A Different Word for Everything! | Sojourners

A Different Word for Everything!

International travel provides valuable cross-

International travel provides valuable cross-cultural experiences that remind us of our common humanity. Not that I need this personally, mind you, since I’d rather stay home in my pajamas and watch Seinfeld reruns. But this changed when I recently accompanied family members to Honduras, a country that is nowhere near my house.

Our youngest daughter has been busy qualifying for sainthood the past two years by working with HIV-positive orphans outside San Pedro Sula (Spanish for "Hot, like Hell, but more humid") and has long wanted her parents to join her for a week’s visit. Not much of a traveler myself, I was persuaded to make the trip only after being lured out to the front porch to see a pretty butterfly, at which point I was forcibly hooded and thrown into the trunk of a car. (Okay, I made up the part about the hood.)

Anyway, Honduras is a lovely country, if you can get past the fact that few, if any, of its residents can speak intelligibly. At least to me. English is my first language, my native tongue, and by coincidence, also my back-up language. Both have served me well in the times when multilingualism is important, such as when ordering a cheeseburger in Washington, D.C. But things are different in Honduras, a nation whose citizens stubbornly refused to comprehend me, even when I talked louder.

My feeble attempts at Spanish were complicated by the idiomatic peculiarities of the language. For example, "I love you" and "I’ll call you" are phonetically similar, so much so that when I innocently asked the hotel clerk about using the telephone, I noticed that he blushed, winked, and sighed deeply with anticipation.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2005
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