Speaking Spanglish


Ah, Speedy Gonzales, one of the first proponents of bad Mexican English. Now considered too racist to be shown on network television, it seems that fifty years of migration and a growing US Latino population have brought the Spanglish speaking mice back into vogue.

What is Spanglish?

It's obvious right?
The term is often used for English words that are adopted (correctly or incorrectly), confused, or even just misspelled or mispronounced. It also applies to English words that are adopted due to the lack of a Spanish equivalent. Some websites are starting to pick up on this new breed of Spanish words. Spanglish goes both ways however. It now also applies to English speakers using bad Spanish.

It's also a terrible movie.

So it's not that obvious.


My students love to say "es espanglish ticher" after they have mangled some question or sentence. I think it's ironic that there are two versions of the phrase.

English Spanglish - "It's Spanglish teacher"
Spanish Spanglish - "es espanglish ticher"

Sometimes I find Mexican Spanglish irksome. They often use English adjectives as nouns:
Un Shopping - a shopping center
Un esleeping - a sleeping bag
Tennis - trainers (tennis shoes)

However, some Spanglish words are truly delightful. Vicks Vapo Rub is a popular treatment for just about any ailment here, but when people say it, they pronounce it Beebaporoo. This in turn sounds like Viva Peru!

I didn't want to call a once great Andean nation to arms, I just had a bit of a cough!

One thing is for certain, Mexicans adopting more and more Americanism can be useful as when you want to guess a word. You can just try saying the English in a Mexican accent.


Why bother?

Learning the language is certainly not a priority for many expats, even those that are language teachers. Maybe being 6'5" in a land of pint sized people makes me more desperate to blend in, but I've always considered speaking Spanish as important. It's a useful skill. If someone had told me that a third of the world speaks Spanish, I wouldn't have bothered with GCSE French. Merci beacoup indeed!

Not only is it a mark of respect to attempt that native language, but it negates any hypocrisy. Some English teachers will moan until the cows come home that the students aren't improving, yet they'll still go into a bar, ask for 'dos birrias' and be surprised when they get goat stew instead of beer!

I've noticed that English speakers learning Spanish make a huge range of different errors, and struggle with differing aspects of the language. We all speak in a very different style too.

I've learned through some classes, some grammar books, watching movies in Spanish, and in speaking exchanges too. We all seem to have different abilities in Spanish depending on your preferred method of learning. Some people like to read novels, and can read at a much higher level than me, yet they aren't fluent when it comes to a conversation. I guess there is no silver bullet for language learning. Anything you do to put time and effort in isn't wasted. With fewer classes over the summer, I hope to get back into TV in Spanish, reading books, practicing on Duolingo and looking at news sites in Spanish too.

I seem to be pinning so many hopes on my free time - to travel, to write, to practice music, to get fit. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be a ripped, guitar shredding, globe trotting, fluent Spanish speaking poet laureate by September. I'll stick to the Spanglish.

The real Spanglish:


I recently attended the second language exchange night at a cafe in Miahuatlán. A fellow teacher set up this monthly event to try and make nice with some of the Mexican professors and staff. Some of our English teachers are a little more reticent to habla en español but there has been a good turnout and good vibes thus far.

Long may this intermingling continue, and I hope it will be mutually beneficial. At the very least, it should make us appear a little less like foreign devils and a little more like fish out of water. It'll certainly give the Mexican teachers plenty of opportunity to ask for help with TOEFL exams and academic translations.

I went to a good few language exchange nights in Buenos Aires when I lived there, which really helped kick start my Spanish. One of the nights I frequented was even called . . .

you've guessed it . . .

Spanglish.

True story.