Wednesday, September 29, 2010


One thing I have noticed as my fluency in Spanish has increased is that there are some words/phrases or just feelings which do not exist in Spanish.  Either that, or I do not have the ability to express them the way I wish.  Awkward is the example confounding me now.   Awkward is a word which I use all the time, as do many of my English-speaking friends, both here in Costa Rica and in the States.  Numerous occasions, situations, comments, people (myself included) are at times awkward.

However, I have yet to find a word which even sort of translates into Spanish. Yes, I can feed it into an online Spanish-English dictionary. For instance, spits out for awkward: torpe, poco elegante, and incomodo.  While those work for some cases torpe is clumsy, poco elegante is inelegant, and incomodo is uncomfortable.  None mean awkward in the sense I usually use it.  When I asked my WT volunteer friends last week, they said raro, which works, but really means weird (not to mention just not something Ticos say, ever).

I even tried to ask my host brother last night because we were watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and there was an awkward moment with Ron and Hermione.  End of story, my host brother thought I was crazy and had no idea what I was talking about.  I even narrated a situation, like randomly seeing an ex with her new boyfriend, but nada.  He was like, "It didn't matter? Or you were mad?"  and I was like, "no, argh!!" in frustration.

Because I'm at the point where I can just talk in Spanish without having to stop and translate first, even though I make grammatical errors, it makes it more noticeable.  I'm going along with a story and then awkward pops into my head and my entire thought process grinds to a screeching halt.  I guess I need to just give it up in Spanish.  I'm used to giving up words and phrases (even entire tenses, future tense anyone?) but I guess awkward is harder for me to give up.

I do wonder whether Ticos are way more socially conscious and so have no need to describe anything as awkward. Or do they focus on other aspects of a given interaction and the relative awkwardness simply does not matter?   It's fun to try to make conclusions about why awkward does not exist in CR, but of course I'm most likely wrong.  Eight months does not give one expertise in another culture, it just makes you less clueless.

Also, related, I am good at Spanish, but there are thousands of words and phrases I do not know. Maybe tomorrow I'll find the perfect way of expressing that moment when you try to pass someone on a narrow sidewalk but you both go the same direction and almost bump noses.... and then do it again the other direction. I hope so.

Unfortunately, my Tico friend who is basically fluent in English is not teaching this week or else I would have asked him as research for this blog post.  Next time I have a chance I'll ask him his take on the differences in language (and possibly culture) which causes me such confusion.  I can't wait to ask him.  Is that awkward?

Since this topic probably interests no one but me, I will try to keep any subsequent posts short and sweet!

No comments:

Post a Comment