This morning, my Costa Rica blogger friend (meaning I’ve never laid eyes on her but we chat like we are best friends), Erin, wrote about speaking Span-glish. Which newbie expats do A LOT! I love going to a restaurant where the waiter is practicing his English and we are practicing our Spanish. There’s an interesting conversation. A bi-lingual conversation with both of us struggling for words, helping each other out. Fun!

Hal has been volunteering at a local not-for-profit English school. Speaking English is the number one way a tico can get a better job. Beginning speakers of English really want to practice with native speakers and don’t get that much opportunity. So when I’m out and about now or on the phone with a local, I ask if s/he speaks English. Mostly I get no (which in my "I love this country" persona, pleases me. We haven’t ruined them yet.) Plus I get to practice my Spanish.

But, when I get yes or poco a poco [a little] or mas o menos [more or less], I speak English so they can practice. Like Erin, I don’t like seeing menus in English, signs in English, prices in dollars. Because usually it means prices are higher, they are catering to gringos. But I sure do understand wanting to earn a decent wage and living a more comfortable life. In Costa Rica, that requires speaking English.

Hal has hired a tutor to come to our house 6 hours a week, starting next week. We are all sick of getting half the conversation and struggling in every conversation!!! You put off the simplest things because you know it will be twice as difficult to manage. And we are so close to being able to speak decent Spanish (the boys are so far beyond us, it’s crazy). Still far from fluent, por supuesto [of course], pero mucho mejor que hace un año [but much better than a year ago]!

6 comments to Spanglish

  • I’m 100% with you on helping ticos with English so that they can improve their lives, get better jobs, etc. However, I hate the assumption that because I have white skin and not-dark-brown (by tico standards) hair, I don’t speak Spanish.
    For those of us that suffer with confidence issues (that’s me!), if someone speaks first in English, it’s hard to direct the conversation back into Spanish. I know that I should be totally fluent by now, to the point that I speak Spanish better than English, but I’m not. And that’s because everyone and their mother wants to speak to me in English. I don’t want to be selfish, but I want to speak Spanish!

  • I would NEVER call you selfish!!! I was afraid I sounded that way – sorry! And ya know, part of my justification here is that, if they want to speak English, I’m just enough behind the curve to be intimidated by really speaking Spanish… so “helping them speak English” is a perfect cop-out. Something to be aware of, yes, but still… Hopefully my Spanish will get good enough I will WANT to speak it more and more.

  • Dan

    There are days when I don’t mind helping someone practice their English, and their days when I truly want to just stay in Spanish, after all, I’m here to be immersed in a different culture and language, not to just import my own. The easiest approach I’ve found to getting the conversation back to Spanish is simply not responding in English – after all, “solo porque, obviamente, mi primera idioma no es Castellano no significa que es Ingles…” – just because, obviously, my first language isn’t Spanish, doesn’t mean that it’s English! (of course, you may then have to make up some really obscure language that you speak…)

  • Hal was talking to someone yesterday who is thinking of moving to Thailand. We have it so easy… just imagine learning Thai!

  • Anonymous

    My nanny calls it inglespanol

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