Quick! I Need a Spanish Translation

Terry Marshall

Note: This Spanish translation page is part of a series of blogs that we did while learning Spanish language in Peru. Each blog focuses on one or two language learning tips. They are designed to show you how to implement Walkabout language learning solutions. Use our examples here for any language you want to learn. See the "More Peru Stories" list of links on this page for additional language learning tips. Also see our Learn Spanish section.

"No problema, señor," Rigoberto said. Approximate Spanish translation: "Don't worry about a thing, Sir. My guys can take care of that wall in a week. Leave the details to me."

Remember the "Courtesy notice" from our local homeowners association – the one with a pre-trip demand to paint the pony wall in front of our house? We didn't have time ourselves, so we contracted through a friend of a friend to get the work done. The price was right. I liked him. In fact, I like dealing with immigrant workers, not only because I get to practice my Spanish translation, but because they work hard. He could finish it up a week before we left. So we negotiated the details. I thought ...

That was two weeks ago. Come Wednesday – toward the end of the second week – I'm worried. The work's crawling toward the half-way mark.

"Mañana," he says. "En la tarde" – Spanish translation: tomorrow afternoon?! Ohmygoodness.

Thursday comes and goes. Friday. The weekend. Monday passes. Tuesday arrives: we're leaving tomorrow at 3:30 a.m. My guy knows if he doesn't finish today he won't get paid until we get back.

He's hard at it this morning early, and with a larger crew. I keep tabs on the work. Somehow I learn he's not planning to paint the fence columns – only the metal railings (a misunderstanding I thought we clarified a week ago).

Then, as he explains the lack of progress on the patio, I realize he's asking me if I want him to repaint it, or just apply a new seal. Another point we clarified a week ago. We even sat on the front steps and chose the color from the paint chips. So much for my Spanish translation.

We've talked about each point a half-dozen times – in English, in Spanish, all mezclado in an English-Spanish salad. We still came away with different visions.

It's the final countdown: less than 12 hours before we leave for Cusco, and unfinished tasks are raining down like hail. Amid all the normal last-minute flurries comes one of those great lessons in why we need to learn other languages, and some language learning tips.

Yeah, yeah, I know: I should have written up a bilingual contract - a cut and dried language learning solution - and clarified it point by point, but that takes all the fun out of doing business on a handshake. Or I could have gone with one of a half-dozen companies who specialize in this kind of work – if they would have deigned to come look at a small-potatoes job like ours. (Past experiences say no.) Besides, where's the language learning solution in that?

No sweat, we've got hours left before nightfall. The work's coming along fine. It looks great.

After our trip to Peru, when we've completed the language learning solution at Maximo Nivel, we'll be experts. When we get back home next month, stuffed to the brim with real-life Spanish, we'll be able to call our new friend Rigoberto, tell him in fluid, unbroken sentences (dream on) how much we appreciate the work he did. Better yet, we'll ask him what he told us in those long, ebullient explanations he gave (to which we nodded and smiled and said, "Sí, sí, buen idea").

If you'd like to try the same techniques we're using, we recommend that you download the Walkabout Language Learning Action Guide. It will show you how to create your own tailor-made language learning program that you can use in your own country or abroad.

So are there some language learning tips? There's one, I think, about construction work causing gray hairs. But everyone knows that. How about: man, if we're going to thrive here, we need to know Spanish. We need a language learning solution.

More importantly, we missed a real opportunity to expand our Spanish, right here at home. We could have, should have written down the five things we needed Rigoberto to do, done a Spanish translation (to the best of our ability, combined with that of Rigoberto's son), discussed and revised them – in Spanish and English – until we were sure we understood one another, then made one copy for him and one for us. And what would have been good for our Spanish abilities would also have been pretty helpful for our pony wall! Too late smart.

Adios for now. We're off to Peru not only for the romance of it, but to experience a language learning solution that promises to make life at home a little bit easier. Our next edition of language learning tips will be from south of the border. Way south.

Language Learning Tips

For a language learning solution when contracting across cultures:

  • Briefly list (in English) services needed.
  • Translate to workers' language (get help).
  • Make copies for contractor and yourself.

– Posted by Terry, October 2

Previous: Peru Things to Do List             Next: Free Spanish Lessons

Return from Quick! I Need Some Spanish Translation Skills to Culture Corner

Return to Your Language Guide home

Stay in Touch with Language Lore ezine

Want to stay in touch? Subscribe to Language Lore, our internet language learning email newsletter. This free ezine facilitates your language learning journey. See our back issues here.

Go to your email now to confirmation your subscription. If you don't see an email within an hour (check your junk mail folder too), please contact us. We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber lists. If you want to get off this list later, one click unsubscribes you.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.