15 August 2009

Learning Spanish - Reading Signs

One of the ways to improve your vocabulary and learn more about a particular region is to read signs. I am talking about all kinds of signs; street signs, billboards, highway signs, storefront signs, supermarket signs...you name it. I am forever learning things from signs. For example, you can look up the names on street signs and learn about the people that they honor. I live near a street named "Héroe de Nacozari" which is a reference to a man named "Jesús García Corona" who on the 7th of November in 1907 saved the town of Nacozari, Sonora by driving away from the town a locomotive pulling a burning train that contained dynamite. In the process of saving the town he was killed when the train blew up and will forever have a warm place in the hearts of his countrymen. I always carry a little notebook with me and some 3"x5" cards so that I can note down words and names to look up later. Sometimes I even take photos of the signs if conditions permit and then figure out what they say at my leisure. I can't begin to tell you how much this has helped me. Even after more than ten years of doing this I still come across strange signs that I need help to decipher.

On the 5th of August I posted an item called "Centro de Convivencia Familiar DIF" about a park for families that we have here in Irapuato. This park has an 800 meter walking track. Around this track at 60 meter intervals are placed twelve signs dedicated to "Valores en Familia" (Family Values). I think that these signs are pretty neat and they are a nice way for Moms and Dads to teach their children about family values while they are walking in the park. I took photos of all the signs and you can see the photos below. I also decided that they might make a good Spanish lesson so I wrote out the words from each one in Spanish and English. You can read my English translations and then go below and see if you can read all the signs in Spanish and understand them. When you do this type of sign reading exercise you will learn a lot about subtle differences in words. For example, at the 180 meter mark we have the word "Respeto". This word means "respect" as in respect for another person. However, if we use the word "respecto" with a "c" in it, it also means respect but in the sense of "with respect to" or "in this respect". I should also point out the the literal word for word translation does not always do justice to the actual intent of the meaning as you can see in the translation for the value "Respeto".

60 Metros - Igualidad es brindar a todas las personas el mismo trato y las mismas oportunidades, sin excluirlas por su raza, condición social o sexo.
Equality is to give everyone the same treatment and equal opportunities, including by race, social status or sex.

120 Metros - Equidad es dar a cada persona lo que necesita considerando su situación particular. Es requisito para la justicia.
Fairness is to give each person what they need considering their particular situation. It is a prerequisite for justice.

180 Metros - Respeto es la capacidad para no rebasar los límites de la otra persona, sin etiquetar sus acciones y pensamientos.
Respect is the ability to not exceed the limits of the other person, without labeling their actions and thoughts (In other words, respect means not interfering with the affairs of another without knowing what motivates their thoughts and actions).

240 Metros - Solidaridad es la inclinación a sentirse vinculados con otros debido a intereses comunes.
Solidarity is the inclination to feel connected with others because of common interests.

300 Metros - Diálogo es el intercambio de ideas y pensamientos que se realiza entre personas. Requiere de claridad.
Dialog is the exchange of ideas and thoughts that takes place between people. It requires clarity.

360 Metros - Negociación es cuando las personas son capaces de analizar sus puntos de vista y las soluciones que proponen para llegar a un acuerdo.
Negotiation is when people are able to discuss their views and propose solutions to reach an agreement.

420 Metros - Consenso es tomar una decisión de común acuerdo entre todas las personas involucradas. Es resultado de negociación.
Consensus is a decision of common agreement among all the people involved. It is the result of negotiation.

480 Metros - Responsabilidad es reconocer, aceptar, y responder por las consecuencias de nuestras decisiones, hechos, y actitudes.
Responsibility is to recognize, accept, and respond to the consequences of our decisions, actions, and attitudes.

540 Metros - Cooperación es el trabajo en equipo con un objetivo en común, en el que se comparten métodos semejantes. Es lo contrario a la competencia.
Cooperation is teamwork with one goal in common, in which similar methods are shared. It is the opposite of competition.

600 Metros - Reflexión es revisar nuestras actitudes y reconocer los costos y consecuencias que tienen para nosotros y para los demás.
Reflection is to review our attitudes and recognize the costs and consequences for ourselves and for others.

660 Metros - Tolerancia es reconocer el derecho de todas y todos a expresar sus ideas, aún siendo diferentes a las propias.
Tolerance is to recognize the right of everyone to express their ideas, though different from one's own.

720 Metros - Comunicación es expresar lo que sentimos y pensamos y, a la vez, es escuchar lo que sientan y piensan otras personas.
Communication is to express what we feel and think and, in turn, is listen to what other people think and feel.

Miscellaneous - The signs contain a few additional sentences that I am including here:

Ayúdanos a conservar limpio nuestro parque.
Help keep our park clean.

Deposita la basura en su lugar.
Put the trash in its proper place

Favor de no pisar las áreas verdes.
Please don't trample the green areas. (Hmm...I wonder how many Anglos think this means "Please don't piss on the grass"?)


GlorV1 said...

GO GINA, GO!! Thanks for the vivid descriptions and the great signs. Have a great Sunday.

1st Mate said...

Part of my Spanish-learning efforts are focused this year on the nuances of difference in Spanish words, that might look like cognates but aren't. When I see the word "competencia" for instance, I don't think of competition, but rather the ability to just function successfully. (Maybe I'm influenced by my mom's Alzheimer's) So I'm grateful for your observations, amigo, and those of my maestra. You both help me weed out words that don't mean what I think they do, and learn to use them appropriately.

Bob Mrotek said...

Gina said to be sure to tell you that she says "Hi".

Yes, just like in real life "false friends" or "faux amis" and "false cognates" as they are sometimes called can be a real problem when learning another language. I have been tricked many times myself. I am always tickled when someone says, "Oh, Spanish is easy. I remember it from high school and I more or less understand it pretty well." Then you ask them to tell you what they think a conversation is about and they are way off the mark because they have been listening for "false friends" and getting it wrong :)

Ruth said...

I am trying to learn Spanish and am making slow but steady progress. Our light rail train system has announcements in Spanish and English. Last weekend I was on the train for an hour and by the time I got to my destination I knew how to say the doors are on my right and the doors are on my left and also "be careful." Repetition is a good learning tool.

Bob Mrotek said...


Good for you! Slow and steady progress is the way to go. I have been studying Spanish for over ten year and I am still making slow and steady progress. I learn something new every day. It's a good thing :)

Adrian Reynolds said...

Hi Bob
There's a Calle Heroes de Nacozari here in downtown Tampico. The local railroad union office also has a statuette of Garcia Corona a plaque explaining his bravery.
Interesting stuff!

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.