Bilingual Auctioneers …


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Thank you … or for some gracias (Spanish,) grazie (Italian,) danke (German,) Je vous remercie (French) … In fact, at Starbucks you can order a Venti (which is Italian for 20 ounces) and Trenta (which is Italian for 30 ounces.)

We as auctioneers might want to start exploring Spanish and other languages as our auction crowds already have … and as we were discussing diversity in the auction industry the other day:, could you as an auctioneer have bidders and/or sellers who expect you to speak “their language?”

While most in the United States speak English (about 80%) there are those who speak Spanish, French, German/Dutch, etc. Spanish makes up the second-most spoken language, estimated at currently 15% of the population.

What are those numbers in an auctioneer’s chant familiar to English-speakers, in Spanish, with a pronunciation guide? Here’s a common bid calling pattern from $1 to $100:

English Spanish English Pronunciation
$1 uno oo-no
$2 dos dose
$3 tres trace
$4 cuatro kwat-ro
$5 cinco sink-o
$6 seis saze
$7 siete see-yet-eh
$8 ocho och-o
$9 nueve new-eh-veh
$10 diez dee-ace
$12.50 doce y una media dos-say you-na may-dee-a
$15 quince keen-say
$17.50 diecisiete y media dee-ay-see-see-ay-tay ee may-dee-a
$20 veinte veh-een-tee
$22.50 veintidós y una mitad veh-een-dos you-na meetad
$25 veinticinco veh-een-tee-sink-o
$27.50 veintisiete y una mitad veh-een-tee-see-yet-eh you-na meetad
$30 treinta treh-een-tah
$35 treinta y cinco treh-een-tah ee sink-o
$40 cuarenta kwar-en-tah
$45 cuarenta y cinco kwar-en-tah ee sink-o
$50 cincuenta sink-kwen-tah
$60 sesenta seh-sehn-tah
$70 setenta seh-tehn-tah
$80 ochenta och-ehn-tah
$90 noventa no-vehn-tah
$100 cien see-ehn

If the concept of other languages seems odd to you … Christie’s and Sotheby’s introduced the buyer’s premium in 1975 in England, and soon after (1977) in the United States; the buyer’s premium has been part of the auctioneering landscape in the United States ever since. Both today also display the bidding amounts in multiple languages … catering to their bidders who natively speak a multitude of dialects, thus advocating for their sellers accordingly.

As an auctioneer who only speaks English, maybe the next skill to pursue should be a second language? Maybe learn to bid call in that language and then work on others? It could well be the market for bilingual or multilingual auctioneers in the coming years will be very robust … said another way, could Starbucks be trying to help you, rather than just make your life miserable with their foreign-named drink sizes?

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.