Xan & Bob

A learning experience

Today I thought I would share with you some random things from our adventure. In no particular order.

I must tell you that I am so very glad that we moved here at a time when Google Translate exists. Yes, we know it isn’t perfect but it works a lot better than charades and stumbling through 3 languages when we are trying to get something ordered or a delivery made or just have a question. It can be a huge time and frustration saver. The translations can also be amusing. Because we are living in the middle(heart) of Catalonia most people are speaking Catalan not Spanish. Bob describes Catalan as a mix of Spanish and French.

Our neighbors speak Catalan and we use Google Translate to communicate. We are both learning each other’s languages but in the meantime this is very helpful. They were going out the other day and asked if we could accept a package delivery for them. No problem. Pretty straight forward. However, when we hung up our wind chimes the other day and it was quite breezy we were concerned that it might disturb them so we sent them a WhatsApp message. “Are our wind chimes annoying you?” Their message back with Google Translate said “I wish all that we bothers out as your bells, that if, in a day much wind no longer I can confirm. Thank you for your sensitivity, sure that we you can bother with other things…expect when you come to eat our grandchildren.”  Followed by, “No problem, I hope the translation is correct.” We replied, “Kind of, but gave us a good laugh. The chimes bothered us so we took them down.” Our neighbors then sent this clarification, “Hi…Bob. Hopefully all the noises that disturb us were as you small bells! No worries about. But…let’s see on a windy day ha ha ha! Thanks so much for your sensibility. Surely we had disturbed you with others noises. You will see when our grandchildren come. Thanks ever so much.” Quite funny.

Yesterday we went to this fabulous hardware store, Ferreteria Alexix SL, in Sant Pere de Ribes, that our neighbor recommended. They have everything! I showed them my phone with Google Translate showing the translation from English to Catalan for ‘masonry nails.’ When he saw that I translated it to Catalan he asked me to change that to Spanish as the Catalan translation was asking about a key or key ring. Interesting.

To give you an idea of some of the differences in the two languages here is an excerpt from Wikipedia.

Glossary Catalan Spanish
cousin cosí primo
brother germà hermano
nephew nebot sobrino
summer estiu verano
evening vespre tarde-noche
morning matí mañana
frying pan paella sartén
bed llit camalecho
bird ocell ave, pájaro
dog gosca perrocan
plum pruna ciruela
butter mantega mantequilla, manteca
piece tros pedazo
gray gris gris
hot calent caliente
too much massa demasiado
to want voler querer
to take prendre tomarprender
to pray pregar rezar/rogar
to ask demanar/preguntar pedirpreguntar
to search cercar/buscar buscar
to arrive arribar llegararribar
to speak parlar hablarparlar
to eat menjar comer

We then went to order building materials for Bob’s stand-up desk. We had stopped by there last week and the gentleman who assisted us spoke a bit of English. Perfect we speak a bit of Spanish. Well, when we went back yesterday he wasn’t available. Bob had written out what he needed but there was still a lot of back and forth. This isn’t a Lowe’s or Home Depot where you just walk up the aisle and choose what you need and ask them to cut it to size. We are standing in what I would consider a showroom talking to two men behind a desk who are putting an estimate together for us. Thankfully they include a diagram of the cuts they will be doing because this is when we figured out things had been confused. A bit of Google Translate and a bit of drawing and a bit of charades and all was cleared up. The other fun thing was when we gave them our address to deliver. They kept asking for the street name. We don’t have one. We told them it is a very small village. 18 houses. If a delivery truck shows up looking for us we will know it is in the village.

One of the most difficult things with learning the language is speaking on the telephone. When you are standing face to face with someone it is so much easier to work out what you are each trying to say but on the phone…impossible. We have had several phone calls like this. I remember the first one I was able to decipher on my own when Movistar called to tell me the technician would be coming to install the TV satellite. It took a few tries but I got it and I was so excited. It is the little things sometimes.

A word that has different meanings which can really be confusing is mañana. You may think that it means tomorrow. But mañana can also mean (and usually does from our experience) an indefinite time in the future. Just to add to the confusion it also means morning. Try figuring this out especially when you are on the phone with someone. When is that delivery coming? Mañana!

We had a very pleasant experience yesterday as our first visit with a dentist. Bob has a tooth that has been niggling at him and he finally decided to get it checked out. Our friend Xavi recommended a dentist in Sitges. Bob left a message Monday morning at 8am and they phoned back to say he could be seen at 1pm the same day. The dentist is Dutch so at least there wasn’t a language barrier as the Dutch put us to shame when it comes to speaking different languages. The dentist is not listed in our insurance book of providers but since he was recommended to us we wanted to give him a try. He does not take insurance which concerned us due to the cost but when Bob checked out at the end it was 40€. This was for a 30 minute visit and x-ray and he also walked out of there with a prescription for antibiotics. Not bad. So, off we go to the pharmacy to fill the prescription. We show them the script and without taking the piece of paper she walks off to get it. In less than a minute she brings the medicine back to us and tells us that will be 2.60€. Bob’s name and address are not entered into the system, a label with the info is not attached to the box and the whole experience took less than 2 minutes.  When she told us the price we both started laughing telling her what this would have cost in America.

Our friend Jenny wants to improve her English – mostly the grammar and of course we need to learn and improve our Catalan and Spanish. We are going to meet weekly to teach each other. I’m really looking forward to this as I am a lot farther behind in learning the language than Bob is.

Every day we learn something new. We want to become a part of community not be those foreigners who have moved in and don’t know the language or how things are done here. This is now home and we want to belong.

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