You Think Apple Maps Are Bad?

“My current home address is 200 meters north of the Pizza Hut then 400 meters west…” says San José Mayor Johnny Araya

As I’ve documented here on this little ol’ blog, in May of this year I spent a week of my life in San José, Costa Rica.

Having been reared in New Mexico, the Land of Mañana, I am not unfamiliar with the more laid back ways of Latin culture.

But even to me, Costa Rica was a bit of an eye opener.

People walk down the center of major roads and cars accommodate this.

Buses stop on the freeway to pick up passengers who wait between two lines painted on a guard rail. The bus drivers shout “¡andele!” as it’s not really a stop as much as a fast roll (I rode the bus in San José, an experience not soon forgotten).

If a dog happens to trot out into a major road everyone laughs and says, “¡Ay, perro!” as they stop and wait for the hound to find it’s way through. (Costa Rican’s LOOOOVE their dogs)

And directions? Forget about it. After growing up in Albuquerque with well marked roads laid out on a grid, I always carp about California’s lackadaisical approach to marking roads and exits.

Compared to Costa Rica, California looks perfectly well organized. The roads in CR go all over the place and everyone just seems to know how to get there. Thank the god (my Costa Rican employee’s favorite expression) that my Tico minion drove me everywhere because I would have been utterly lost.

And let me tell you…Google maps don’t know nuthin’ about how to navigate San José.

So this evening while winding down with a nice glass of red, I smiled when I saw this headline:

San José, Costa Rica to install its first street signs

However, it wasn’t the headline that made me grin. It was this quote from the article:

“I don’t think it’s going to work”, 29-year-old taxi driver Manuel Perez said. “If a tourist tells me to take him to a hotel in whatever street, I’m going to say ‘you’re speaking to me in Chinese,’ because I don’t know where that is. I need a landmark.”

That is so the essence of my beautiful, magical, insane as the day is long but also kind as the day is long Ticos.

By the way, the cab drivers in CR are THE BEST. The running dialog I’d get during rides was priceless. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment.

These were my most favorite road signs in Costa Rica. They mean “give way” and were posted everywhere, on every corner and road and driveway. No one ceda’s the paso to ANYONE. These signs might as well say, “have a nice day” for all the good they do.

Image from Wikipedia and used under Creative Commons.

On The Road Again (Soon)

I’m just barely back from Singapore (in my mind anyway, it’s been two weeks today that my feet stepped off the plane in Cali) and now I’m gearing up and packing up for my next work adventure.

This time Boss Man is sending me off to a different part of the world. An area a little more in my wheelhouse.

In exactly one week I’ll be saying helllooooo Costa Rica.

Or, more properly, Holaaaaaa Costa Rica!

: cue a Latin beat :

Yup, that’s right folks, I’m headed to Central America.

Before you start imagining idyllic days by the blue-green sea, ratchet all of that back and imagine me in the middle of the densely populated capital city of San Jose.

While the trip to Singapore was all hand shaking and good food, Costa Rica is going to be some seriously hard work (and hopefully good food). I have an employee there who is still pretty new (yes, I hired her without ever meeting her in person) and she needs some back up.

Today I’m watching my calendar fill up with meetings for next week. Heads of Finance, IT, HR and the site director shall feel my steely wrath. Ok, less wrath and maybe more along the lines of “stop treating my employee like your hired hand or I’m gonna call in some really big boss types, and no one wants that.”

In Singapore I was there to make friends. In Costa Rica I’m there to have some pretty hard conversations. And try to make friends while I’m at it.

The good news is that most Costa Ricans (they call themselves Ticos) speak English, because my Spanish is Spanglish at best and I’m quite out of practice. I’m certain I can still easily order a beer and inquire as to the location of the bathroom, but beyond that I might stumble.

But I’m looking forward to trying!

And in other somewhat related news…file this under the World is Very Small and the World is Very Large:

Last week I had a one to one meeting with my employee in Costa Rica. She asked me about my trip to Singapore.

She said “Karen, I have something to confess. When you said you were going to Singapore, for some reason I thought that was located in Africa. I thought you were going to be out there with wild animals in the middle of the desert and I was really worried about you! I told my mom about how worried I was and she said “what is wrong with you?” So I Googled it and looked at photos. There’s all these big buildings. That’s nothing like what I thought.”

We had a good laugh because, well, geography can be a tricky thing.

Then I confessed that when I’d told a couple of my friends I was going to Costa Rica, they were like “now….that’s over by Brazil, right?” And I sighed and said “um. No. Central America. Nestled in there between Panama and Nicaragua.”

I say all this while admitting my own knowledge of geography is no great shakes.

We laughed again and agreed maybe I’m like a super secret spy and it’s better no one knows where I’m really going.

But really…

I’d like to buy the world a geography lesson, and teach them harmony.
I’m both excited and terrified about this trip. The Good Man isn’t coming along this time, so I’m on my own.

Courage! rawr.

Image from

Hablo en Google

As a native child of New Mexico, I am neither unfamiliar nor uncomfortable with the Spanish language.

That said, the Spanish I speak is a informal blend often referred to as “Spanglish”.

Un poquito English. A tiny bit Espanol.

This is both a help and a hindrance in my daily work.

I’ve had a chance to chronicle my extensive work learning the ways and means of my counterparts in EMEA.

I’ve discussed my ongoing learning curve with my coworkers and suppliers in APAC.

It was inevitable…my focus has arrived in Latin America.

Right now I work mostly with Brazil and Mexico.

Since I have zero Portuguese and my Spanish cannot be considered appropriate for business, I have come to rely on Google Translate to do my daily job. I was using BabelFish for a while, but I’ve come to realize that Google Translate is actually a lot more accurate and it handles colloquialisms fairly well.

Even so, it’s not perfect. I really have to watch how I craft my emails. I love the English language and I love to play it fast and loose with grammar and word use. This does not always work well in translation.

While Google will properly translate the words, the meaning gets lost and I will usually get either an “I’m sorry?” or a simple “Que?” from my friends in Latin America.

Ya can’t just throw down a “This ain’t my first rodeo!” or “Put up or shut up!” and expect that’s going to come across the way you meant it.

To make matters more difficult, I’m not only working with people in my own company, but I’m also negotiating with suppliers. Now to my mind, negotiating is a fine art. Language and word choice can be everything.

So I feel a little hamstrung trying to work a deal in another language that I can’t speak. (wait, does “hamstrung” translate?)

For Mexico, I have a buddy in my organization who is originally from Mexico City. So far he’s been willing to be a translator and negotiator on my behalf and he’s doing a great job. I thank him profusely every day.

No such luck finding a native Portuguese speaker who is friendly to my cause.

So it’s off to Google Translator and hope for the best.

Actually, I’ve been shocked at how well I’ve actually been able to complete my work. Here I am cutting multimillion dollar deals with just an online translator and a bit of attitude and somehow, it works. I am able to have Legal review in each country to be sure it all stays the way I negotiated it, and that helps me stay out of trouble.

I love language and I love using language to be persuasive at the negotiation table.

So working through an online translator feels like I’m roping a wild cow in that proverbial rodeo and doing so with one hand tied behind my back.

I’m gonna guess that didn’t translate well.


I Speak Google

Como un niño nativo de Nuevo México, no soy ni familiar ni incómodo con la lengua española.

Dicho esto, el español que hablan es una mezcla informal a menudo se refiere como “Spanglish”.

A little Inglés. Un pequeño poco Espanol.

Esto es una ayuda y un obstáculo en mi trabajo diario.

He tenido la oportunidad de trabajar una crónica extensa aprender las maneras y los medios de mis colegas en la región EMEA.

He hablado de mi curva de aprendizaje continuo con mis compañeros de trabajo y proveedores en Asia-Pacífico.

Era inevitable … mi enfoque ha llegado a América Latina.

Ahora mismo trabajan sobre todo con Brasil y México.

Desde que tengo cero portugués y mi español no puede ser considerado apropiado para el negocio, he llegado a depender de Google Translate para hacer mi trabajo diario. Yo estaba usando BabelFish por un tiempo, pero me he dado cuenta de que Google Translate es en realidad mucho más preciso y se maneja bastante bien coloquiales.

Aún así, no es perfecto. Tengo que ver cómo me artesanía mis correos electrónicos. Me encanta el idioma Inglés y me gusta jugar rápido y libremente con la gramática y el uso de la palabra. Esto no siempre funciona bien en la traducción.

Mientras que Google correctamente traducir las palabras, el significado se pierde y yo por lo general se convierte en un “lo siento?” o simple “Que?” de mis amigos en América Latina.

Ya no puede lanzar una “Este no es mi primer rodeo!” o “poner o callarse” y esperar que va a venir a través de la forma que quería decir.

Para hacer las cosas más difíciles, estoy trabajando no sólo con la gente de mi propia empresa, pero también estoy negociando con los proveedores. Ahora en mi opinión, la negociación es un arte. Elección de la lengua y la palabra puede ser todo.

Así que me siento un poco paralizado tratando de trabajar mucho en otro idioma que no puedo hablar. (Tiempo de espera, significa “paralizado” traducir?)

Para México, tengo un amigo en mi organización que es originario de la Ciudad de México. Hasta ahora ha estado dispuesto a ser un traductor y negociador en mi nombre y que está haciendo un gran trabajo. Le doy las gracias profusamente todos los días.

No hubo suerte para encontrar un hablante nativo portugués, que es amigo de mi causa.

Por lo que es de al traductor de Google y esperar lo mejor.

En realidad, he sido sorprendido por lo bien hecho, he podido completar mi trabajo. Aquí estoy haciendo tratos multimillonarios con sólo un traductor en línea y un poco de actitud y de alguna manera, funciona. Yo soy capaz de tener opinión legal en cada país para asegurarse de que todas las estancias de la forma en que lo negociado, por lo que me ayuda a mantenerme fuera de problemas.

Me encanta el idioma y me encanta usar el lenguaje para ser persuasivo en la mesa de negociación.

Así que trabajar a través de un traductor en línea se siente como que estoy cuerda una vaca salvaje en ese rodeo proverbial y hacerlo con una mano atada a la espalda.

Voy a suponer que no se tradujo así.

Image by Jakub Krechowicz and used royalty free from stock.xchng.