Rihanna es …

Rihanna es de Barbados. ¿Qué es la nacionalidad de Rihanna? ¿Sabes?

We were studying countries and nationalities in Spanish class the other day. I don’t like to brag, but I like to tell my students that I know most of the countries’ names in Spanish and their nationalities. I challenge the students to challenge me with countries not listed in the Spanish textbook. Well, one student asked me what Rihanna’s nationality was. Did I know her nationality? Of course, not! I asked the student for Rihanna’s country and he said Barbados. I still couldn’t say what her nationality was.

What to do? What to do? Well, I went to my old friend Wikipedia and looked up Rihanna. An entry with Rihanna’s biography in English immediately popped up. I know Wikipedia is still not a reliable reference source, but Wikipedia is great for translating into other languages. If you look in the left column after you find your Wikipedia article, you will see many other languages into which the article is translated. Since español is one of the top languages of the world, most of the articles are translated into Spanish.

Once I found the Rihanna article in English, I switched to the Spanish translation. I soon found Rihanna’s nationality in Spanish! ¡Rihanna es barbadense! Since my classroom has a computer with an Internet connection, I was able to tell the class Rihanna’s nationality in less than two minutes! I wish I could tell you that the class was impressed with my Spanish research skills, but sadly, they were merely surprised that I even knew who Rihanna was!


A Spanish student's best friend!

Translation from one language to another always poses a problem. Dictionaries alone aren’t enough. They never have the latest technological terms. New products aren’t in there either. For new products, I looked at the sales inserts of our local Spanish papers and most of the time I found the term I needed.

Now, with the Internet, there are all kinds of translators available. Sometimes students use them for their Spanish compositions. They write the composition in English first and then have the translator translate it for them. I can always tell when they use the translator because the composition looks as if it’s written in Spanish. However, the text is unintelligible. Yes, every word is in Spanish, but the wrong words were chosen and the syntax is all wrong. The students write a better composition if they write entirely in Spanish. Even when they make mistakes, I can still decipher their intended meaning.

Occasionally, when I need to translate a word that’s not in one of my many dictionaries, I go to the internet and use an online translator for a word or two. Not all the translations are satisfactory. I’ve discovered that Wikipedia.com makes a great translator. A student needed to translate jigsaw puzzle and none of my dictionaries had it. So I looked up jigsaw puzzle on Wikipedia and then I chose to read the article in Spanish got rompecabezas. For years, I’ve meaning to translate Daylight Saving Time into Spanish unsuccessfully. Today I looked it up on wikipedia and got el horario de verano. This method would work for many languages because most of the Wikipedia articles are translated into many languages.