Lost in Translation

Our casita en Málaga has a TV with an attached DVD player, as well as an assortment of DVDs to watch if you so desire.  One of the movies is called “Lost in Translation,” a film that was produced about 10 years ago and that stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.  Little did we know that the phrase “Lost in Translation” would become a running joke for us while we are here in Málaga, and so I would like to share with you a few funny stories of miscommunication that we have enjoyed here.

The first day I met the owner of the casita where we are staying I rode with him to get a replacement gas cylinder for the house.  (Most of the city still does not have gas lines, so trips to the store to buy gas cylinders is a normal part of life here).  Antonio speaks English pretty well, and he was eager to practice his English with me, so instead of insisting that we speak Spanish, I just deferred to him.  However, when he was talking about the software development work that he does he kept mentioning a “geerl.”  Since I don´t know much about software programming, I kept trying to ascertain the meaning of “geerl” in context, but finally I asked him, “What is a geerl?”  And he replied, “You know … boys and geerls.”  One problem for native Spanish speakers who are learning English is that the letter “i” is always pronounced with a long “ee” sound in Spanish, thus “girl” is often pronounced “geerl.”

The first weekend after Sheri arrived we took a bus east to stay for the weekend in a picturesque, small, Spanish town called Frigiliana.  I had found the rental apartment on www.airbnb.com, but I could not remeber exactly what the owner Francisco looked like.  So, when we arrived at the bus stop I went looking for a 40-something-year-old Spanish dude who also was looking for us.  Soon I found a man who looked like he was looking for someone, so I walked up to him and asked, “Francisco?”  He looked at me puzzled and said, “No … yo hablo español (No … I speak Spanish).”  I cut him some slack on that one because, in all fairness, there are a lot of French people who live and/or travel in Spain.  We got a big kick out of that confused interchange.

Yesterday Sheri and I went with Antonio to the large convention center here in Málaga to see a healthy living fair where many vendors where selling lots of good food and other products.  Antonio mentioned that he liked a particular type of “wox,” and that he had found some of this good “wox” at the same fair the previous year.  My wife and I looked at each other puzzled thinking, “What the heck is wox?”  Silly us, we should have known that he was talking about the wax in good beeswax candles.

Antonio also told us about a past trip he took to Amsterdam, and he mentioned that several varities of marijuana are sold legally in Amsterdam as well as “peels.”  Hmmm … I´m not exactly proud of my use of drugs about 30 years ago, however I am pretty sure I had tried at least one time just about everything that was available on the streets.  Nonetheless, I can never remember doing any “peels” — who knows, I might have missed out on a good buzz.  Well, Antonio was not talking about peels, but instead was referring to drugs that are sold in pill form.  So, in Amsterdam one can get high legally on marijuana and pills, but hopefully no on is doing anything crazy with lemon peels.

Finally, today Sheri and I took a trip to a small town called Ronda that is located about 1.5 hours away, and we had a fabulous day.  Before we returned to Málaga, Sheri and I had a nice lunch at a restaurant that overlooks a river gorge.  I knew immediately that our waiter was not a native Spanish speaker by the way he talked, but also because his skin was much darker than your typical Spaniard.  So I asked him in Spanish, “Where are you from?”  And he replied by saying, “ten years.”  I responded and said slowly, “No, no … where are you from?”  Again he replied and said, “ten years.”  So then I replied and clarified that I was not asking him to tell me how long he had lived in Ronda, Spain, but instead I was curious to know where he was from originally.  Again he said, “ten years.”  At that point we realized that something was lost in translation, and as it turns out he was trying to tell me that he was from Tangier, as in the city of Tangier, Morocco.

Isn´t language fun!?