January 25, 2017

Lost in translation Mexico City style...

So I was asked today how my Español was coming along...after a year, it’s about as good as my Russian was while we were living in Moscow.  There I could say “no more vodka please” and used a sophisticated expression for what I thought was “have a good evening” only to realize after 2 years I was actually saying the childish equivalent of “nighty nighty, sleep tighty”.  I finally figured that one out the week before we moved from the motherland which explained the never ending side eye I received.

Today I was standing in line at the grocery store and heard a woman behind me launch into a quick-paced heated Spanish conversation.  Her voice was insistent and got louder and louder as she was relentlessly trying to get her point across.  I minded my own business, stared at the ground and tried to politely ignore the escalation behind me.  After a minute I finally turned around to see what was happening...only to realize she was simply trying to tell me her cashier aisle was open so I didn’t have to stand in the long line on aisle three.  The crowd behind was staring at the floor. My high school Spanish teacher is slowly shaking his head with tears in his eyes.  Lo siento Señor Mecina!

We all know Starbucks delivers a comical experience when it comes to writing names on cups.  “Ann” seems to be hard for Spanish speakers to say - so I usually say my name is “Anita” (little Ann or Annie).  This prompts deep rooted snickers and belly laughter every time.  I’m always up for a good laugh but I was starting to get a complex.  I finally asked a Mexican friend - que pasa?  She said “you are 5’9” and the fact that you call yourself ‘little Ann’ is hilarious to Mexicans - they are not buying it!”.  I now tell them my name is Gabriella Maria Sofia Francisca. The laughter has stopped.

Metro station identification is genius here.  Like most urban metropolises, Mexico City has a bustling metro subway system that was built in 1967 in preparation for the Olympics. To make it easy for visitors and because adult literacy rates were low at the time, picture icons were created to identify each stop, (side note:  50 years later, literacy has risen to just under 95 percent). 

This easy to read metro stop identification makes sense to me and is far better than, say, the Russian metro system where station names are at least 15 characters long - all consonants with a few Greek letters thrown in for good measure.  

You make the call...which seems easier to you?

Moscow Metro
Mexico Metro

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