This week my daughter and I visited one of our favorite local restaurants. It’s only been in town for a couple of years, having replaced what was a longtime favorite English-style pub. This Argentinian restaurant is not a place I’d normally frequent because I used to associate this cuisine with a lot of meat-based dishes. But a good friend recommended their $10 lunch special that is, indeed, satisfying and delicious and offers a variety of choices. During the winter my daughter and I had lunch there about once every two weeks and became acquainted with the staff.
We decided to go there this week to have their super-delicious poached salmon served on a bed of sauteed vegetables smothered in butter and herbs. We often share a large glass of Sangria (two straws) since my daughter has to return to work and I certainly don’t need to be tipsy in mid-day!
Our usual host was not there today, but our waiter was. Upon being seated at our favorite table, I asked him a question about the phrase, Que pasa?…which, loosely translated means “what’s happening,” or “what’s going on” in Spanish. My daughter had recently heard this phrase pronounced as “Que paso?”with the accent on the final syllable. We asked about the difference in pronunciation and meaning. After he gave us a quick but capable explanation, we got into a longer discussion of languages in general. Our waiter is from El Salvador and has lived and worked in many places in the US since he arrived at age 10, most of them in the South. He described himself as having a gift for languages and I believe him because he is quite fluent in grammatically correct English which is not usually the case with immigrants who are not taught English in school.
I gave him a short lesson on the difference between the verb to pronounce and the noun “pronunciation.” During our discussion he had mistakenly used the word “pronunciate” until I explained to him why this was not correct usage. He thanked me for correcting him and helping him to learn the correct usage, saying no one ever does this for him.
Then he helped us to say a couple of things we were struggling with in Spanish, correcting our usage as well. This was a delightful and friendly exchange of linguistic and cultural information between people from entirely different backgrounds. It was not a virtual lesson in cultural exchange, but a real-time event between live people, and was therefore very enjoyable and satisfying.
Now we can’t wait to go back for more salmon (or steak) and to exchange more language tips while sipping our sangria. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll visit this gorgeous country and actually sample the real deal!