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How NOT to speak like an Expat

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 16th Feb 2012

I am quite possibly the last person in the world, let alone Spain, to cast criticism over the way in which most Expats speak – especially when I am just as guilty of the said crime which drives me mad :

Why, for the love of the sweet baby Jesus do so many expats (me included) insist on speaking ‘Spanglish’ ?

An old teacher of mine at school once told me that if you walk on the left hand side of the road you will be safe, likewise if you walk on the right, however if you walk in the middle you are placing yourself in serious danger. I like to think he was making some kind of analogy on the importance of being committed to something in comparison to the danger of doing something half-heartedly.

Then again, it could have just been a Tufty Club* lesson on how to cross the road safely.

Anyhow, I suppose this has been my problem in ‘learning’ Spanish. I only ever begin a conversation in Spanish that I can be sure of finishing, and as such these are relatively few and far between.

But it drives me insane when expats (myself included) resort to using English words that they are unsure about in Spanish.

In a round about way though, I begrudgingly admire the speaker of said words for at least ‘giving it a go’, but what is far, far, far worse is when the same expats are talking in English amongst English friends, and insist on substituting every third word for a Spanish one.

Why ? To show off ? To score points ?

I had an Estate Agent around to my house the other day to give me a valuation of the property. A Brit Expat I knew in passing, so he had no reason or cause to speak Spanish to me.

In conversation he continually referred to my property as being a Finca (Cottage) on rustica (Rural) land, and that the Piedra (Stone) construction made it quite charming. He particularly liked the fact that we had fitted Armarios (Wardrobes) in the bedrooms and that we were located on a good sized Piso (plot) in the Campo (Country). The fact that we didn’t have Rejas (Grilles) didn’t spoil the property, and he thought that the fact that we had a number of Almendras (Almond Trees) in the garden added a certain value.

Honestly, I was 2 Segundos (seconds) away from ramming my Collins English : Spanish down his Garganta (throat).

I suppose my point is this : In conversation with a Spaniard I can see the value and necessity in having to speak a ‘dual language’ conversation, but why do so when both parties speak the same language fluently ? Ok, ok , maybe when there isn’t an easy translation to hand – for something regionally unique or a technical oddity, but come on ... a wardrobe ?

* As a 5 year old, I had endless nightmares of being forced to continually cross the road with a giant squirell called Tufty....anyone else ?

Comment on this Blog

Wow! Congratulations! A little Spaniard!!! (Or Valencian... does get complicated doesn´t it?). Fantastic news.
Mo - Mon, 27th Feb 2012
Ignore me Mo, I was feeling tetchy last night after dealing with a heavily pregnant Mrs Grumpy.
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 27th Feb 2012
Mr. Grumpy, don´t be grumpy about this. Keep being honest - I did jump down your throat on this one so I´m really the Anticristo myself. You´re not bigoted or uneducated and you know it fine well!
Mo - Mon, 27th Feb 2012
Judging by comments on Mo's Blog it seems that i'm in the minority on this one : an uneducated, bigotted child for having opinons such as this, and am basically the anti-christ. Last time I'm going to be honest about anything.
Mr Grumpy - Sun, 26th Feb 2012
Odd I'd agree - being Welsh I know Welsh people who speak using both languages in the sentence as long as the listener understands too since some concepts work better in one or other.
Coe - Sat, 25th Feb 2012

Hi Mr. Grumpy! I´ve taken up this issue HERE

I've linked to you so people know why I´m rabbiting on about Tufty! (Or squirreling on...).

Mo - Wed, 22nd Feb 2012
Unfortunately in my area there is a strong tendancy towards speaking the regional language of Valencia, which makes things all the more confusing. However, I think I might excuse my 4 year old for speaking 3 languages at the same time as she doesn't know any different.
Mr Grumpy - Fri, 17th Feb 2012
Good post! And you´ve just given me a much-needed idea about what to write for my next post. I´ve some opinions on this which you´re right in calling Spanglish but it´s all part of a perfectly normal process called "code-switching." If I get time today I´ll write it up a bit, really need to post something but very uninspired today.
Mo - Fri, 17th Feb 2012

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