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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Spanish-English Game

Learning Spanish, Speaking Spanish Practicing Spanish, Spanish
It's almost like a game to see if their English is better than my Spanish or if my Spanish is better than their English

While in transit from Havana, Cuba back to Oakland, CA where I live, I had a short layover at the Benito Juarez Airport in Mexico City. Trying to get directions, I stopped an airport employee and started to ask my question in Spanish. Sensing that I'm not a native Spanish speaker, he snapped, SPEAK TO ME IN ENGLISH! That's when I realized his English is better than my Spanish.

On my second trip to Perú, I met Patricia through her sister, a Facebook friend living in Toronto. She told me in English that her English is better than my Spanish. I accepted that and resigned myself to speak English. However, as we continued to talk, we both agreed (LOL) that we should speak Spanish. As it turned out, my Spanish is better than her English.
 

I felt that he was assuming that I'm just another gringo who can't speak Spanish and I decided to teach his ass a lesson

Now, back in Cuba; I was riding my bicycle along the Malecón (waterfront) with a group of American visitors. A Cuban bicyclist came up beside me and started a conversation in English. I started getting an attitude. I felt that he was assuming that I'm just another gringo who can't speak Spanish and I decided to teach his ass a lesson. For everything he said to me in English, I responded in Spanish hoping he would get the message. Instead, he himself copped an attitude and demanded that I stopped answering him in Spanish because he was trying to practice his English. That's when I began to sympathize with him and comply with his wishes because I was treated the same way when I approached bilingual Latin Americans in the United States when I would speak Spanish to them. 

Just as many Spanish speakers who speak English feel insulted when people assume they are Spanish only; I too feel insulted when people look at me and assume that I'm English only.

In many cases, however, here and abroad, I get in Spanish/English conversations with native Spanish-speakers, and it's almost like a game to see if their English is better than my Spanish or if my Spanish is better than their English, and which ever one dominates, that is the language we speak. Just as many Spanish speakers who speak English feel insulted when people assume they are Spanish only; I too feel insulted when people look at me and ASSume that I'm English only, and that is here and abroad.