Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Say What?

One of the fun things about living in a place where English is not the primary language, other than learning the new one, is discovering words that do not exist in English. Most of these discoveries occur organically through incidental conversation. Other time it happens when a student is attempting to translate something and asks what the English word is, in Spanish. This second option usually results in a round of charades followed by a polling of the class. Eventually, I figure out what they are talking about, but still can not answer their question.

A few examples off the top of my head:

Pequeca In English, we just say "stinky feet smell" or "foot odor." In Spanish (or at least Colombian Spanish) there is a word to describe this particular odor. Since learning it, I have heard it used to describe anything that stinks, but it always stinks "like pequeca."

Estrenar This verb is a fun one since it is very limited in it's use. It means literally, "to wear for the first time." I guess in English we ask a similar question: Are those new shoes? Clearly though, we do not have a verb explicitly for such an occasion.

Vaso Sometimes when I run, I get a "side cramp" or a "side stitch." In reality, this is not very specific for this pain could be anywhere on my side. This word, I learned during our recent Anatomy Unit, refers specifically to the type of side cramp one gets in the lower side of the abdomen, nearish to the spleen. Incidentally, spleen in Spanish is "bazo" which, as one of my brighter students pointed out to me, is a "homophone not by coincidence."

You have to love the things you "learn" from your students...

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