Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Language Barrier

You know how according to what area you travel to in the US, different words stand for different things?

For instance, if I'm thirsty here in the mid-west I'll take a soda. Not a pop, not a coke {although that brand is my favorite} and not a soda-pop. Catch my drift?

I also wear tennis shoes {not sneakers} and return my shopping cart {not buggy} back to the cart corral.

Well, this also happens in Spanish, as I'm sure you could've guessed. Depending on the region/country you go to, you may find yourself needing a whole new vocabulary. And tonight at Parent/Teacher conferences I was reminded of this.

So, story goes, I'm talking with a sweet native speaker about her son's progress in my class. He speaks Spanish at home and theoretically should be acing my class, right? Nope, he's not. And while there's lots that go into that equation, the comments that mom spoke aloud have me still lol-ing. {Yeah, I typed it---lol!}

She goes on to tell me that he really struggled last year with his former Spanish teacher and that they are happy he has a teacher this year {that would be moi} that actually tries.

My reaction: "Well, um, thanks, I guess!"

She goes on to say {and this is the real kicker!}: "You know, sometimes you get the words wrong, but that's OK, we're just happy you try. "

My reaction, again: "Thanks---I guess!"

So all in all, I think it was a weird back-handed compliment and not a total insult to my intelligence and Spanish skills. It's all about perspective, folks--she did say I try.

And being the super softy that I am, you'd think I'd be over-analyzing this. But, I'm totally not and taking it for what it is--a hilarious story to pass on to all of you and my friends in real life!

So while I commonly teach "book Spanish" {because lord knows we don't have the moolah to travel to every Spanish speaking country to learn their individual lingo}, I acknowledge that there are more words out there that I still have to learn from my native speakers . Guess I'll keep trying ;-).


J said...

every language has its own slang. I know our spanish neighbors let their daughter learn english before spanish but after that they learned thier other children spanish then english adn maybe its because of their slang.

Joi you are teaching it the proper way. Maybe his mom needs to take a spanish class and learn from you.

leah @maritalbless said...

Oh jeez. Take it for the compliment she must have been trying for and combine that with your determination to constatly be learning. You're a great teacher!

Mar5195 said...

Oh I have a way better insult on my spanish speaking abilities. I had a teacher in college who was a German expat who grew up Argentina.

So basically I was learning Spanish with a German accent!

Anyhoo I'm Mexican decent but didn't grow up speaking a ton of Spanish at home. My parents felt like it would hurt us if we had accents.

Anyway we call sandals chanclas and apparently that isn't the proper word. And I asked her what made the word not proper and she said only ghetto people spoke that way. And it was a street word.

So apparently I speak ghetto spanish! Which I totally took as a compliment. A total backhanded one but I'll take it. I rock my ghetto fabulousity!

Freckles Chick said...

I just wish I could speak another language fluently like you! I can do a pathetic mix of what our family calls "Chivinglish" (Chinese, Vietnamese & English). I'm such an embarassment =)

You are a fantastic teacher, from what I can see--you care and are qualified. It's a challenging profession that has my complete respect!

melissa said...

Girly, you know I think you're a spectacular teacher no matter what, and I want you to think about native Spanish speakers speaking English...I am so very impressed when someone says something to me in English even if they say it slightly wrong....I understand what they're saying, which is the point of learning another language...I'm sure the native speaker mother, if you were around her long enough, would say some goofy English stuff as well. Some things can ONLY be known by native speakers no matter how long you speak a language. Plus, language is always changing (Even English) so words that were "in" several years ago, people no longer use... no way can we keep up with that. It was a compliment...Plain and simple :) She was probably impressed that you knew as much as you did, because at least you're teaching and not just watching movies all the time.

Joi said...

Thanks for the sweet comments, guys!

: )

Suzie said...

I hear ya. I taught first grade teamed up with the Spanish bilingual teacher and, even though she was a native speaker, the parents still gave her hell.

Michael said...

LOL. Ok, a nice compliment, yes, but her son should still be acing your class. If anything, he should be making comparisons to his dialect vs. book Spanish. Too funny.

Candice said...

I just started reading your blog and love all of it especially the DIY stuff. My husband is Mexican and my in laws only speak Spanish and very little english almost none so I have been forced to learn quickly. Some of his sister do the whole spanglish thing and that is how I have been talking because I only know so many words in spanish. Sometimes I catch myself saying things like " Oh, he wanted to come tambien, perro he had to work mas tarde." and it's funny because my in laws totally understand me if I add in those few words in spanish. Sometimes I feel like I am talking like George Lopez! I even use spanglish with my kids, my daughter only knows what a pacifier is if I say Chupon, I am totally white girl when I say it too.


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