Tuesday, February 5, 2008

When You Need Spanish Right Away

Here in Los Angeles, if you need to communicate in Spanish you usually don't have to look far to find someone who is bilingual to assist, but what about the times when no one is around? Let me cut to the chase:

Today, my gardener and I had an interesting exchange. He's new so I always have to remind him who I am on the phone. I had received a notice from DWP. In order for the meter readers to do their jobs I needed to clean out some pretty extensive bird droppings that they did not want to wade through. I had asked the gardener to hose the area down once each month as part of our agreement. When we set it up it was with a lot of hand gestures but over the phone is another matter.

The two key words are "bird" and "droppings." Growing up, I learned "caca" and "mierda" for the obvious, but that couldn't be socially correct. But, what is "bird?" (Pollo doesn't count. That's chicken.) While Rafael waited on the phone, I ran to http://spanishdict.com and typed in "Bird." The answer came back "Pajaro." That's right! I remembered from 8th grade Spanish. I studied Spanish from 7th grade through Senior Year in college and spent a trimester immersed in the language in Bogota Colombia, but if you don't use it, well, you know the rest.

I typed in "Droppings." Nada. Rafael was still hanging on. I explained to him "las cosas dejan por los pajarros." "Huh?" he said in the universal language. He called his teen-aged daughter to decipher my broken Spanish but she was too busy to come to the phone. He said "I'll be there Friday." I am sure, hoping for luck with my sign language.

But there are forums at the site in which you can ask questions (after a free sign up). I posted an email with my question and in a few minutes I had my answer from a lady named "Cherry": "There are several that you could use: 'excrementos fecales de ave' or 'heces de ave.' Ave is 'bird' or you could also say 'pájaro,' " she explained.

Armed with this knowledge, now I can get the DWP off my back. But I will return to http://spanishdict.com because you can learn Spanish (or re-learn) at their site with a daily tutorial. Buena Suerte!

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