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Spanish Language/Cuban dialect questions


Hello Ms. Strickland,

I'm a novelist and was hoping I could pick your brain for some issues that have arisen in the story I'm currently writing.

    I'm working on a passage that involves a female Cuban Ophthalmologist (eye specialist) that practices in Miami, Florida at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, one of the most prestigious research and training center in the US.  She is very bright and attractive.  She speaks with a very thick Cuban American accent (In my head I hear Sophia Vergara or Salma Hayek). Her services are currently on loan to a hospital in Northwest Georgia.

    In my scene, she is conferring with a male doctor that she kinda likes, she doesn't really flirt with him, but she receptive to his friendly banter and teasing.  Between them, there is a running joke about her thick accent and the way she mixes Cuban words with English.

    Okay, that's the backstory you have to work with.  I'm a horror writer and my piece is about a teen that went exploring in a cave and got bit by an unknown animal.  His body is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, the sclera (white part) of his eyes has turned an iridescent shade of yellow and she is tasked with finding out what is going on with the boy.  She examines him, and finds that his visual acuity is off the charts, almost in line with the sight of a bird of prey, plus he can see in complete darkness.

    Being an eye specialist with an emphasis on ocular research, she is totally jazzed about her findings and wants to get the boy down to her lab in Miami for further tests and to study him.  Excited about her findings, she finds the doctor in charge of the boy's case (The doctor she kinda likes).  She reports her findings to him.

    Now, if you would be so kind, I would like you to write out the following:  I need the fraction for 20/5 (like the visual acuity score you get when you have your eyes checked i.e., 20/20)  I don't know how a Cuban doctor would write in Spanish 20 over five - would it be, viente sobre cinco?

    Also, I need -0.602 written out in Spanish.  Is it, menos cero punto seis cero dos?

    Finally, the eye doctor says 20/5 in Spanish, and the male dr. looks at her blankly, she realizes she said it in Spanish, so she repeats it in English 20/5 then quips in Spanish something along the lines of, "you silly, man." because she is a bit frustrated by this white guy not knowing something that seems very simple to her.  So, she says, "Twenty over five, you silly, man."  I don't want her to be mean about her quip, because she kinda likes him, but I just want the reader to know that she thinks he's a dumb white guy that can't even figure out what she said.  You know what I mean?  She says the quip in Spanish as if for her own benefit or amusment.  If "you silly man." does not translate into something you feel she would say, then please offer an alternative phrase.

    I bet this is the craziest request for assistance you've had all day!  I hope you can help me sort through my issues.  I look forward to hearing back from you.  So to review:

I need written Spanish translations for:  -0.602

Written  Spanish translation for 20/5

and a Cuban quip written in Spanish for, "Twenty over five, you silly, man."

All the Best,

JD Lowes"


It was great to get so much context about what you need to have translated and why :)

I have not been to the eye doctor here in Chile and have spoken about it with my (Chilean) husband and some Spanish-speaking (also Chilean) students, and they all feel like it's not something they feel 100% confident about... as in, even those that wear glasses aren't sure how to talk about their vision.

That being said, I posed the question on another forum and got some responses and would say that it SEEMS that these could be appropriate translations:

1. menos cero punto seis cero dos  (this isn't actually a vision anyone would have, but it seems that's how you would say it if it were...)
2. veinte-cinco  (again, not a vision most anyone would have, but people are sure they have heard "veinte-veinte" as perfect vision)
3. Veinte sobre cinco, tontín.  

If you know any Cubans,  you could ask them if "tontín" is also used there rather jokingly to say "silly man"... at least in Chile saying "tontin" is softer than just saying "tonto."

If I get any more nuanced feedback on this, I will let you know.

Best of luck with the book :)


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Brandee Strickland


I can answer questions about the Spanish language itself, as I studied Spanish academically and also spent a significant amount of time living in Chile (as a teacher of English). I can also help with issues of translation, and with interpreting slang or other cultural anecdotes. As an experienced teacher, of both EFL and Spanish, I can answer questions as well about teaching, classroom practice, and the use of technology.


I am a native speaker of English but have studied Spanish since a young age, as well as living in Chile for 5 years. I learned Spanish as a student myself, and have also taught introductory and intermediate level Spanish courses both privately and at the University level. At the graduate level, I have studied linguistics and sociolinguistics, as well as focusing on language teaching and the use of technology in the classroom.

University of Calgary, Canada; Universidad de Concepcion, Chile

Strickland, B., & O'Brien, M. G. (2013). A Review of the Literature on Technology in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Strickland, B. (Summer 2012). Communities of practice in the language classroom: Theory and reality. ETAS Journal. Strickland, B. (2009). De Gardner a Bajtin: La comunicacion mediada por ordenador y su impacto en la clase de lenguas. University of Calgary (Canada), ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. MR54572. Strickland, B. (2009). El mito de Narciso en la poesía española de los Siglos de Oro. Espéculos: Revista de estudios literarios, 40.

I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Psychology from Bowdoin College in the U.S. I completed an M.A. in Spanish and Second Language Acquisition and a PhD dissertation in the same field, both at the University of Calgary in Canada and currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

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