Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Translator

Something that Buck said a few days ago made me think of other funny things about living in Northern NM. Life there is much different from any place else in the state or in the USA for that matter. As I have said before, most of my students there were Hispanic, but they did not speak Spanish any better than I did. That does not mean they had not lost their accents. Their accents were sing-songy Spanish/Texas – Spanish, of course, was due to their ancestors, but the Texan was due to their working around tourists. It is a great accent – very easy to pick up on. Even Anglo kids who went to school in N NM had the accent which is pretty funny to hear.

The first year we moved back to RR, Questa ISD put in portable school buildings so that the RR kids did not have to come down the canyon to attend school. The kids at the RR school were all Anglos, but they were still a part of the Questa ISD and participated in sports and other school competitions. I was teaching at the jr. high in Questa when they had the district spelling bee. Kids from all the QISD showed up. Things were rocking along like in all spelling bees with the principal of the Questa Ele.Schools (Ms. Gonzales) reading the words to the students, and the students spelling them. Then Ms. Gonzales read the word "bitter" to one of the Anglo/RR kids. That should have been easy enough, but the child spelled what she had heard, "beater" and got the word wrong. The RR moms flew into outrage. At this point, I was called in to translate (or correct) the principal’s English for the Anglo kids. I thought that was quite humorous.

Later on that year, the QISD had a language arts contest. Kids from the district gathered to compete in poetry/prose readings. Ms. Alverez and I were backstage tallying points and announcing winners. In one competition Ms. Alverez turned to me and read off three Anglo names, and then said, "Well, it looks like RR made a sweep in that category." Knowing all of the RR kids well, I told Ms Alverez, "Just because the students are Anglo does not mean they are from RR. Rita is from Questa Ele." Ms Alverez looked a bit sheepish and said, "I just assumed!" We both burst out laughing.

A year or so later, I moved up to teach at the high school in Questa. The debate coach was preparing his students to attend the state speech and debate tournament in Portales at Eastern NMSU. There is a big difference in the Portales area and Northern NM. Portales my have a Hispanic population, but it not the majority as in N NM. In fact, there are lots of West Texans attending ENMSU. The coach wanted me to go to Portales with the team because I would be taking over his position the next year and needed to learn the ropes. Then the coach could not resist teasing me about my Texas accent. "You have to go." he said, "We will need you to interpret for us."

1 comment:

Buck Pennington said...

That's a GREAT story, Lou! I can see, in my mind's eye, those moms getting ALL upset about bitter/beater. Interpreting is good work, and it pays well, too!

:-)