It had been more than five weeks since I had arrived at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio.
Through the university of my country, I was given a scholarship in order to improve my English. Since this did not cover my personal expenses I had to get a part time job. However, my student visa only allowed me to work on campus. The only jobs available at that time were as a receptionist in my dorm and serving food at the cafeteria. I accepted both jobs. The second one didn’t involve any stress for me, but the first one did.
Every time the phone at my desk rang my blood pressure went up and my heart raced. The last names I had to figure out and try to pronounce were very challenging. For instance, someone asks:
“May I please talk to David Shawn?
“David Chón?” I replied concerned about my enunciation and looking in my student list for such a name. I did not see in my list the name Chón.
“Could you please spell it for me” I said, trying to be calm.
“I’ll connect you immediately with him”. I told him with a great relief. I was very happy when the connection was a success.
Once again the phone rang and a student asked for Ken Scott.
“Can Escott? One moment please” as I looked at my list hurriedly. I learned in English that “can” means to be able or a can, what a strange name!
I asked her again to spell for me and he said:
“Ah, Ken Scott. “ It was the first time I heard such a name. Besides, in Spanish we pronounce the K like cat and in Spanish, vowels don’t begin with S but rather Es, so English learners tend to add an E to English words beginning with S. Scott becomes “Escott”. This explains it all. Plus Spanish is a phonetical language, where words are spelled like they sound.
I was just about to finish my turn when two female students came in looking for the restroom. I immediately translate in Spanish rest- descansar and room- cuarto. And I sent them to the living room thinking well, this is a room to rest. I wasn’t done with my thinking when both students were at the office again, telling me that they did not find the restroom. So I decided to show them.
Well, I was wrong once again. Then, one of them said:
“I really have to pee”.
“Ah, you want to go to the bathroom. Why you didn’t say that? Or use the word toilet or the British expression water closet?” I told them that the restroom was in the basement to their right. They looked at me as if I were drunk.
There were more incidents like this, but these are the ones that still are in my memory.
11 thoughts on “Anécdotas Culturales/Cultural Anecdotes”
I really liked this anecdote. I thought it was actually kind of funny. It is sometimes really hard to understand people. Sometimes you do have to have people spell out what they are saying to understand what they are saying. It must have been really frustrating I mean I know how it feels considering I do not understand everything that you say in spanish. Everyone pronounces things differently.
I work two jobs on campus too! I am a tutor, and I also work at a dining hall; your blog practically read my rind! The first description of my dining hall job would be “stress-free,” just as you put it. It’s a fantastic time, but tutoring? Yikes! I don’t think anyone in the United States would ever call the bathroom a water-closet, but rest-room does not make much sense now does it? Just goes to show you how confusing the English language is, for example: one drives on a parkway and one parks on a driveway, so why do we call a parkway a parkway and a driveway a driveway! Why not PARK on the PARKWAY and DRIVE on the DRIVEWAY!
Hace dos veranos en el pasado, yo tenía una novia brasileña. Ella estaba en los Estados Unidos con una visa de trabajo y ella estaba aprendiendo inglés. Su experiencia de trabajo en el dormitorio es similar a muchas de nuestras experiencias. El Portugués es similar al español en muchos aspectos, pero es muy diferente también. Ella dijo que las palabras que empiezan con s de la misma manera que usted dijo que las palabras que empiezan con s. Ella pronunció las vocales en el final de las palabras también. Por ejemplo, para el refresco coke ella le dijo “cok-ee.” Una noche ella y yo estábamos hablando por teléfono y ella le dijo “I am afraid of es-nak-ees” (I am afraid of snakes). Pensé que ella le dijo “I’m afraid its naked.” Yo estaba confundido por un momento y entonces me reí.
It has been said that the English language is so complicated because it is followed by no rules. I think trying to understand any sort of language because almost is said differently. The Spanish language is hard to grasp like the English language but is able to learn.
Así es, Michael, aprender un idioma es un desafío, pero vale la pena. De esta manera, podemos entender mejor la cultura y sus tradiciones.
Tu profesora de español,
I really liked this story. It is another example of how different places call things differently. It shows also how different letters are pronounce or just not commonly used in other languages. I can see how easily this can become difficult to someone knew speaking English. I would have the same difficulty speaking Spanish.
This is actually a very funny misconception. You explain what went wrong very well and one can see how this could happen. Those girls must of been annoyed, but you handled it very professionally. This is a great story and a great way to show the differences between English and Spanish.
This is really funny! I can’t stop smiling after I finish reading this. You have some pretty great stories and thank you for sharing it. It takes a lot of courage to work two jobs and study at the same time at a place that speaks a different language than what you were used to.
Hace mucho tiempo que sucedió esto, pero me acuerdo como si hubiera sucedido hoy. Las personas que me preguntaron posiblemente, pensaron que estaba bromeando o tomándoles el pelo.
What a great story! I’m sure that was very stresfull but I imagine you probably learned a lot of American terms pretty quickly. It’s funny how we take our primary languages for granted. For example, I think English is very easy to learn when in reality it’s one of the hardest. It’s weird how those things work!
Growing up with English you get used to these sayings but after attempting to look at them in a foreign perspective. These examples are very funny. I think I would struggle more than I do try to learn Spanish if I had to learn English.