I like to mix a bit of English into the Spanish when I write to Spaniards who want to learn English. Even if they have a very low level, they appreciate reading a word or two in English. They rise to the challenge. After all, you can’t learn a language until you start using it…Unfortunately, I’ve recently discovered that there are limits to how much you can throw a beginner in at the deep end… The other day I wrote an email (All names and information have been changed to protect identity):
‘La crisis’ is trying to back us into a corner. Many people are living in fear, giving up their dreams and surrendering to a closed and somber negativity. I don’t deny that the crisis and all its threats are real. If you have a job in Spain (or anywhere) now you are lucky, especially if it’s one that truly motivates you, as is my case. Yet hiding away is not the solution. It is the hour of the entrepreneur and the SMEs (Pymes). Inaction is a crisis’ best friend. To create employment and money injections we need to create business. We need to find out what and where the international markets are, and what skills we need to fill niches quickly and easily.
If you you don’t have the right skills, go out and get them (¡fórmate!) or look for someone who already has them to join your team. Teamwork, hard work and creativity are more important than ever. In our 2.0 world, information is abundant and start-up and marketing costs are low. And in an ‘espanglis’ world we should feel particularly fortunate: English and Spanish (along with Mandarin Chinese) are the top languages in international business. So, eyes open and minds alert. It is time to turn our ‘miedos’ into productive energy, to take some risks, and to assume responsibility for our actions.
A classic mistake. Today a student told me what you have to do to be ‘sussexful’. Usually I contain the laughter, and politely pronounce “Sucksessssssful” until the student gets it. I know that language mistakes can be pretty embarrassing (I’ve lost count of how many ‘classics’ I’ve blurted out in Spanish…). But this student is different. He has the ability to laugh at his own ‘classics’ – to see the funny side of a loaded mistake in a ‘serious’ sentence. A huge grin spread across my face and I told him what he’d just said. We both cracked up laughing…
This is clearly the right approach to learning, communication, and to life in general: The ability to laugh at ourselves! Why can’t we just learn from our memorable mistakes and move on? There’s no better teacher. That’s why ‘espanglis’ people do better than those that shy away from the other language. To learn anything we have to take risks and yes, suffer a little in the process. So, why not see the humorous side and have a good old laugh while we’re at it? ESA es la clave para ser ‘sussexful’ :P.
When a birthday is approaching, we tend to review ourselves. I’m getting old! Am I mature enough for my age? Have I done everything I said I’d do this year? Am I on the right path? How am I going to change? What do I want to achieve? Blah, blah, blah blah…
Our identity suddenly seems to transform. Only, hombre, we have a whole year to get used to it! When I turn 27 I’ll actually be entering into my 28th year… I will ‘tener 27’ years done and dusted. You see, the Hispanics have years and the English speakers are years! The Hispanics separate their innate person and soul from all that they have and are (our old friends ser and estar); The English speakers bunch it all together…
So, ask me now if I’m happy and I would answer “Hmmm depends on your definition of happiness”. Ask me, “¿Estás contenta/feliz?” and I would say, “Sí!” Ask me, “¿Eres feliz?” and I’d reply, “Todavía no”: I have to consolidate myself and grow up a tad more before that.
Do you ever feel a bit like you’re in a musical without music? That the people in your daily life are characters in a funny, exaggerated play, each with their own scripts? It’s easier to imagine in a espanglis world where mixture and distortion become creativity, swinging between the unknown and the familiar. In fact, there’s no better way to learn and speak another language… and to live. As Mr Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage”. So we must embrace the role we’re playing (our current ‘character’) and empathize with the other ‘characters’. But OJO, our scripts cannot be rigid. Communication and life require constant editing, directing and producing.
Yet neither communication nor our lives have to be perfect….just enjoyable, shared and meaningful. So, the next time you feel negative about something, try to connect to the musical vision. Picture someone who takes themselves veeeery seriously break out into song, dancing or saying something outrageous. Include yourself in your ‘musical’ but… among the medley of competing scripts, keep yours flexible!
Every time it’s ‘cold’ in Sevilla, I know that at least one person will tell me that I am used to the cold as I am from a cold country. Sometimes I smile and nod as a polite English girl would, and I say, “Pues la verdad es que si”…. The majority of the time I screech “¡Estoy en España porque no me gusta el frío!” I suffer in the cold. My hands turn red-blue-purple, I turn antipática; I am more ‘friolera’ than most Spanish people I know. And I miss some good-old English central-heating. Yet, through the cold chill shines a crisp sun that reminds me daily of why I am here. Darkness makes me a little sad; the Spanish are very privileged with their glorious climate. So, next time someone tells me I’m acostumbrada al frío, I will say “¡Noooo! Estoy enganchada al sol.”
Footing is a tranquilo run. It comes from the word ‘feet’, the parts of the body that touch the ground while you bounce (or drag yourself) along. ¿Tiene sentido, no? No. The English word is in fact ‘Jogging’… To ‘lose your footing’ means to lose your balance. For example: “Dave lost his footing when he was jogging…. and he fell flat on his face.”
Espanglis is a vision for those who sit in ‘no man’s land’. An espanglis person can be a guiri who has tasted the forbidden fruits of Spain (sol, playa, tapas, alegría…) or a fan del inglés who sees the promise of the cultura anglosajona. The two need each other at that half-way point. The guiri needs to feel needed and integrated in Spain and the fan del inglés needs the contact with his or her ‘other side’.
Even those 100% convinced of the superiority of lo español are being ‘forced’ to speak English. And you can’t speak a language convincingly without at least empathizing with its culture…
Espanglis is both a comparison of two cultures and a celebration of a hybrid culture in its own right. Now… ¡Vamos a la calle!