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¿Cómo se dice? . . .  May 5, 2016

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Humor, Travel & Leisure.

fotostockchameleonAt the library book sale, I picked up some colorful books on Mexico.

As I flipped through the warm and vibrant photos, I wondered what life might be like in Mexico.

Here, it is easy to fill my days.  I have more than enough to do without juggling languages.

I enjoy being near a supermarket that speaks English (even if I can’t always pronounce all the ingredients).  Shopping for groceries that are yakking at me in French, Spanish, Chinese, or Russian would be a challenge, to say the least.

Food is far too important to our health and well-being to take any chances on mixing up essential ingredients.  Imagine requesting a bar of chocolate and getting stuck with a head of cauliflower.

Quelle Horreur!


Just in case I get caught on the other side of the looking glass . . .

¿Cómo se dice? . . . chocolate cake?


¿Cómo se dice? . . . bagels?

2014-09-03 16-03-59_0015

¿Cómo se dice? . . . quesadilla con salsa?


Oh, right.  Quesadilla con salsa.

Well . . . one out of three ain’t bad.  Good to know I won’t starve, but what about intellectual stimulation?

I enjoy lectures at the library, but if speakers spoke any language other than English, their thoughts would fly right over my head.  I would miss all the lovely nuances.

And, speaking of talking, I enjoy chatting with people I meet on the street, in stores, and around town without peppering every other sentence with ¿Cómo se dice? . . .

IMGP3167bI expect I would feel cut off and disconnected from reality if every conversation around me took place in a language foreign to my ears.

¿Cómo se dice? . . . mad as a hatter?

Even flipping through channels to find something to watch on TV would be far different.

Of course, watching TV is one way to learn a foreign language.

A contestant on Jeopardy this season moved to the U.S. from Russia as a child.  He learned impeccable English watching MacGyver.

He also learned how to make a bomb out of vinegar, baking soda, and duct tape.

Aah . . . that’s better!




1. Jill Weatherholt - May 5, 2016

“Food is far too important to our health and well-being to take any chances on mixing up essential ingredients.” I agree, Nancy. Years ago, while in Venezuela, I thought I’d ordered lobster. To this day, I don’t know what it was…mushy and gray.

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

That sounds horrid, Jill . . .

Eating out is often a crap shoot ~ even when we think we know what we are ordering, the preparation may turn a delectable dish into something completely different. And disappointing.

Jill Weatherholt - May 5, 2016

I think it might have been some sort of brains…it was nasty. 😦 And I was hungry!

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

ICK! You poor thing.

I’ve always wondered why anyone thought putting brains on the menu would be a smart idea. Even before I opted to be a vegetarian, organ meats held less than no appeal.

Um, tongue? Nada por mi, gracious.

2. Kate Crimmins - May 5, 2016

These are some of the challenges our emigrating ancestors had to overcome. I always appreciate their courage in leaving their homes for a better future in another country. (and for bringing their wonderful recipes with them!)

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Yes! My ancestors came from England (in the 1600’s) and Scotland (early 1900’s). The language barrier may not have been much of a barrier . . . but crossing the Atlantic was a challenge. Especially in the 1600’s.

And imagine living here back then, trying to survive brutally cold New England winters without central heating, or summers without refrigeration and air conditioning.

All before margaritas were invented!
To Cinco de Mayo!

3. anotherday2paradise - May 5, 2016

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Nancy. 🙂

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Thanks, Sylvia. To Cinco de Mayo!

Not only was Mexico victorious south of the border, the outcome of the David and Goliath battle thwarted France’s plan to assist Robert E. Lee’s Confederate troops.


anotherday2paradise - May 5, 2016

Thanks, Nancy. I’m sure many of my friends think it’s Mexican Independence Day, but that’s only in September.

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

I thought it was Mexican Independence Day until I read the Time’s article. I learned something new!

4. Bun Karyudo - Humor Blog - May 5, 2016

It would be a bit of a jolt to suddenly find yourself in a country without English, but I guess you’d cope once you’d picked up a bit of the language. I loved the MacGyver joke at the end, by the way! 😀

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

I might be able to pick up a few nuances if I landed in France, Italy, Spain, Mexco, Hispaniola, Jamaica, or Switzerland. If I landed in China, Japan, Thailand, India, Russia, Germany, or the Netherlands, it would be a real eye opener.

I cracked up when the Russian immigrant on Jeopardy, who did have impeccable English, shared that he’d learned the language watching MacGyver. It made me wonder what ELSE he’d learned from the series . . .

Bun Karyudo - Humor Blog - May 5, 2016

It is pretty funny, isn’t it? I have to admit, though, that I’m impressed by it too. Picking up languages like that is definifely not a skill that I’ve ever had. 🙂

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

At one point, my dream was “to speak ALL the languages of the world” and be an interpreter at the United Nations.

Needless to say, I never made it quite that far with my foreign language studies.

Je parle un peu de Francais and une poquito d’espanol.

5. L. Marie - May 5, 2016

Feliz cinco de mayo!
As for a chocolate cake, you could ask for “un pastel de chocolate.” 🙂

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Perfect! Thanks, Linda. We almost went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch today . . . and the dessert menu included:



6. William D'Andrea - May 5, 2016

During the 1970s and 80s I visited Mexico frequently; and I found it not to be as difficult as you imagine. Everyone who deals with tourists, such as taxi drivers, hotel desk clerks, bell hops, people who work in restaurants, etc. all spoke enough English so I hardly ever had difficulty getting along.
As for those who don’t deal with the public. Most Mexicans know enough English to have some kind of conversation.
I remember once in Mexico City, a local man who said he was an English Professor, actually asked to speak with me, just so he could practice speaking English with someone, for who it is his native tongue. I don’t remember what we talked about, as we walked along the streets in downtown Mexico City, but I was glad to be helpful.
I also remember being seated in an outdoor restaurant, with my Berlitz English/Spanish dictionary on the table beside me. A few nice looking young senoritas were seated at the next table.
One of them said, “Pardoneme. We would like to practice talk English with you.”
That led to a very pleasant time while I was there. Please don’t get the wrong idea. They were accompanied by their duena (chaperone) so nothing went too far.
As for the food. There’s always the problem of Montezuma’s revenge. Which can lead to someone wondering “What did I ever do to Montezuma?”
Before you get into that situation; go to the local pharmacia, and get yourself a bottle of lomatil tablets. Then you should get by okay.

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Sounds like you would do great South of the Border, William. I’m sure BFF and I would muddle through as touristas . . . but I was wondering what it would be like to LIVE there for a year or so.

I expect that buying groceries and attending lectures would be a tad more challenging if those around us were speaking Spanish.

7. Val Boyko - May 5, 2016

I’ll be asking the same next week in Italy! Although the language is similar, I am always careful with “burro”.
Fun post Nancy!

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Have FUN maneuvering around Italy, Val.

I’m sure we’d do fine if we went for a short visit to Italy or Mexico, spent eating out and seeing the sights. But I do wonder how we would fill our days during an extended stay.

Val Boyko - May 5, 2016

Festivals and markets are always fun 😎

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Enjoy your trip. Italian food in Italy is a BIG draw for us.

8. Ally Bean - May 5, 2016

I hear Spanish and French when I’m going about town, occasionally Chinese or Russian, too. I can’t speak any of those languages, but I enjoy hearing them, knowing people from other places have decided to live where I do. It makes the world seem cozier to me. Of course, I’m not struggling to communicate here so maybe I’d feel otherwise if the tables were turned.

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

We went to Highland Hammock State Park today. As we hiked along the “catwalk” (a boardwalk through a cypress swamp), I overheard some sightseers speaking Japanese.

It does make the world seem cozier.

9. suzicate - May 5, 2016

Yes, a language barrier can create big problems: When my sister was taking Spanish in high school I was nine years old and she and her friend kept taunting me by calling me “cinco”. I told my mom and they got in so much trouble as she did not believe it really meant five, ha!
My first born is my “Cinco de Mayo” baby…he turned 30 today!

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Happy Birthday to your Cinco de Mayo “baby.” My niece’s fiance is celebrating a birthday today too!

suzicate - May 5, 2016

And happy birthday to him!

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Sounds like he’s having a good day ~ complete with lemon birthday cake.

10. Carol Ferenc - May 5, 2016

All four of my grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden and none of them had any problems with English. Their accents were very slight. Now I wish that I had asked them about their experiences in learning a new language. It would have been fun to see it from their perspective. Interesting topic, Nancy.

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Thanks, Carol. The books on Mexico had such appealing photos with such vibrant colors that it really got me thinking.

But I think we’ll stay put . . . for now, anyway.

11. colonialist - May 5, 2016

It is truly amazing how quickly one can learn the essential phrases – I have been able to order beer like a local within minutes of entering an entirely foreign country!

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Yes! Essential phrases are . . . essential!

Another bottle of wine, please.
Where is the bathroom?
I’m lost.
I need chocolate.

12. reocochran - May 5, 2016

I learned Spanish for at least 8 years of my life but sometimes may flounder on speaking but can somehow understand most of what people around me are saying in Spanish, Nancy. I loved the chocolate cake and bagels and wish I could help you with some of these, but am really liking your taking books out to study the language and culture.
My Grandmother from Germany insisted on learning, with quite persistence how to speak English. She was “ashamed” of Hitler and Germany for quite some time. She caught my brothers playing like Rocky and Bullwinkle, saying the “Russians were our enemy.” She gave them a lecture and said, “Each individual is to be taken one by one, don’t judge a person for their country’s choices.” I remember the essence of this always when I meet new people or see unusual people. “Don’t judge a book by their cover,” is another way of putting it. My Grandfather came from Sweden and wouldn’t use his native language either so my Mom one of two daughters regrets this, since she learned Spanish and taught it for nearly 30 years. Feliz Cinco de Mayo, abrazos y besos, Nancy! (hugs and kisses)

nrhatch - May 5, 2016

Thanks, Robin! Love your grandmother’s admonition to your brothers. So true. Even when governments are at war, the populace of both can foster a one-on-one peace with their peers.

I took French and Spanish in High School and a bit more French in college . . . but didn’t really get to the conversational level in either. Just enough to maneuver around menus.

13. Under the Oaks - May 6, 2016

Interesting post, Nancy. I am not good at traveling so I will be staying in the US but when I worked retail language was occasionally a challenge.

nrhatch - May 6, 2016

I hear ya, Pix. There’s a lot to be said for staying stateside.

14. roughwighting - May 6, 2016

And yet, I’m so envious of those who can speak several languages. I like the way Europeans educate their children to speak at least two, and many times three languages. How our world would open up!

nrhatch - May 6, 2016

Where I live, the lack of a 2nd or 3rd language isn’t an impediment to living a full life.

If we lived in Europe, I would want to speak English, French, Spanish, Italian, and basic German.

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