I try to tell people interested in interpreting, that knowing a language isn’t achieved by knowing a vocabulary. Knowing a language is cultural, it is becoming the language, being part of the ethos, it is a change in personality and perspective.
Humor is a great identifier of ones culture. I always realize how I am not so american when I watch American comedies and how I am even less Mexican than I like to think I am when I watch Mexican comedies.
I suck at pop culture. Both Mexican and American. I’ve never seen Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, American Idol and rarely get the references made in American comedies like The Simpsons. When I watch or listen to Mexican comedies it is even worse. El Chavo del Ocho doesn’t make me laugh. I can’t stand La Familia Peluche and have never once laughed during it. At least with American comedies I sometimes laugh. However, in both situations I feel a disconnect especially with people around me who look like the are about to lose bladder control from the laughter. I’ve been watching a lot of Mexican stand-up comedy and joke telling as of late. I feel overwhelmed by a sense of disconnect and sadness. I am not really Mexican. I don’t laugh at all and it makes me feel like a failure as a Mexican. I understand what is supposed to be funny but I don’t find it funny. I attempt to analyze what it is I am missing.
On the rare occasions I do find a Mexican comedy funny, moments after my laughing as ceased, I realize that my laughter happened naturally and I feel a sense of belonging. Below is a clip from a vulgar, Mexican comedy show. I laughed and enjoyed it and was pleased with my enjoyment. Additionally, here is a link to a blog post by a British friend of mine. She writes about Americans (and my) inability to comprehend dry wit or sarcasm…although I like to think I prefer dry humor to slapstick.
A funny political aside: my mother who has lived in the the United State for 30+ years now, was flipping through the channels and stopped at a speech being given by Rick Perry. She listened attentively and then looked at me for a cue and asked “Is he real? Or is this The SNL?” She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be laughing.