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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish language’

Would you please have sex with that chair?

In behavior, business, culture, life, travel, work, world on July 16, 2012 at 1:50 am
The most commonly known foreign languages (inc...

The most commonly known foreign languages (including Irish as a second language) in the Republic of Ireland in 2005.

Je parle francais.

Hablo espanol.

I speak two languages in addition to my native English — “speak” means conducting a general social conversation. It does not mean discussing nuclear physics or how to perform some surgical intervention.

Nor do I have a handle on the boatloads of idioms that make one a truly elegant speaker; one of my favorite blogs is this one, which sends out a fresh French idiom — almost as good as a baguette! — every day. (Elle a du chien, je crois.)

I wanted to speak both languages to work as a foreign correspondent; by the time I’d acquired the necessary skill and experience, journalism had begun its lurching descent into cost-cutting and foreign bureaus worldwide were being shut down. Tant pis!

But being someone in New York who speaks two foreign languages has helped me win jobs, both staff and freelance. It seems to awe the uni-lingual. (Educated Europeans speak 4, 5 or 6 languages and think little of it.)

I’ve lived in France and Mexico, and have visited both places many times. I hope to retire to France, so speaking the language well (better!) is important to me. My American husband, Jose, who is of Mexican descent, had a fun time with me when we visited Mexico…as everyone turned to him and began chatting in Spanish, which he understands but does not speak. He’d point to me, the white Canadian girl, as the one who actually does speak it.

Speaking French gave me the best year of my entire life, on an eight-month fellowship based in Paris that sent me all over Europe to do reporting on someone else’s dime. It allowed me to work in Montreal, where I met my first American husband, at the Gazette. It allows me to think seriously about retiring to France, as no language barrier daunts me.

Maybe this is simply having grown up in Canada, which has two official languages, French and English. Growing up there means seeing many items labeled in both languages. It’s completely normal to meet fellow Anglophones who speak fluent French — without which any government job is difficult-to-impossible to obtain.

I never understand people who disdain the notion of learning another language, a second or third tongue. It has opened doors to me professionally and personally, allowing me to make friendships that would have been otherwise impossible, like those with Mila (Brazilian) and Yasuro (Japanese), who shared that glorious fellowship in Paris. I don’t speak Portuguese or Japanese, but we all got along famously in our second shared language.

I lived in Mexico for four months when I was 14, and quickly learned two new adjectives, often hissed suggestively at me by men on the street or the bus: fuerita and juerita. (Little foreigner and little blondie.) I had an older, fatter friend  — she was fuerota/juerota.

Of course, trying to communicate in another tongue means making some delicious mistakes.

In French, the verb baiser can to kiss or to have sex with. The meanings of words, in Spanish, can change significantly from one country to another — so coger (to physically pick up, one meaning) can also mean to have sex with. Yes, I’d like you to have sex with that chair, please!

You can imagine…

My mother, traveling for years alone through Latin America, once declared passionately that she had many toilets! (Tengo muchos excusados...meaning, she thought, “reasons.”)

Do you speak several languages?

Which ones?

When and where do you use them? Why did you learn them?

Dites-nous!

The Naming Of Things

In animals, antiques, art, beauty, life on October 1, 2011 at 10:45 am
How exactly do I milk this thing?

Image by Unhindered by Talent via Flickr

Holstein, Jersey…

Then I ran out of names for cows. I’m not a farm girl and, although a big fan of milk and yogurt (thanks, cows!) I’m at a loss to name more than two breeds of them.

For someone who prides herself on knowing a lot about the world, this annoys me.

I went for a walk and tried to name all the trees I saw. I could recognize plane, oak, maple, elm, chestnut, white and red pine, cedar, Japanese maple, birch…But not walnut. I’d feel a little silly carrying a field guide, but how else will I know how to name the things around me?

We know to name the things that matter most, but why can I name (sigh) the makers of $800 shoes more readily than I can cite the names of the trees and flowers and birds that give me the most pleasure?

Having studied a variety of disciplines, from photography to sailing to saber fencing to interior design to two languages (French and Spanish), I have a large and varied vocabulary I enjoy:

quoin, dentil, parapluie, tenedor, gunwhale, boom vang, crazing, metamerism.

What are some of the favorite words you use in your worlds?

John Paton — The Scots-Canadian Publisher Who Rules Hispanic Media

In business, Media on November 9, 2009 at 7:48 am
Newspapers

Image by laffy4k via Flickr

We all know the drill: newspapers are dying, journalism is the Titanic, get out now!

One man, at least, has flipped that script — John Paton, 52, a Canadian who moved to the U.S. in 2003, this year named Publisher of the Year by Editor & Publisher, the industry bible. He heads Impremedia, a national media company that recently inked a deal with AOL to supply their Spanish-language news. Impremedia’s products are read by 30 percent of American Hispanics, from El Mensajero in L.A. to El Diario La Prensa in Manhattan. Impremedia runs 13 print publications and 14 online properties. When it comes to diversity in his company, “I’m it!” he jokes, often the lone white guy in the room.

The way Paton, a star in Canadian publishing in Toronto and Ottawa before moving south, thinks about distributing information is really interesting — the newspaper, the printed word, sits at the end of a six-step daily information dissemination chain that begins, at every one of his print properties, with social media. I interviewed him recently and found him engaging, warm, down-to-earth, and genuinely excited about his industry, the same one in which The New York Times is desperate to buy out 100 bodies by Christmas.

Here’s my story about this intriguing man — who grew up in the projects of Glasgow and London, Ontario — now one of the most successful publishers in the U.S.

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