Wednesday, 11 November 2015

What's fluency?

When you study a language (in my case Spanish) you complete the course, and then, they either give you a certificate, or fail you.  This certificate says you speak said language.  Here I have seen signs that advertise language learning as "English in 6 weeks - guaranteed".  WOW! that is some promise.

Well, they gave me a certificate, after a year of language study, which said I spoke Spanish.  Then we headed off to Nicaragua, where I learned that it was not that simple.  They talked about 'chico plástico' which from my classes would mean 'plastic kid' but which actually meant 'rich kid' (must be related to melting down your credit card!).  Then later I moved to Chihuahua, where people referred to one another as 'Güey' which translated is an 'ox'.  What? Why would you call a person an ox?  They use this expression here in GDL as well, quite frequently as a matter of fact.
Güey: The international word, known by everyone.
Used to refer to anybody, either male or female.
In Mexico anybody is Güey

When we get caught trying to understand something, because we are translating the words directly, we soon learn that that does not work.  Language is not static, and usually you can't translate it word for word, and still convey the correct meaning.  Remember when 'gay' meant happy? Not only is language not static but it changes from place to place, even though the same language is spoken.  I have said things here that would have a totally different meaning in GDL than they would in Nicaragua.  One must learn a language and then grow with it.  You need to listen to things people say and then ask what they mean.  Be a student of the language, forever.
Here are a few samples of words that have meaning in their cultural context.  Dictionaries are not always the best with these words.
CHIDO: Do you like something? Then it is Chido.
Is something enjoyable? Then it is Chido.

NETA: If someone says 'Neta', that means they are telling you the absolute truth.
If someone asks if it is 'neta', they are trying to confirm that you are saying
something truthfully, because they find it hard to believe.  

PADRE: This is not a reference to your father or a priest.
It is the 'light' version of 'CHIDO'. When something is 'padre'
it means that you like it. 

FRESA: Refers to a young person that is presuming wealth and
belonging to a high social class (similar to flaunting your wealth).

Two guys (I think they are Colombian) made a YouTube video about this very thing.  Unfortunately for most of my readers you will miss the joy of it.  They talk about the fact that when you learn a language, you need to stay put! Because if you move (from South America to Mexico,  for example) you will get in trouble because words will have other meanings than the ones you had learned. 

What is my solution to this? Well, its not to not move.  Its to be able to laugh at yourself.  Be willing to make mistakes.  Languages are rich, the more you have under your belt the richer your life.  Like "Schlope Sheen" (Low German), is just so much more rich than good night.  Bon Appetit is much fuller than enjoy you meal?  Oh the joy of languages and laughter. 

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