What Do Sod and MS Word Have in Common?

The most amazing experience happened to me yesterday and I must tell you about it! But first, a tiny bit of background. I wrote my first book using Microsoft Word versions 2000 and 2003, but when I ran into formatting issues trying to send my manuscript to my agent who had a more advanced version, I decided I needed to upgrade. A couple of years ago I purchased a new computer and had MS Word 2010 installed. I thought it would just be a fancier version of a system I already knew so well. Wrong! It has been almost like working with a foreign entity―a nightmare I have complained about to this day. I even bought a print book to help me learn how to do things I used to do almost automatically.

Well, yesterday, MS Word redeemed itself in one particular way. My ninety-nine year old next-door neighbor, Nellie, and I ordered lawn sod to be laid in both our yards. Since she is hard of hearing and confined to a walker, my task was to make sure she understood everything that would occur and to assure her all was going according to plan. From time to time, we wanted to verify procedural steps and to ask the men a few questions.

When the men and equipment arrived, it immediately became apparent we had a stumbling block. The men spoke only Spanish and, naturally, my language studies had been in French. Since I had lived for several years in Germany, I figured I could use the charade skills I had learned there. Ummm. All I can say is that if there had been a video of me cavorting around trying to make myself understood, and of the poor soul who was trying desperately to understand me, the video would have gone viral as a comedy of errors on YouTube!

Luckily, I was able to get the men started. The yards had been sprayed to kill the old grass and now the men would dig that up, fill any holes with new soil, and clean and smooth out the areas while we waited for the new sod to arrive. Then I came inside to ponder what to do next.

I remembered I have been able to use a translation method on Facebook, which made me wonder if I could translate from one language to another in Word. I got out my instruction book on Word 2010 and lo and behold it seemed possible. The instructions told me to go to the “Review” tab and under “language” in the upper left of the screen, it says, “translate” with an arrow below it. I selected the English question I had written, clicked on the arrow and then selected Spanish in the list of languages. Then I inserted the Spanish translation of my question below that and voila! The English was above and the Spanish was below. I printed that out and rushed outside to show the foreman. There was only one Spanish choice in the list of languages and I wasn’t sure if it would be understood because I know there are differences in Spain and Mexican Spanish and probably other Spanish speaking countries, but I hoped my version would at least be better than my cavorting. It worked. Hallelujah!

Here’s an example: I was asking one fellow to set the sprinkler timers thus:


Start sprinkling Nellie’s at 2:00 AM, 30 minutes for each of 5 zones = 2 ½ hours and at 5:00 AM start sprinkling my lawn, 30 minutes for each of 5 zones = 2 ½ hours.


Empezar por aspersión de Nellie en 2:00, 30 minutos para cada uno de 5 zonas = 2 ½ horas a 5:00 iniciar aspersión mi césped, 30 minutos para cada uno de 5 zonas = 2 ½ horas.

Can you imagine me trying to pantomime those instructions? Ha! It’s quite possible you readers already knew how to do this, but it was wonderful news to me and certainly simplified my day. Now Nellie and I have beautiful new lawns, the sprinkler timers are set, and the workmen really appreciated my extra effort to help us all understand. I haven’t seen so many smiling faces and raised thumbs in quite a while. Thanks to Microsoft Word. (I imagine Mac machines have something similar.)

Have any of you had an experience using writing software that has helped you in a seemingly unrelated practical circumstance? I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under How To, writing

12 responses to “What Do Sod and MS Word Have in Common?

  1. Suzanne Baginskie

    I really like your solution to the language barrier problem. You did what I always suggest to my writing students: Think outside the box. I have yet to install my MS Word 10. I remember you mentioning this to me about the experience you had. I know it is inevitable…but I’m still holding back for now. Interesting column, Coco.

    • Thank you, Suzanne. Ha, ha, I’d already been all around the box. I guess I had to go outside. When you do take the plunge on MS Word 10, I can tell you about a really comprehensive print book to help if you have any trouble. Thank you so much for your comment and encouragement. Keep on writing!

  2. What a clever solution, and what a fun story! Now I shall know what to do if I end up needing translation – my foreign language skills are French and German too

    • Thank you, Sheila. What is it they say, “desperate situations lead to desperate measures,” or something like that. Anyway, whatever works, right? I had to laugh when I got all those hearty smiles and raised thumbs.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I appreciate it.

  3. Brilliant, Coco! A lovely little story with all the right elements: opening dilemma, conflict and frustration, solution and invitation for similar episodes.

  4. missygirl1

    That was fun to read and enjoy!!!!! I had been thinking about you when sod was being done! Mission accomplished! Good job, Coco!

    • Thank you, Missygirl. So glad you enjoyed reading about it. Aren’t computers amazing?! Thank you for being such a faithful reader. I appreciate it, and thanks for leaving your delightful comment.

  5. I would never have thought of using Word as a translator. I will be going to bed a little less stupid tonight. Thanks for that.

    • You’re quite welcome, A.J. What can I say? I was desperate! 🙂 And, not to be critical, you are not stupid, just ignorant of the wonders of Word. I was, too. Thanks for your comment.

  6. I have recently through facebook reconnected with a distant cousin in Eastern Europe. I do not speak her language. She does not speak mine. My Grandmother was the translator when we visited in the early 1970’s. Sadly Grandma is gone. I have been using Google Translate. Just another option for those of us with language barriers.

    • E.M., I saw Google Translate while I was trying to figure out my dilemma, but Word was the first I tried. It helps to have a back-up. Thanks for the suggestion. Perhaps I’ll try that next time. Thank you for reading my blog and for your help. Happy translating and connecting with your cousin.

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