I’m one of those people. I was talking about language today at work with some friends, and, as usual, it reminded me of a story. Everything reminds me of a story. That is why I have to have a blog. Preventative medication. So that I don’t interrupt every conversation in life with “oh that reminds me of the time—”
But the point is not that. The story.
When I was a debt collector, I called Americans, and as we all [should] know, sometimes, Americans speak Spanish. Which is nice but as we all [should] know, I’m painfully monolingual. As in, my French is limited to asking if I can go to the bathroom and microwave an apple and a cat (really). (Oh and I can also say, “my name is” and “I love” and “what is it?”). So when I got my first Spanish inbound call, and realized I didn’t know what to do, I turned to the guy beside me [Nick, I think it was] and mouthed, “SPANISH! WHAT DO I DO???” He reached over and scratched these words onto my notepad:
señor, usted tiene rodillas agradables
I stumbled through them and then he pushed a button on my phone that transferred the call. I looked at Nick for affirmation that I’d pronounced the words correctly, and asked what they meant. He explained that I had said, “Sir, I will transfer you to someone who speaks Spanish.” Ok.
I kept my notepad beside me all summer, often using my new Spanish phrase and beginning to feel very good about how Spanish and suave I sounded. Until.
Until one of my Spanish calls got monitored by the gals over at QA (Quality Assurance, for those of you who don’t know the debt collection lingo), and I was informed by my big angry boss, Ricardo, that I’d been telling all my Spanish callers, “Sir, you have nice knees.”