Mexican Living Survival Tip 2 The Language Barrier

Mexican Living Survival Tip 2 The Language Barrier



Let me begin this next column in​ the​ series with a​ generalized statement:

The Spanish you learn in​ a​ classroom in​ the​ United States, Mexico, or​ in​ your own study from some impossibly expensive Spanish language tapes WILL NOT be the​ Spanish you hear in​ the​ streets of​ Mexico!

I do not care who will try to​ convince you otherwise! I do not care who may convince you that this method or​ that method will give you fluency if​ only you would dish out the​ bucks to​ take it. What you learn in​ a​ classroom will not be the​ Spanish you hear on the​ streets in​ Mexico.

You will not hear classroom Spanish in​ the​ stores, markets, doctor’s office, from street vendors, church, or​ any life event that happens outside the​ classroom. You will not! I know this for​ certain because I took a​ load of​ classes in​ the​ U.S., Mexico, and​ a​ lot of​ studying using one of​ the​ most expensive language learning home study courses. and​ what I learned was not anything close to​ what I hear in​ real life in​ the​ streets.

This is​ a​ dilemma. This, in​ fact, borders on the​ criminal, does it​ not? if​ what you will learn in​ class in​ the​ U.S., some “immersion course” in​ Mexico, or​ from some home study that promise you will speaking Spanish in​ 45 days, doesn’t do the​ trick, then haven’t you wasted you money? in​ my view, “you bet it​ does”.

Let me make some more generalized statements.

You could take 4 semesters of​ Spanish at​ the​ local Junior College, then come to​ Mexico to​ take 4 months of​ something erroneously labeled, “Total Immersion”. Though this is​ a​ lot of​ Spanish, you will at​ best be able to​ form sentences and​ ask questions but you will NOT be able to​ comprehend the​ reply.

Mexican nationals do not speak the​ way you will hear Spanish spoken in​ a​ classroom or​ expensive language tapes!

And therein lies the​ rub.

What you will learn in​ a​ formal setting of​ language instruction, even if​ it​ is​ good instruction, will not be the​ same thing that is​ spoken on the​ streets of​ Mexico. Mexicans, in​ everyday life, do not speak like what you will hear in​ a​ formal classroom setting. Mexicans on the​ street speak almost entirely colloquially.

The daily “street Spanish” is​ so peppered with idiomatic expressions that you will hardly, if​ at​ all, be able to​ comprehend what is​ said to​ you! You will hear some recognizable words and​ phrases but will not be able to​ understand them in​ the​ context in​ which they are offered.

Here are some examples:

In a​ formal classroom you are taught how to​ greet someone like this:

¿Cómo está? – How are you?

The reply you are taught to​ say in​ a​ formal classroom is,

Estoy bien, gracias. – I am fine, thank you.

However, here is​ what you could hear on the​ streets of​ Mexico:

¿Cómosta? – How are you?

Como mango pero no chupado. – Like a​ mango but not sucked.

Mango is​ a​ fruit here.

Can you guess what this means?

Cómosta is​ a​ made up contraction for, ¿Cómo está? and​ the​ phrase, “Como mango pero no chupado” roughly means,

“I am like a​ pretty and​ sweet mango but not all sucked dry, wrinkled, and​ ugly.”

What I was told was told that means is​ that the​ popular fruit mango is​ beautiful looking and​ sweet but once it​ is​ all the​ meat and​ juice is​ sucked out of​ it​ then it​ looks ugly, becomes tasteless and​ should be thrown out.

Now, tell me this: Have you, in​ all the​ Spanish classes you’ve taken, ever heard of​ that? and​ yet, I hear it​ on the​ street! This is​ just one example of​ about a​ million idioms that Mexicans use every single day on the​ streets. it​ isn’t the​ same Spanish!

Then, there is​ the​ speed at​ which Spanish is​ spoken. Man alive, they are fast!

I know some people who came here from other parts of​ the​ Spanish-speaking world. I know some from South America who have told me that it​ took them a​ while, after they moved to​ Mexico, to​ understand exactly what language the​ Mexicans were speaking!

For reasons I cannot explain, Mexicans seem to​ feel the​ need for​ speed! if​ you listen to​ the​ various Spanish-speaking radio stations you can access via the​ web, not all is​ equal in​ the​ Spanish-speaking world. in​ Spain, the​ accent aside, they can be understood well. So can those from Argentina. Some may disagree with me but other than the​ Cubans, Mexican Spanish is​ mostly incomprehensible because of​ the​ speed and​ idiomatic-expression factor.

Frankly, I do not know if​ I will ever be able to​ understand Mexicans on the​ street well enough to​ hold a​ street conversation.

Don’t get me wrong. I can have a​ decent conversation with someone who is​ well-educated and​ who speaks more formally. if​ you go to​ the​ doctor, you can hold a​ conversation because they will, more than likely, speak to​ you in​ the​ Spanish you learned in​ the​ classroom. Go to​ a​ party with a​ bunch of​ college kids talking about issues and​ you will hold your own. But, go into the​ streets and​ try talking to​ a​ street vendor and, “KA-POW”! What language is​ this guy speaking?

I asked a​ Mexican pal who lives in​ Vallarta how he learned his English. His response was, “In bed”, while pointing to​ his American wife.

That is​ exactly how most of​ the​ truly bilingual young people here become fluent. They know, in​ fact are told, that if​ they want to​ become fluent: GET a​ MEXICAN BOY or​ GIRL FRIEND. And, that is​ exactly what they do. They hook up with a​ mate and​ that is​ how they become fluent in​ “Street Spanish”.

For you American men reading this column: Don’t even think what I know you are thinking!




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