April 1st, 2011
No Habla Español: The Trouble With Not Speaking Spanish

[Editor’s Note: Yvonne Condes is a blogger in LA, YvonneinLA, and her work is reposted here with permission.]

There are so many times when I regret not speaking better Spanish. This past weekend I was talking to a very interesting woman at theBlogher Bet conference (which was fantastic by the way). Another woman came up and started speaking Spanish. I understood a few words here and there and nodded at the appropriate times, which led them to believe that I spoke Spanish.

A normal person would have said something, but I thought I could either fake it or figure out what they were saying. I nodded like an idiot for way too long. Once they were gone I applauded myself because I thought I understood everything they said. I ran into a friend and told her what our mutual friend had said. Well, turns out I had the entire conversation wrong.

And that pretty much sums up my childhood. My parents spoke Spanish fluently with friends, relatives, and strangers, but not with their four kids. They would speak to each other in Spanish in front of us, and I would think I knew what they were saying. I would make a comment to join in the conversation and they would laugh. Good times. But that was several decades ago.

Why, at 40, am I still not fluent in Spanish? I was doing really well for a time (I went to summer school in Guadalajara) and after college I could hold an intelligent conversation. But (get ready for a lame excuse) after I started my first job in the Midwest I didn’t know anyone who spoke Spanish. In fact, I was the only Mexican-American my friends there knew.

Now here is why my excuse is lame. After I left the Midwest, I moved to California. There are plenty of people here who speak Spanish so why haven’t I picked it up again? It’s because I’m too embarrassed to try because my Spanish is so bad. I can handle the idea of being laughed at (it happens more than I care to mention), but I don’t like the idea of sounding dumb.

Having written those words, I now know how lame they sound. If my kids told me they weren’t going to try because they were afraid to fail I would lecture them until they passed out from exhaustion.

So I guess it’s time to take a Spanish class. If you see me and you speak Spanish, come over and say hola, but don’t be surprised if you hear me reply, “Que?”  Remember, I’m trying.

6 thoughts on “No Habla Español: The Trouble With Not Speaking Spanish

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  4. Its so funny that this article came out…I am of Puerto Rican decent and my family spoke to me in English and not spanish. I learned how to speak spanglish out with my friends because at home Spanish was for the adults to be able to talk about topics kids were not allowed to here. It is really bad because my son doesn’t speak any spanish and my daughter well she speaks spanglish like I do. With that being said the kids and I went on a vacation to Puerto Rico last yr (2010) and my son was complaining the whole time because he couldn’t understand the conversation within the family which made him uncomfortable. I am looking into taking spanish classes so that I can better my spanish and be able to have a full conversation in spanish…. then in turn teach my children. It was definitely an embarrassment not to be able to speak properly with our family. :(

    BTW I also have started watching spanish programs (news, political talk shows etc) so that I can pick up the words and learn them. (use the closed caption for the program as well)

  5. Dear Inez, I felt your pain exactly 32 years ago. when I began working for a Spanish station in Lubbock Texas..
    Before that I thought my Spanglish was up to par with Spanish. I was very wrong. I had to learn the entire process of thinking entirely in Spanish before I could speak it. I was a process that took 25 years to master in order to successfully master my duties as television news anchor and reporter.

    My suggestion to you is practice practice practice. Learn to read Spanish first, then read OUTLOUD daily. Your tongue will then begin to mold to the language and your thought process will develop as well.

    I am out of broadcasting now and I have been losing my Spanish language also. I have to keep reminding my self to keep practicing because I know that if I do not I will lose it.

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