One of the cutest things I encountered in Italian class was a misunderstanding. Our teacher would say, “chiaro?” often. This went on for days until finally one of my classmates asked what does “chiaro” mean? She thought that it meant “honey” or some other term of affection and that our teacher was calling us this several times an hour! Our teacher was asking us if we understood what was being said! “Chiaro?” means “clear?” in Italian.
The title of this blog posting refers to a Danish movie from 2000, and my current activity. “Italian for Beginners” is a lighthearted entertaining movie about Danes who want something a bit more interesting in their lives so they go to Italian class. Romance and “viaggio” to Italy ensue.
Learning Italian is a bit topsy turvy for me as Italian is, in many ways, the opposite of English and Spanish. For example, the “che” is a “kah” sound and the “ci” is “cheh” sound as in “ciao.” The double ell in Spanish is spelled with a “gli” in Italian but the double ell like in “bello” is a really forceful ell sound. The ñ in Spanish is spelled “gn” in Italian so that “gnocchi” is “ñ-o-key” — and so on.
Actually, the phrase I’ve learned the best is “attenta su pronuncia” – watch your pronunciation.
But, it’s most important to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. So far I’ve learned that the Italians are very formal so one should not use “ciao” unless you are family or you are close friends. (Also, “Ciao” derives from an old Venetian saying for “I’m your slave.”)
Hello: “buongiorno” (bwon-jorno) until sundown and then it’s “buona sera” (bwon-ah sarah)
Goodbye: “arrivederci” (a-riv-eh-dare-chi)
Please: “per favore” (pear fa-vore-eh) or “per piacere” (pear pah-chair-ee)
Thank you: “grazie” (gra-ts-ee-ay)
Excuse me: “scusi” (skoo-zee) is the formal form and “scusa” is the informal.
One thing I have learned about Italian is how to say “good luck!” Contrary to direct translation, it is not “buona fortuna!” Instead, it’s “jump inot the mouth of the wolf!” Or “In bocca al lupo!” This is the equivalent to “break a leg” in Italian.
The addresses in Lima are kind of fun (well, one has to have some fun while in traffic!). Just take a moment and enjoy the name of the street in the photo. For a non-native Castilliano (Peruvian Spanish is “castillion”) speaker, this is a challenge… sip-ee-own-yown-a?
Jiron (jr.) is a small street. Sort of like a junior street.
Calle (ca.) is a street.
Callejon is an alley.
Avenida (av.) is an avenue and normally a long street.
Pasaje: is a cul-de-sac.
Paseo: is a street for a walk like a boardwalk. Streets like Arequipa that are divided with a sidewalk and trees in the middle are meant for these “walks”.
Prolongacion (prol.) is a an extension of a street.
Cuadra (or cdra) is a block.
Ovalo is a traffic circle/roundabout.
Sin numero (s/n) means that the house has no number.
Solar: is an alleyway in a fancy neighborhood.
Alta means that it’s at the top of the street or block.
Manzana means an apple but in this context it means a block. The term most likely originates from the feudal system (and not as I hoped that it was the amount of space that an apple tree spreads its roots). The use of “manzana” and “lote” or lot is predominant in some of the “conos” or northern, southern, and eastern districts of Lima. These are mainly lower socio-economic areas.
And related to this, an apartment is a “departamento” or “depa” and the first floor is the ground floor here.
I recently cleaned out my closet and donated eleven large sacks of clothes and shoes to an NGO that assists Venezuelans in Peru, Union for Venezuelans in Peru. If you want to donate, call the executive director, Martha, 992-824-991, and she will meet you at the Union for Venezuelans in Peru at Avenida Benavides 3082, which is actually located on the Ovalo Higuereta, in Surco. The building is not marked as the Union has not spent money on signage (the employees wore white work shirts with the name of the organization on them). The office is on the third floor but it was not open yet when I made my delivery. The Union for Venezuelans in Peru will also pick up.
When I chatted with Martha, she explained that the refugees are in need of everything as they arrive only with what they can carry in their hands. She said that many are young families. She told us about a family that were happy as they picked up an inflatable mattress. Makes one think.
In the last few years, nearly a million Venezuelan refugees have arrived in Peru. Thirty years ago, Peruvians were fleeing to Venezuela and not the situation is reverse. Peru is currently in the honeymoon phase of this reverse situation and the Peruvians are welcoming the Venezuelans with resident permits and work permits. Many work as taxi drivers, in restaurants, and some sell candy to make a bit of income (I know one shop owner who gives the candy for free the first time around so that the refugee can build a bit of capital — like the Grameen system — although this shop owner will probably not get a Nobel prize. He does it for the humanity of the situation). I have seen Peruvians buy these candies out of an act of charity, much in the vein of “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
In many of the shops and restaurants, the workers are Venezuelans. They have the advantage that they speak the local language. When I was in Port of Spain, many of the workers were Venezuelans (Trinidad is only a few miles off the coast of Venezuela). This proximity means that many Trinis speak Spanish as well. I actually understood the Spanish better than the Trini form of English when in Trinidad.
Here in Lima, due to the influx of Venezuelans, there are more and more Venezuelan eateries. When I lived in Caracas, I developed a taste for arepas and now I can find good ones here as well. I did not get some after the trip to donate clothes. I had enough food for thought.
Some Peruvian dishes have funny names, and all the dishes have a story. It’s useful to know what is what. Many of the dishes originated in the working class and I have been doing my own experiment to see if it’s true (more on the class system later).
Suspiro limeño = sigh of a person from Lima: the classic pudding dessert from Lima
Causa = cause: a layered cold potato dish whose origin is supposed from the women helping their men with fighting for the cause in the 19th century.
Leche de tigre = tiger’s milk: the lime marinade used for ceviche.
Chicharrón… de pescado = pork crackling… of fish (in the photo, the leche de tigre has chicharrón of fish on it): this is the terminology used for deep fried fish or chicken, etc. Much like “chicken fried” in the U.S. Chicharrón is also used to indicate the substantial pork roast cuts that include the crackling. Also the name of the sandwich (often served for breakfast) with the same pork roast slice.
Jamón de pavo = turkey ham: turkey deli meat that is processed to taste like ham.
Malarabe = bad arab: a soup from the north of Peru.
King Kong: a King Kong sized alfajor sweet. Revolución caliente = hot revolution: a pastry sold at night, with its own song. Steeped in history.
Champú = shampoo: a dessert
Aeropuerto = airport: a stir fry dish so named because a lot of items land on the plate, mainly noodles and rice. This dish was named in the 1990s.
Siete colores = seven colors: a dish of seven colors, made with the following dishes — cebiche, tallarines rojos (pasta in red sauce), cau cau (made with tripe), papa a la huancaína (potatoes with yellow sauce), chanfainita (a dish often made with lung), arroz con pollo y ocopa (a peanut based sauce).
Mostro (but a variant of the correct spelling of monster. I was excited to see the dish on a menu — proof that the dish actually exists) = monster (pollo a la brasa y arroz chaufa): a spit roasted chicken quarter on a mountain of fried rice.
Mostrito = a small monster: an eighth of a roast chicken on fried rice. I was disappointed that a small monster wasn’t a larger whole chicken, but that’s me with my sense of humor…
The last two dishes are most recent and many people have not heard of them and when I ask where one can find them, I’m told “in the outskirts” which is the euphemism for the “hood.”
The Spanish is slightly different here in Peru. First of all, it’s not Spanish. It’s “castellano” which is a result, I’m guessing, from when the conquistadors came over from Castille. The Peruvians use an incredible amount of slang, but I’m not sure if it’s more than everyone else. Now that I have dreams in Spanish (many of which “no entiendo”), some Lima specific terms are becoming part of my daily language. Here are a few of them:
de frente: in Spanish class, we learned “derecha” for “right” and “de recho” for “straight on” — that won’t work here. If you say “de recho” to a taxi driver here, they will assume you said to turn right and got the vowel wrong. If you want them to go straight, say “de frente”. Not to be confused with “en frente” which is across”.
A doubler – to turn.
Playa: parking lot (yes! so you will find “parking beaches” far away from the water).
Cobrer – to cost/pay.
Maracuya: it’s passionfruit but I have to recall the English because that heady scent seems much more of a “mah-ra-coo-yay” for some reason.
Guinasso: F&*(*ing awesome. I think that’s how it’s spelled…
Hallar: hitch a ride
Sencilla (Efectivo/Plata/dinero in other forms of Spanish): for petty cash or small change. There is a lot of fake money here so people prefer coins and small bills.
Barrio versus district: seems to be a matter of “class” — when I referred to Miraflores as my barrio, I was met by giggles of embarrassment. It’s apparently not a barrio, and certainly not in Castillian!
This post is not about the best of Trini speak. I haven’t heard enough yet to know what the best phrases might be. What I do know is that I don’t understand the English here in Port of Spain. I’d say that my comprehension is on par with my Spanish comprehension… well, they might be neck in neck. (I almost felt relief when talking to a guy in Spanish! If three sentences counts as talking.)
The Trinis tell me that it’s because they speak fast. No, they don’t. They use different vocabulary, different grammar, different spelling, and they have a different cadence. In other words, a different language. They remove “then” and other prepositions (is that what they are called?). Or how about “the best food in tongue” which must mean “best tasting” or not?
Other than terminology like “lime” and “whine” there are many other words in daily life that are used which I can’t recall right now. I wish I could. One phrase that I wrote down was, “A good bit of us” for “there are a lot of us.” Sounds like British but without the accent.
The food vocabulary is easy to learn (bodi is long green beans) as that’s a matter of memorization, and many of the words have an origin that is typical of Trinidad’s cultural influences. Bodi probably originates from the Hindi word and was likely introduced by the South Asians.
And then there’s the spelling. See that “best” is now a woman’s name, “bess.” And “ah” for “of” as can be seen in the soup sign.
Linguists could have a field day.
Ya dam right gee. For de bess ah tongue.
Or something like that. I have no idea! Habla espanol?
My blog posting about my 48-hour food tour in Lima got picked up by a luxury travel site. They even translated my blog posting into Spanish and Portuguese. Thanks, Intiways! The fascinating part was reading my blog posting in Spanish. I learned new words (“dona”) and new terms (not “Japanese-Peruvian” but “nikkei” for the Japanese influence in Peru).
Here’s a sentence for Spanish speakers to enjoy:
El “ceviche asiático” con comida marina es tanto una mezcla visual como gustativa del ceviche peruano y el sashimi japonés o nikkei (de la comunidad peruano-japonesa).
I wonder if they will pick up my other blog postings…
While I can’t understand some of the road signs and the altitude is exhausting, the most shocking thing about moving to Bogota is how tongue-tied I feel. In order not to seem rude, every person has to be addressed in Spanish. While there are places in the U.S. where I only hear Spanish spoken, the big difference is that I’m not expected to respond in Spanish. So far, here in Bogota, the people I’ve talked to have been incredibly nice about my stunted Spanish. But then again, the phrases have been extremely simple:
“Buenas” = “goods” for good morning, good afternoon, good evening.
“Muchisimas gracias” = a million thanks (rough translation)
“Muy amable” – you are so kind/so nice of you
“Que tenga buen dia” = “Have a nice day.”
The other night, I realized that after months and months of Spanish classes, I didn’t know how to say to the waiter, “yes, you may take my plate.”
I won’t go into all the mistakes that I’m making when I manage to actual get a few words out. So far, the funniest part of speaking Spanish was when I was ordering a sandwich and I thought I’d stick to something simple like a ham and cheese… then the sandwich lady asked me, “jamon de pavo o jamon de cerdo?” Turkey ham? Or pork ham? I wasn’t aware that “ham” was generic for “lunch meat.”
The other shocking thing is figuring out the currency. At the current exchange rate, it’s about 1,881 Colombian pesos to one U.S. dollar. So far, I’ve been knocking off three zeros, dividing by half and adding a little on top. Is it my new math?
Learning a new language (and culture) is both fun, and sometimes, funny. The general assumption about Spanish is that you can put an “o” on the end of the wordo (see, like that) and that this “o” will make it Spanish. Lots of the words are the indeed the same or similar in English and Spanish. These are called cognates. An example is dictionary: diccionario. Looks the same, must be the same. But, how easily one can land, mouth on foot! Here are some other words and phrases that can make for sticky or embarrassing situations (does my quick doodle better illustrate the point?).
“embarrazado” = to be a pregnant man (the “o” means that you are a man). To be embarrassed is “avergonzado” which makes me think about modern journalism being “gonzo”…
“las esposas” = the wives or handcuffs (useful if you are talking about two or more wives or handcuffs). Perhaps somehow related to “ball and chain?”
Also, today is “martes trece” or “Tuesday the 13th” which is the equivalent to “Friday the Thirteenth” — a day of bad luck, a day not to leave your house, not to start a new business, etc. in Spanish-speaking countries. Perhaps a day to stay indoors looking up funny cognates online. I am taking note of these as I go along, so if I get them wrong, please comment! I look forward to trying to avoid too many encounters of foot in mouth once I get to Colombia.
The English spoken in Bangladesh includes a few words which are different in British English and American English, plus some that are unique to Bangla English. Here are several words which are different from American English:
Capsicum – is a bell pepper/sweet pepper
Aubergine – eggplant (“BEG-un” in Bangla)
Coriander – cilantro (the leafy part of the coriander plant)
Lime – lime is lemon (“yellow limes” are a fairly rare sight here and they are a different breed)
Microbus – mini-van
There are other differences but these are the ones I encounter all the time. I’ll try to update this as I recall more.
While many Britishisms exist in Bangla, “schedule” is not “SHEY-duel” which is interesting considering that many of the words spelled with an “s” are pronounced with a “sh” sound (like “sari” or “sharee”). Plus, there are many Bangla words which I think would be a great addition to the English language. My first contender would be the expressive word for “end” or “finito!” — Shesh!