Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How many words are there for car?!

In the same way British and American English differ, there are sometimes even more variations of the same word in Spanish. For instance, if you ask 4 different Spanish-speaking individuals to tell you the Spanish word for “car”, you might get 4 different answers: “el carro”, “el coche”, “el auto”, or “el automóvil”. No need to worry, though. Most Spanish speakers are familiar with the different words that others use. Just be aware that you may not have been taught the “wrong” word, just a different one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cultural Case Study

When you’re speaking to an individual of another culture, you may know the language but could still miscommunicate if you don’t understand the culture. Below's an example on family and work values that explains why:

SITUATION: At work, Melissa (an American native and high-profile manager) has been frantically looking for Juan (a recent immigrant from South America and computer programmer). Finally, at the end of the day, she finds him heading out the door.

  • Melissa: Our top customer is demanding that we get their project done by the end of this week! This cuts our timeline in half so I’ve set a meeting tomorrow morning to go over the new timeline.
  • Juan: Oh...my son just became ill and I was going to take him to the doctor tomorrow morning.
  • Melissa: OK. I’ll try to get a hold of Larry and see if he can attend the meeting for you. We’ll work it out and I’ll let you know what happens.
  • Juan: Thanks.
  • Melissa: No problem.
  • How do you think Melissa felt after this conversation? Frustrated due to having to take another step to solve the issue.
  • How do you think Juan felt after this conversation? Slighted/uncared for because Melissa didn't show concern about his son.
  • Did Melissa and Juan communicate in a way that fostered good relations? That depends on the person being asked. Melissa may have felt so, but Juan not. 
  • Melissa unknowingly offended Juan because the work concern was what she focused on and neglected to address Juan's family concern. Melissa may have felt frustrated because Juan didn't resolve the issue which gave her one more thing to address. The resolution? When interacting with another culture, learn their values and beliefs and be mindful of how they might be perceiving your interactions.
Note: Second (and subsequent) generation Latinos usually experience an integration of American values and beliefs with their Latin ones. For example, a fifth-generation Latino could easily have American, not Latin, values and beliefs in many, if not all, areas.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some consonants you may want to know about

Have you ever seen the letter ñ? It's pronounced like ni in onion. By the way, it's a separate letter from the letter n in the Spanish alphabet. That's pronounced like the English n.

And there are 3 letters that I think are mispronounced the most:

  1. The letter j, which is pronounced like an h in hat
  2. The letter h, which is silent
  3. The letter z, which is most commonly s as in sink (though some areas pronounce it as z in zoo or th in that)
These might be good things to know if you're ordering jalapeños in an hacienda. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Overview of Culture Part 2

What’s happening when I learn the cultural values of a person but their behavior differs from their values?

When this occurs, the person’s behavior is probably stemming from their beliefs which are different than their values. Many are usually not aware that a contradiction between their values and beliefs exist. It is when values and beliefs are in harmony that behavior will be a true representation of the person and their culture. When communicating to someone of another culture, tear off the petals and look at the heart. When this is done, you’ll not only understand how to communicate more effectively but also how to overcome incorrect assumptions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not all letters are created equal

There are some letters in the Spanish language that aren't just one letter. Two letters in the Spanish alphabet actually have "two" letters if you're a native English speaker who's never been exposed to Spanish.

  • The letter "ch" is pronounced the same as in English
  • The letter "ll" is y as in yuck
  • The letter "rr" is a trilled sound; this sounds like a motorcycle revving up. If this is hard for you, you’re not alone! Just keep trying and you’ll get it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Overview of Culture Part 1

Culture has three parts that form a whole:

  • Behavior: Outward actions and responses that we can see and consequently label and/or stereotype.
  • Values: Our concepts about the world, as established by our social environment and authorities.
  • Beliefs: Our core ideas about the world which are predominantly formed by personal experience.
These parts of culture are like an artichoke:
  • Petals: The outside appearance. Unless we’ve actually pulled apart the artichoke, this would be all we’d think an artichoke is.
  • Fuzzy Choke: This is connected to the leaves as well as the heart.
  • Heart: This is the core that drives behavior and is confirmed by personal experience.
These three parts are distinct yet form the whole.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are you self-conscious in speaking another language?

You're not alone! And now you can relate to how it feels for every other human being who's had to do the same.

If you're speaking Spanish, Latinos generally place a high importance on relationships and people, so they probably won't care if you pronounce words incorrectly. In fact, I've tried to speak 3 different languages in numerous countries and I've found that people are just grateful that I'm trying to communicate in their language.

And, chances are they've been in your shoes, too.