Sunday, April 24, 2011

Informe: Geek Guide to Spanish (UY)

So you're coming to eduJAM and want to brush up on your high school Spanish. "Hola. ¿Cómo te llamas?" You also have a talk on a tech thing (semantic web, for example) and want to hack Sugar, Uruguay-style.

Well I don't know about you, but my Spanish class never got to the chapter about operating systems or Facebook. We never talked in Uruguayan Spanish, either. If you pronounced "llamas?" above with an L, Y, or J sound... you're in for a surprise. Fortunately, your correspondent has been in the field for 3.5 weeks. Here's the scoop:

Uruguayan Spanish 101

Y sound with a vowel after it, as in "Uruguayo" or "yo", is pronounced like the sh in "wash". This counts for ll as in "llamas", too. Practice: "Inventos UruguaSHos" (Uruguayan inventions). "¿Cuando shegaste? ¿Cómo te shamas?" (When did you arrive? What's your name?). My Spanish teachers used a Y sound and hinted that some people used J.

The bus is "ómnibus" or "bondi". A teacher is usually a "docente" and a student is usually an "alumno". An e-mail is simply a "correo". Sugar is still called Sugar, not Azucar. Blue XO-1.5 is well-known, green 1.5 and 1.75 are not. Olidata and Magalhaes are two Classmate PCs (running Sugar and Metasys Linux, respectively) that Plan Ceibal is trying out with teachers.

Do I need to talk in Spanish about technical things?

Many programmers here learned their skills in English, or learned a great deal of our language while in college. Sometimes Spanish borrows the English word (like "tags" on Flickr) or is very similar to the English word (catálogo = catalog, computadora = computer). The best thing you can do is pay attention to words -- I have had many people stop and search for the translation for "cargar" instead of saying "cargar" (to charge) or pointing at a socket, which would work just as well.

On the other hand, technical Spanish is alive and well. There was a good discussion on IAEP about whether Uruguayan children need to speak English in order to be programmers. The source of the Conozco Uruguay activity is written in Spanish just as much as it's written in Python. The word "red" appears often, advertising a WiFi, mobile, or social network. I think it'd be good to learn your topic and interests in Spanish because "triple-store database" isn't as interesting when the person only understands "database".

You should also be aware of alternate word choices and pronunciations in Spanish. A Kindle is a "KEEN-dle", XO is "la equis-oh". The word "archivo" could mean archive, or any file in the XO's journal (known as "diario"). Acronyms such as GIS and OS are inverted (SIG, SO) because the adjective goes from the beginning to the end of the term.

Researching Technical Spanish

In order of rapido -> lento

Wikipedia method

1) Go to the topic article on English Wikipedia
2) Scroll down the left column (it's alphabetic)
3) Click "Español". If it's not there, go to step 1 with a more generic topic.
4) Ctrl- to shrink the page. Print and read on the plane.

Google Translate method

1) Open translate.google.com at the beginning of the day
2) Turn off instant translation (link at the bottom of the page), set EN->ES
3) Type things in English and things you learn in Spanish on the left side throughout the day. Press enter or the Translate button after entering a new phrase
4) Keep the page open until you go home for the day

Borrow Dictionary method

I spent $6 on an old but useful "Illustrated Dictionary of Computing". Has an English index and the rest is Spanish with colorful graphics. Will bring it to events; you can borrow it.

Bookstore method

I found an up-to-date "Complete Dictionary of Educational Technology" written entirely in Spanish. It costs around 70 USD at a bookstore near me.

A DO and two DON'Ts

DO name-drop: Negroponte, Linux flavors, Dextrose, open source legends, the Uruguayan food you ate the other day. Bonus points if you know Fede Alvarez, soccer players, or open-source projects with roots in Spain or Latin America. OpenStreetMap has some traction. It's good to have things in common.

DON'T be shy about wanting to get your work into Plan Ceibal. This is your big moment! Uruguay wouldn't be hosting this if they weren't interested in crazy new tech from around the world. Show teachers, show admins and volunteers, show programmers.

Lastly, DON'T speak in math or Python to avoid learning a human language! You were thinking about it, weren't you?

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