Everyone who comes to San Miguel searches for that which will make then unique. Most find it in an art class, or in a new household item to wear, or in a good work or in Fabrica Aurora but a few are lost until the Bilingual Gang gets them. It happens one day while sitting in the Jardin, deliberately overhearing conversations, when all of a sudden an expat begins speaking in tongues. Given the age of most residents of San Miguel they believe it the beginning of a stroke until the expat speaks English again. They ask if the expat is okay and soon learn that the expat was speaking Spanish. The line “How did you learn to speak Spanish” is all the opening a member of the Translator/Guide Gang needs to start the recruitment process.
Immerse Group vs Warren Hardy
Recruits are sorted into two groups depending on how willing you are to give up talking in English. Those who can’t give up English are put in The Warren Hardy Group . There is already a post on this group. If you can give up English for the length of a class then you are put in The Immerse Group and begin your transition to Translator and Guide.
Taking Spanish Classes
Taking Spanish Classes (TSC) becomes a lifetime activity for this group. There are over 3000 language schools in San Miguel that cater to this group and to Tourists who come to San Miguel to Learn Spanish. Many members take the same course over and over and never realize that it is the same course. They marvel at the ability of Mexican children who seem to learn Spanish effortlessly but one day THE MOMENT occurs when they read their First Sign in Spanish and Translate it for a friend.
They are so proud to say “No, you must go this way. I can read Spanish signs.” So begins the new role of translator
This sign, that was hanging over the door to the Instituto Allende has kindly been translated by a Level 1 Warren Hardy graduate. The words sabado and domingo are the names of the people who own the Instituto Allende and don’t need to be translated.
Translating for the Maid
Life now has purpose. No trip outside of San Miguel will occur without having on board The Translator. The Translator will be brought home to talk to the maid about some new duty she will have to perform. Maids gather daily in Gringo Free Zones to trade stories of what The Translators have said to them. One was told the she needed to wash the baby cow every day, another that she had to stop standing on the bed and another to cook more weeds. Maids love the panicked look on the Translator’s face when they ask a question back in front of their employer and eagerly await the Translator’s response.
Employer: John ask Maria where she put my yellow hat?
Translator: Maria where did you put your employer’s blue hand?
Maria: Are you sure it wasn’t her dog’s toy?
Translator to Employer: She wants to know what you want for dinner tonight
Employer: Tell her I want that Mexican thing with beans and beef wrapped in that tortoise shell
Translater: Maria can you walk two beers and take a photo of the garbage
Maria: Si Si Senor.
Another role for the Translator is translating menus in restaurants without English Menus. This can be a minefield as one wrong translation and a plate of organs can undo years of Spanish lessons. So most translators choose two authentic restaurants, order everything on the menu and then write down on a piece of paper what it was. eg No. 3 beans, beef, with salad. When asked where to eat some authentic Mexican food they recommend one of the two restaurants but say “You know there is no English Menu.” That will elicit an invitation to dinner and the evening is spent translating the menu. “I think you would like number 5.”
One day, in the Jardin, they will be called over and hear the magic words that justifies moving to San Miguel “Oh ask John, he speaks Spanish”.
Liberty in a comment has identified a group you can find in San Miguel – Bilingual Children. My son has already done a great entry on Multilingual Children on his site Stuff White People Like explaining how these people come to be through design. But there are people born into families where they learn two languages. (In North America we call them Immigrants). These people scare residents of San Miguel because they speak English like a native and Spanish like a native. They have power and are often hired into a Bienes Raices where they can do much damage.