Today was one of my best communication days of our trip to Argentina. My wife Katherine is much better at Spanish than I am, but she can be shy in new places. I tend to be pretty uninhibited when it comes to jumping into a conversation before I’ve given any thought at all about how to say things, and as a result most people just stare at me until my body/sign language conveys the message. Katherine usually quietly tells me what I should have said after I mess something up, but this approach almost always works surprisingly well, except the many occassions that I order something completely unexpected for lunch or dinner…
Today I took a different approach. I actually asked Katherine how to say things, and I discovered that she really does know a lot of Spanish! The biggest victory came when we purchased boat tickets for a side-trip to Uruguay. While we stood in line for about 30 minutes–during which time most of the ticket attendants casually chatted and then left for lunch–I practiced the entire time. Everyone in line knew our travel plans: “Queremos ir a Montevideo a la veinte dos de noviembre en la mañana y regresar a Buenos Aires de Colonia a la veinte cinco de noviembre en la tarde.” I delivered it perfectly, and we actually got the right tickets!
In addition to Katherine, I have a secret weapon: google translate on my iPhone 5. Not only can you type something in one language and translate it to another, you can also speak one language and it will translate on the fly into another. For a slow and clumsy iPhone typist, this is amazing.
When we came across the sign shown here, I asked Katherine what it meant. She wasn’t sure about the word “Sueltos”, so this was my chance to shine. Before she had a chance to pull out her Spanish/English dictionary, I was speaking into my iPhone “Prohibido Animals Sueltos”. Here are the English translations, copied directly from the output of google translate, that it gave to me after trying many times:
1) pyro proxy stray animals to month
2) rocky dick ana madrid tous serum
3) rojito loose animals
4) roxi dick loose animals
5) hello loose animals received
By this time Katherine had figured out that it meant “no dogs without leashes”. In the process I managed to burn up a bunch of my battery and prepaid minutes…