Posted by: fireweaver | May 27, 2008

monday voices: se habla espanglish?

*(and yes, i’m well aware that a sad % of my meme’d posts are indeed a day late, if not a buck short.)

as i mentioned last week, the public library and i have prolifically renewed our former acquaintance.  but these modern libraries?  lots more stuff than just dusty ol’ emily post tomes and regular sorts of books.  i very vaguely remember cassette tapes + kids books hanging in bags at that childhood library, and a section of bound newspaper bundles, but it was indeed mostly shelves of books.  the current library, though, has all sorts of stuff: comics, cds, dvds (current ones!  to take for free for up to 5 days!  who knew?), books on tape/cd, adult ed lecture courses to accomplish the traditional sort of ‘bettering yourself’…

many of our care staff are hispanic – i’m using the term here to include a very wide array of cultures/origins, all of which tend to be south of here, and all of which speak primarily spanish.  we have people from el salvador, puerto rico, mexico, a couple of carribean islands, guatemala…  all these guys speak different dialects, some of them with very different accents, but they all converse just fine.  being from TX originally, i have a fair smattering of spanish, just not a whole lot directly applicable to my work.  i can stumble through ordering at a restaurant, but knowing the words for butter, salt, meat, hot, table, car, bathroom, do not exactly allow me to ask how my animals are doing today.  or if there’s any supplies someone needs to get the job done.  or to answer, in even a very basic way, any questions about the science we’re doing, the point of the research, or the ethics of animal use.  and other than one guy in the office staff, who acts as a jack-of-all-trades in ordering & recieving, and who translates the SOPs for new hires, none of the higher-ups are able to do any of those things, either.  our work environment is totally congenial, and we don’t have a big us-vs-them issue like i’ve experienced in some animal facilities (i.e., where there’s a huge divide between the ivory-pillared vet/management staff and the lowly animal caretakers), but it bugs me a lot.  it’s not good for my care staff (plenty of them really do give a crap about what they’re doing…but who do they direct their questions toward???), and it’s sure not good for my monkeys (how can i ask them, the people who see these animals most frequently, to give me casual everyday health reports??).

saturday, i picked up my beginner spanish course on cds from the library.  it’s in the pimsleur method, which involves listening & repeating stuff rather than any written work, and it’s all in 30 minute lessons consumable during my commute.  obviously, i don’t expect this “quick & easy” set to teach me medical phraseology – “how is the surgical site healing up?” – but with any luck, i’ll be able to say more than, “hola, mi nombre es _____, la doctura para los monos,” any time now.



  1. You know, I get a little hostile about my spanglish now and again, because I try really hard with my spanish sometimes, and my beloved Mexicans (because, well, they actually all do come from Mexico) coworkers are such asses about it. I’m sure if I were in a congenial place, the spanish would be better. Right now, I just have spanish that 1) gets the point across but 2) makes people laugh their collective asses off (“No! NO ES BUENO!!!!!! NO NO NO”)

    By the by, at least your name is Doctora Michelle. You see, my name is Suzanne/Suzy which translates directly into Susana/Susanita.

    Did you know that there’s an actual song (like childs’ song, like “Bingo was his name-o” popular) called “Susanita tiene un raton”?

    Try living with that while working in an animal facility.

    If I have to live with one more day of “¿Susanita, Tiene un raton?” I swear I will start killing people.

    PS: I know all of the ascii codes for things like that upside down question mark – that alone should qualify me for a raise.

  2. holy crap, did you just say “Suz, do you have a rat?”?!?!?! that’s the most hi-larious thing all day!

  3. Chelle — if you have an iPod they have free to download Spanish lessons on the podcasts. The most popular is called “Coffee Break Spanish”

  4. The methods you talk about could work but what better than to be taught by real people?
    Another possibility is to learn with live video classes.
    A good alternative is to use webs like
    FREE classes with real teachers at:,option,auctions_show

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