SOMETHING IS LOST [AND FOUND] IN THE TRANSLATION
(Originally published in Pensamientos--Está Aquí)
In the coming months I hope to share with you a few humorous incidents that occurred during my travels in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world.
Many years ago I worked as a bilingual receptionist/switchboard operator in an international department store in Laredo, Texas. I received calls in both Spanish and English and for the most part had no problem transferring them to the proper department. This was one of the easiest and most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had and believe me I’ve had a great variety over the years.
One morning, however, as I answered my little switchboard, a rather gruff male Anglo voice demanded, “Gimme Krat!”
Now, I had no idea what a “krat” was and asked the gentleman to repeat his request.
“Uh, I beg your pardon, sir, what department is that in?”
“The krat department!”
After a few rounds of getting nowhere with this gentleman, I decided to strike out on my own. Obviously I had no idea what a “krat” was, but I thought that maybe it was an auto part since I knew next to nothing about auto parts. Besides, I figured that if that was the wrong department, the auto clerk would tell me which one. So, I connected the call to the Automotive Department and right on cue, the Automotive light blinked back. I answered with anticipation expecting to be told the right department. However, the clerk said hurriedly “You’ve got the wrong department!” and hung up.
Realizing that I would get nowhere if I asked the gentleman to repeat himself, I boldly plunged ahead and transferred the call to the Service Department. Surely someone there would know anything and everything about "krats”. A few minutes later the Service Department light blinked and as I answered the clerk said, “You’ve got the wrong department!” and hung up.
Being ever enterprising I decided to try all of the departments until I found the right one. I sent the call to Men’s Clothing, Sports, Shoes, and was told by each one that I had the wrong department. Finally, in desperation I tried Women’s Wear although I didn’t think that a krat was an article of feminine adornment. And that, amigos y amigas, is where I found my answer.
The Women’s Wear light blinked and as I answered, the saleslady said quite concisely, “El señor quiere el departamento de crédito.”
Ah, Spanish, such a lovely language—so clear and understandable—a phonetic language where one can’t help but understand every word, every syllable. ¿Crédito-credit-krat? ¡Increíble!
Of course, anywhere one goes in the Spanish-speaking world, the language can be understood quite easily, right? Spanish speakers would never mangle a word like crédito.
And Spanish in one country is the same in all the others, wouldn’t you think? Take the word guagua, for example. Would someone transferred from Laredo, Texas to San Juan, Puerto Rico have a problem with a word like that?
To be continued . . .