The Joy of Spanglish

One day I am going to speak such beautiful Spanish, people will believe I was born and raised in Plaza Simon Bolivar.

Until that time, I will apparently make more ridiculous mistakes than all of my friends – due to a dyslexia-esque problem that forces me to confuse similar sounding words.

For example:

“Good afternoon, please will you sell me a joke?”

Happens when: You confuse ‘chiste’ (joke) with ‘chicle’ (chewing gum) in your local corner shop.

“How do you like my tray?” (pointing to body)

Happens when: You confuse ‘bandeja’ (tray) with ‘bandera’ (flag) on a day of national importance.

“Thanks, you’re a horse,”

Happens when: You confuse ‘caballo’ (horse) with ‘caballero’ (gentleman) following a touching act of chivalry.

“How was your date without eyes?”

Happens when: You forget the Spanish word for ‘blind’ and, frankly, you give up, resigning yourself to the fact you will always ‘talk funny’; you will always look a bit vacant (because you are translating in your head); you will never comprehend slang; it will take you at least a year to read one Harry Potter book and you will never understand the difference between ‘estaba’ and ‘estuve’…

And they say English is difficult.


  1. dany

    Hey, I live in BOG altough I am in spain right now, finishing my master. Really enjoy your blog and would like to meet you when I come back. Thank you for the smiles!

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Hey, well, I moved to South America a year ago and didn’t speak a word. I did a fortnight of Spanish school in Ecuador and two months of two-hour daily lectures at university in Bogota but really, about two months ago I decided I hated how bad I was – so I’ve been studying grammar for an hour a day and overcoming my fear of casual conversation and it’s really made a difference.
      I have a couple of friends who can only speak Spanish – one is always in fits of laughter when I say things like: ‘How was your date without eyes?’ But at least we can communicate enough to hang out, which constantly amazes me.
      One Colombian friend told me: “Learning a language is your responsibility and no-one else’s,” and that made me realise it was just down to me to study, study, study (and watch movies etc) rather than hoping Spanish would “just happen”.
      How about you?

      1. Steph

        I’ve never taken formal lessons at all. I started teaching my self bits and pieces in Autumn 2010 when I was considering moving to Colombia, but at that time I was in the middle of wrapping things up in London, shipping my stuff back to New York,etc, so I was pretty slack about it. I only really started to concentrate more on it when I got her at the beginning of March, but I’m trying to teach myself bugging my boyfriend about why is this like this and not like this, etc. and it’s difficult!! Usually he looks at me with that confused “because it just is” look…

        Anyway, your friend is completely right about it being no one else’s responsibility and the only way to learn is to study study study! šŸ™‚

      2. bananaskinflipflops

        Absolutely and I’m going to email you a recommendation of a really good grammar book I use – my friends are generally hopeless on grammar too… as we all are when it’s our native language!

      3. Little Colombia Observationist

        Ah, cool. I’ll have a look at that. I had the book 501 Spanish Verbs in London which I brought back home to New York before I came to Colombia but the baggage limit meant leaving it there šŸ˜¦

        Speaking of books, any recommendations on where to buy English language books here for when I have a headache from trying to read in espanol? (besides online…)

  2. kids flip flops for ever

    It becomes much worse when you confuse words of different languages. Speaking both greek and arabic, I remember the day a taxi driver told a friend that she was “gamiila” (beautiful) in arabic, which means a “camel” in greek!

  3. Ashley

    I did the same when I was living in Colombia. My worst one was when I was talking to a co-worker about my boss trying to say he was afraid of speaking up for fear of losing his job.. I kept saying “Tiene mierda” instead of miedo… looking back it seems like a weird mistake to make, but when you are learning that sort of thing happens all the time!

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Hahaha Ashley, funnily enough I made that mistake too. We were eating dinner at a Japanese restaurant (a large group of friends) and one of my Colombian friends was messing about and trying to break his chopsticks – I was trying to say “tengo miedo” but actually saying “tengo mierda” and couldn’t understand why another friend was wetting himself laughing and shouting “Donde?” at me. Ah, Spanish. Such a delight!

  4. Julie

    This is really funny and made me chuckle a bit haha, but don’t worry study, study and study and you’ll see the difference and how much better you get at it.
    My parents are from Colombia so technically I should be fluent in Spanish, but sometimes when I am talking to one of them I make up my own words and they pretend they understand me and I pretend what am saying makes sense ! Other times I just get the dictionary out and translate what am trying to say ! hahaha.
    I have my A2 spanish exam soon so wish me luck .. and good luck to you trying to get better at it !


  5. Mila kassapian

    Excelente! He reĆ­do mucho con tu post! Pero esta bien equivocarse, asi aprendes! Hahaha
    Y yo estoy conciente de que el espaƱol es 1000 veces mas difƭcil que el ingles. Quien dice que el espaƱol es mas fƔcil esta loco!

  6. almadesnuda87

    I love your posts! I was born and raised here in BogotĆ”
    and then moved to USA where I lived for 10 years. I moved back about a year ago to go to school and realized that Bogota is completely changed! My American friends also struggled to learn Spanish, but I guess it was a little easier because I was there to help them. When I read your posts about BogotĆ” and Colombia in general I really enjoy them because I can totally relate.

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