Saturday, November 20, 2010

Habla Ingles?

Lost in Translation 

It's a standard misconception that people who don't speak English are somehow unintelligent, child-like and downright dumb. There is a number too large to count of people who get frustrated with people who don't know how to speak English, who are learning to speak it or don't speak it properly, and this number includes myself. I've gotten annoyed and flustered with people on the phone who don't understand what I'm saying or trying to explain something to a customer in my old job. The thing about learning a new language that I've come to realise is that, that is exactly the view I'm going to encounter speaking Spanish in Spain.

Learning a new language is difficult, to say the least. Even if you have a knack for linguistics, there are things you have to memorise, study and go over and over until they stick. And even then, it might not be perfect. You can't learn a language they way you take a business class, showing up for tutorials or doing all-nighters to finish assignments. You miss a class, you've missed an entire lesson on how to say things in the past. You don't do your homework, you can't get your head around the patterns of regular and irregular verbs.

Nowadays I have a whole lot of respect for people who speak with accented English, who sometimes get the grammar wrong, who are often hard to understand because it means English is their second language - and already, they're one language up on me. Balancing two or more different ways of speaking, communicating has me in awe, and I can only hope I'll be half as badly understood as them, and while I'm mumbling away in half-constructed sentences and spanglish that people have a little mercy!


  1. Hi Grace,

    I don't think you'll find this intolerant attitude strong in Spain. I've found that people tend to appreciate your effort, as at least your not walking around shouting at them in English ;)

    Buena Suerte!

  2. Hey Andrea thanks :) I have heard Spaniards are really welcoming and friendly - I will let you know how I go.. ahah! Muchisimas gracias !