Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to understand European when it is Spike

EUROPEAN isn’t a language yet, but I can’t help thinking that in our company, (Brits, Spaniards and Germans) and in many other businesses that employ workers of different nationalities, it can’t be too long before it becomes one.

There is one rule at work, one linguistic meeting point and that is we should communicate between us in one official language – and being in Spain, it was decided it should be Spanish. Good move. Nearly all of us are able to carry out some level of conversation in Spanish and although misunderstandings happen, no one has been fired because they got the wrong end of the stick. Almost, but not quite. Not yet.

Unofficially,(ie when the boss isn’t around) we lapse into the language which is most comfortable for us, depending on who we’re speaking to (or about) and the subject. So English to English-speakers, Spanish to Spanish speakers, Spanglish (a mixture of Spanish and English in each sentence) to bilingual colleagues, and Spanish or English to our German colleagues, after we’ve enquired which they prefer. German has a harder time crossing borders than English or Spanish so only they speak their fine language.

All this works well when we’re talking.

But when we get on the computer it becomes a little more challenging. Programmes are either in Spanish or English. You get used to it after a while and can forget the language you’re working in. There’s the odd blip - my Spanish Microsoft Office changes words for you without asking, like the Spike in the title (wrote spoke but there you are, it prefers Spike), but you learn to check your copy. And you get on with it.

Until that is, you crank up our German-built content management system. At some point it was translated into English by German IT chaps, who to be fair probably only speak IT, in any language.

You know you’re in trouble when the warning messages suddenly appear in German and the computer makes a loud clonk noise (it reminds me of the sub in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) to let you, and the rest of the office, know the disdain it feels at being used by such a plonker. None of us know why it goes into German, but perhaps it is so annoyed it reverts back to its mother-tongue.

Yesterday however, it went a step further, bypassing the German and spouting the message in the photo. Howls of laughter from us. We’ve stuck it on the pin board in the kitchen along with other gems such as the appetizingly-named Salmon in Swamp Sauce from a local restaurant’s menu. (It should be salmon in mushroom sauce).

So is your European up to scratch and what in heaven’s name does ‘Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation’ mean? Send me a comment if you know…

Weather today: I'm not sure, it's very dark outside but I'll look again tomorrow.