Why Would I Cancel My Order?

Day 004 – July 26, 2011

George Bernard Shaw (BTW, whose 155th birthday is being celebrated today on this my 4th day here in Peru) is given credit for saying that…

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

I can personally vouch for Shaw’s sentiment, as I beg your indulgence as I digress to a time gone past, to that day of yesteryear, to an epoch known as the 20th century…to when I was in high school.

One of my classmates in English class during my junior year hailed from the country of England (or Great Britian…or the United Kingdom…I can never keep them straight). She sat next to me so I was in a perfect place to hear one day in class as she turned to the boy behind her and politely asked, “Do you have a spare rubber I can use?” The boy was dumbfounded by this quite forward remark and my all-too-innocent ears were also quite shocked by this request…

…until I found out later that in England, a “rubber” is of these things (and that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?)

Back to Peru and Siglo XXI (21st Century) where on this Tuesday in July it was time for dinner and Shaw’s observation was about to be on the menu. Having heard so much about one particular chicken place in our brief stay so far, we decided to order in from Pardo’s Chicken. From the get-go, I knew I was going to like this place. First off, the reputation of Peruvian chicken precedes itself as it has a big name and a following in the States. Secondly, any business named after one of my favorite announcers, Don Pardo, is aces in my book. (Yes, I have favorites announcers…the other two are Gary Owens and Johnny Olson.)

When my lovely wife used our corded phone to call Pardo’s, all was going according to the usual ordering-in script until it wasn’t.

She told the person on the other end of the phone which promotional meal we wanted and the Pardo’s order-taker told her what the total would be. It was the next question that threw my wife. She kept asking the person to repeat the question and then she looked at me with a perplexed look as she said, “They’re asking me how I want to cancel my order. Why would I cancel my order?”

Now, my lovely wife speaks and understands Spanish flawlessly so there was no issue concerning the language barrier here (as, frustratingly, is the case with me as read previously on Sin Polaris). There was something in what the Pardo’s representative was saying that was causing a mix-up.

What the woman on the other end of the line was asking was ¿Como va a cancelar?, which does literally translate to “How will you cancel?” (translation provided by Google Translate). With this question being posed to my order-placing wife, you can see her dilemma.

This is where using the past as a guide would have come in handy. In only a quartet of days, we had come across a few examples of Spanish words that Peruvians use to describe things that are different from the Spanish words my family and I are used to. Just for appetizers, the name of the langauge itself is different. We call it Español, but in Peru, they speak Castellano. Moving on to the salad course, we call an avocado aguacate, but in Peru it is known as palta. Here at the main course, a waiter in Peru is known as mozo, but we know it as mesero. Finishing up with the dessert course on this linguistic menu, we have discovered that a peach is called melocotón in Lima, where we know it as durazno.

This concept of a shared language dividing two people was hitting our little tableaux. As my lovely wife tried to understand what the Pardo’s woman was saying, the order-taker asked in a tone and style similar to explaining math to a first-grader, ¿Como va a pagar?, which comes out to be “How will you pay?”

Peru Travel Tip #004: When ordering over the phone, the phrase ¿Como va a cancelar? means (roughly), “How will you be paying your bill?”. The company wants to know what type of bills you will be paying with so they know how much change to send along with the driver.

Once my wife told the woman that we would paying with two 50 soles notes, all was well. The food arrived earlier than expected, the chicken skin was crispy y muy rico, the French fries came with aji sauce, and the salad even had aguacate palta on it.

At the end of the day, it was good to know that I was not alone in the frustration of trying to navigate the linguistic landscape of a new country.

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About sinpolaris

sinpolaris is the psuedonym of a guy who likes to write.

Posted on September 23, 2011, in Difference, Mexico, Peru and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. By the way, it’s so great to meet you, Xavier! I saw the link to this post from Tony Dunnell’s How to Peru website and just had to see what these language struggles were all about. =P I’m a Canadian expat living in Peru and I’ve had my fair share of laughs too! The Spanish I learned in secondary school was also Spanish from Spain with vosotros and the like! In fact, “aguacate” was my first major challenge when I arrived here in Huancayo — I had to go find one in the supermarket myself and ask what it was called. =P

    • Thanks for the comment (and I guess I owe a large gracias to Mr. Dunnell for linking to my ramblings). I’m taking classes as we speak (or type) and one of my big issues at the moment is pronounciation. I just can’t get certain sound combinations down yet, such as when I try and say “No entendio” (I don’t understand), which I have to say a great deal.

      • Ooh! I so know what you mean! I have a neuroscience background and have the hardest time pronouncing “cerebral” with a Spanish accident. It’s the R’s and L’s together that throw me off. =P

  2. Funny story! I’ve had that problem trying to talk to my husband, where the Spanish I know is NOT the Castellano he grew up with.

    “Cancelar” at least makes sense, once you figure it out – you’re “cancelling” your debt for whatever you’re buying.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. With my wife, who speaks Spanish, I could never understand why she would say “get down from the car” when she was leaving it until I realized she was translating the Spanish phrase into English. Ah, the joys of language.

  3. That’s a funny story and good examples 🙂

    btw, I didn’t know “rubber” meant “condom” )) I had to check it in a dictionary )) now I know and will be more careful in using it ) thanks))

    • Thanks for stopping by and glad I could help out with the English-American translation. More examples (in case you ever find yourself in London) include “boot” for trunk, “lift” for elevator, “lorry” for truck, and “Doctor Who” for excellent television series.

  4. I’d have to agree with you here. Which is not something I usually don’t do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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