Teacher Spanglish


As cultures intermingle, Spanglish is here to stay (in spite of Brexit and The Wall ). People talk how they talk . . . and there's no changing that.

This time, I examine my very own Spanglish - the words and phrases that come to mind instead of the 'correct' ones in English. Losing your vocabulary and range of language is a real threat for English teachers. How does one strike a balance between being understood, and speaking naturally. Between keeping your true language alive, and not sounding like a BBC audio test?

I suppose my Spanglish slip-ups show that it is becoming more natural to think in Castellano. Here are a few examples of my foreign language faux pas. Let's start with the simple ones.


No existe

When we don't have a direct equivalent in English, I'll often use the Spanish word.

Saying that I ate 'Spanish omelette' for dinner just sounds wrong. It's a tortilla to me, whether I am speaking in English of Spanish.

Cider houses are very common in Navarra too, but have their own set menu of face-sized steak and unlimited big boys' apple juice. We don't have anything like it, so I'll use the local word SidrarĂ­a.

This goes for a lot of other food and drink items. Morcilla, Paella, Chorizo, Rioja and Calamari are all widely used in English.


Similar sounds


Some heavily used words here, have a slightly different meaning to their English counterparts.

I find myself mixing up things like hopes and expectations based on which words my students are more familiar with (both are esperanzas in Spanish).


Navarrans will describe anything 'strange' as 'curious' which of course leads me to do it in English too. If it did only mean 'weird' and not 'inquisitive', Curious George might be less suitable for toddlers.

If you ask a class if they have any questions, they will stare at you blankly. Ask them if they have 'doubts' and you'll be answering away in no time. Some words just trigger people's understanding.

I find myself doing strange things to aid understanding, like asking if the concert they went too was very 'emotional' (emocionante), instead of 'exciting'. Sometimes I'll scrabble around and come up with false cognates, just so I don't have to resort to Spanish.

"Did you pass a good time in a familiar restaurant in the mountain?"


Without students listening to much English, they use phrases which are far more common in Spanish. People are forever 'taking advantage' of their time, or 'putting up with' exams, which means I start using them too!


Inflecting Inflection

It is apparently acceptable to swear in this country . . . anytime, anywhere. I rarely go an hour without hearing someone swearing - Kids, the radio, students and shop attendants, they all love a good swear.

I find myself swearing in Spanish too. I love the inflection of the 'f word' Joder, They go up at the beginning, and kind of sing the two syllables - Ho'dair. It is as if people are saying nothing stronger than 'whoopsie'.

Another mimic of the Spanish inflection is to phrase statements as questions (raising your voice at the end, or adding 'no'?)

"But we are still going to the cinema, no?"
"You like prawns, no?"
"They arrived already, no?"

This helps get rid of that nasty auxiliary 'do', which has no function but crops up in more than half of our questions. It's like a bloody trip wire for Spanish speakers. I know proficiency level students who can't get it right.

Yet another is adding 'for example' onto the beginning or end of a sentence, regardless of whether you are providing evidence.

"At the weekend I went to a new bar . . . for example."
"For example . . . shall we start now?"



Preposterous prepositions

With prepositions, there is no why, no rhyme or reason. Different language, different preposition. This leads us native English speakers, into adopting the cheeky little blighters from Spanish.

'For me' - to express an opinion is very common in Spanish, but not in English. 'For' a reason, 'to' a person. However, it has wormed its way into my daily lexicon.

Another example is to 'invite someone' (invite them to a drink, or dinner, by paying).

"Please, I invite you"
I say, when throwing my cash around in the bar.

Depends of (not on) is an extra 'wrongun' that has snuck in, and also adding 'to's in whenever talking about people as objects. "I helped to my family", or "called to my friend".



Simple much?

The biggest danger of grading your language as a teacher, is oversimplifying.
Big danger - simple.

How are students supposed to learn new words if all countries are, 'beautiful' or 'interesting', all sports or culture is 'important' and all food is 'delicious'.

One way I over simplify is to tack 'super' onto adjectives instead of using modifiers.

"It was super busy at the weekend" or "You're right, she's super nice."

When I do compare, I often add the word 'more' just so it is clear to people that I am using a comparative.

"Section A is more longer than Section B"






Half-arsed nouns

A shopping,
A camping,
A parking,
A sleeping,
A pair of Tennis
The heavy

These are nouns in Spanish. They borrow the English phrase (Shopping Center, Camping Ground, Parking Lot Sleeping Bag, Tennis shoes and Heavy Metal), and just give up halfway through.

"Don't worry, I'll bring my sleeping to the camping," I say. "Is there a parking near the shopping?"



New habits

I'm not sure I would go as far as replying 'charmed', to every new person I meet, but I do have adopted a few new social graces.

The obligatory 'buen provecho', tricks me into telling everyone (friend or stranger), "enjoy your meal". I would do well to remember, that it probably seems creepy in Britain. If you said it to someone stuffing in late night chicken nuggets on the last tube home, they might want to punch your lights out.

Likewise 'de nada' or 'a ti', is the ubiquitous response to thank you. We don't really have one in English but saying 'you're welcome' comes as second nature when I go back home now. I hope it doesn't sound too false.

Well, it's adios from me. Thank you all for reading, and enjoy your meals!


(You're welcome)