Mr. Garcia just flew his lesson plans into the office. He came into the office, walking with a slight crouch, arms outstretched as he banked wide corners. His mouth making an engine sound. As he dropped his lesson plan notebook, his engine sound changed to a dropping sound. “phhwwwhhheeeewwww, boom!”
The secretary and I laughed at his antics. I said, “Eres un buen pilota!”
Roughly translated, that means: You’re a good girl pilot!
“Piloto!” Mr. Garcia gently corrected me, and all the Spanish speakers in the office started to laugh.
“You’re a really good girl pilot!” I insisted, pretending I knew what I was saying.
After he left the room, I admitted to the secretary that I wasn’t even sure that “pilota” was a word, so I was glad that I had at least gotten so close to using the correct word. “This reminds me of a time in college,” I continued, “when I jokingly said that ‘helicoptero’ was the Spanish word for ‘helicopter,’ and was correct. My Spanish professor encouraged me, saying, ‘muy bien, flaquita!,’ and I was like, ‘SERIOUSLY? THAT IS REALLY THE WORD FOR IT?’
The Secretary laughs, agreeing with me that it’s so much easier when the words are almost the same in English and Spanish.
I tell her that my professor used to make me practice saying a one really long word that was almost the same in English and Spanish to work on my “O” sound. “Otorrinolaringólogo,” I say.
The Secretary snapped her head towards me and asked, “What?!”
More blank stares. So I said it a third time. “Otorrinolaringólogo! It means Ear Nose and Throat Doctor! The medical term in English is ‘Otolaryngologist.’”
The Secretary, a native Spanish speaker, stared at me as if I had just grown a patch of sunflowers for a beard. She asked, “in what language?!”
And there it is: the big news for today. I have finally won a “Who Knows What This Spanish Word Means?” Contest. And it feels good. Even if the word is so obscure that my spell checker doesn’t recognize it in its English or Spanish version.