrogate mother to him the past few years. She’s well-connected within the local Latino community so Carlos simply told her our older son would need a suit within the next two weeks and asked her if she could keep an eye out.

Her response?

“I have a closet full of suits. Come to my house with your son at six o’clock and we’ll see if any of them fit… And bring Tracy so she can make sure they look nice.”

At six o’clock we arrived at her house. She showed us into a bedroom with suits hung in the closet and some laid out on the bed. She later told me that she had actually had twice as many not long ago because a lawyer she knows had given them to her so that her visiting brother could take them back to El Salvador. These suits were just the remains of what he didn’t want or couldn’t fit in his suitcases.

It turned out two suits fit our son and she encouraged him to take them both. “If a suit fits you, too” she said to Carlos, “take it, please. You’re welcome to it.”

And so that’s the story of how Carlos procured not one, but two suits for our son, (plus one for himself) within just a few hours, thanks to our friend and the magic that is the Latino community.

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