Overhead in an English Language Learning classroom:
A recently arrived Cuban student who speaks limited English asked a fellow student a very important question for today’s text savvy teen.
(in a thick Cubanazo/Cuban accent)
“Oye chico… que significa WTF?” (hey, what’s WTF?) he asked, looking at his phone in confusion.
Danyer (who i’ve secretly nicknamed “Danyer Mouse”) arrived from Cuba 3 months ago and has since jumped into the deep end of the English learning pool.
This should get interesting…
A few snorts and chuckles rumbled through the room.
Reynaldo, his English learning wingman from Guatemala, has been here about a year and has el swagger to prove it. I could see in his eyes that this question created two paths before Reynaldo: 1. Maintain the innocence of this English newbie at the expense of future social humiliation 2. Thrust him into the harsh world of street English/text jargon.
Reynaldo paused and rubbed his chin in thought to indicate the seriousness of this question. Danyer Mouse was treading water, waiting for his friend to throw him a line. He leaned in.
“Mi querido Danyer,” (my dear Danyer) he began. “Que buena pregunta” (what an excellent question). He purposely enunciated every word slowly to build up the suspense.
“WTF significa… wacala! ‘ta feo!” (WTF means, yuck! that’s gross!). A few snorts resounded in the back of the class.
Danyer nodded slightly, perplexed look across his face, probably because this new revelation did not match the context of the text he received.
“Wacala…’ta feo?” He repeated slowly, trying to make the square peg fit into a non existing hole. “Tu ‘tas seguro , chico?” (you sure, bro?)
“Claro… no te llevaria por el mal camino hermano!” (of course, I wouldn’t lead you astray bro!).
And so Reynaldo chose the path of innocence for Danyer, who was now armed with another slang phrase he could use in a peer conversation, thus proving his progression in the English language.
…until lunch time arrived and it was Danyer’s turn to receive a healthy portion of slippery Salisbury steak, soggy green beans and mushed over tater tots from the cafeteria lady.
“Enjoy your lunch!” said the uncharacteristically cheery, hair netted matron. She obviously brought her own lunch.
Danyer looked at his glistening meal and had a visceral reaction that transcended language, but eventually registered with his most recently acquired English phrase.
“WTF!” He said to himself, only a bit too loudly.
The sweet Queen of Salisbury gasped, not expecting this mild mannered foreign student to have turned to the dark side so quickly.
“Young man! That is not the type of language we use in my cafeteria!” Her gloved index finger wagging at a wide-eyed Danyer.
Shocked at her reaction to his honest assessment of the substance on his plate, he decided honesty wasn’t always the best route in the English language. Knowing the cafeteria staff cared about the students’ health, he adapted his new found phrase to try and mend the situation. Wacala…’ta healthy, he reasoned. With a big smile on his face he responded:
“That’s it! Give me that and get out!” she snatched his tray of congealed rations and pointed to the exit.
And so poor Danyer learned the hard way that asking your wingman to interpret random texts from a random language and applying it to very random foods left him… wacala, ‘ta hungry.