Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Words such as ‘sándwich’ and ‘nuggets’ have been accepted in to the Spanish language but when Spaniards want to hold a conversation in English in can easily result in Spanglish.

Or so says the Oxford University Press that has created http://www.100spanglish.es/ – a website where it is possible to view videos and practice English with the objective of avoiding the mistaken construction of sentences such as “I am very preoccupated” or “I have give a shower”.

According to the OUP Spain is at the tail in Europe in learning English with only 20 per cent of Spaniards capable of maintaining a conversation in a different language against the European average of 44 per cent.

In http://www.100spanglish.es/ there are videos of well known Spaniards such as José María Aznar, Emilo Botín and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero speaking in English albeit rather badly. OUP say users can vote for the most amusing with the rankings currently topped by Franco with “Aiguanmuviman” – although when I viewed he’d slipped to number 5.

The prize for the best users of Spanglish is an English course entitled “My Oxford English” which has been prepared on-line by Oxford University.

The OUP reports that only 9 per cent of Spaniards between 18 and 55 study English. They do so to travel (35 per cent), for work (50 per cent) and for personal satisfaction (15 per cent).

Twenty-nine per cent of this age group have never studied English and of the 71 per cent that have two out of three have attained a low or medium low level.

I believe the term Spanglish was coined in the USA for the language developing where the Spanish and English speaking communities coincide. Spanglish was later used for Spain especially in the coastal areas where the same mix takes place. I have read it could apply to Gibraltar – but that patois is Llanito which is a far more fluent mix of the two languages. Certainly the Spanish workers in La Línea who work on the Rock have created their own slang – Linense – using English or corrupted English words and phrases learnt from their work mates. I would also argue that the British community in Spain, which doesn’t speak Spanish per se, is also developing a patois by dropping English words and inserting basura, ayuntamiento and so on.


'Sancho' said...

I have had several comments querying the fact that Spain is at the tail in Europe for speaking foreign languages - surely that honour should go to Britain you declare. Sadly OUP doesn't give more details but it could well be that Spain shares a lowly position with Britain. I would also suspect that the number of Spaniards speaking English fluently or well will greatly increase because of the bi-lingual education in schools etc. Furthermore whilst in the past French and Germany have dominated "foreign languages" Spanish itself is now with English the major force. I am of course excluding Chinese from this.

Anonymous said...

Estoy más cerca de opinar lo que opina el gran Don Pío Moa Rodríguez sobre el tema de las sílabas inglesas........

Alberto Bullrich said...

Brilliant, Sancho! ¡Tenquiu bery mucho!
One major problem for those learning English in Spain, at every level, is that, while they know more (theoretical) grammar than anyone I've ever met in/from Britain, the pronounciation they receive from 'official' sources is dreadful.
The fact is that in Spanish, with only two or three exceptions, there is only one way to pronounce the vowels a-e-i-o-u, whereas in English they vary according to the letter/s that come before or after. Thus, mistakes in pronunciation are compounded generation after generation.
It is also true that schools in general, and teachers of English in particular, will apparently not accept even volunteer help in the classroom. In the confines of the Jimena school 'system', for instance, I have myself offered to read or chat to students (at no cost) so that they can hear English as she is spoke. In almost 20 years of offering to do so, I have yet to be asked to come in to a classroom... False pride, I call it.
As a writer and speaker of both English and Spanish -who was fortunate enough to learn them as a small child- two things are a constant source of frustration: That most English-speakers don't seem to want or need to learn Spanish, no matter what the OUP says (look around us, on the Costa especially), and that so many Spaniards want/need to learn English, but are so badly taught to speak it.

'Sancho' said...

I have received two comments that were posted but which seem to have disappeared in to thin air! My apologies to the writers!

Anonymous said...

Sancho, you are missing one point here. Languages are important in the spanish educational system, unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the same in Britain.
My daugher has been to school in yorkshire when we lived there. There was a frech club, then they introduced german and the french option disappeared. The spanish classes were hylarious. I couldn't even have a simple conversation with the so called spanish teacher (Mrs Brown!!)Oh, and I wasn't welcome there neither.My daughter never managed to learn neither french nor german. They were obviously not important subjects at all.
Now in Spain, they have english classes three times a week (not that she needs them of course)and furthermore, most of her friends go to afterschool private english classes.
Yes, maybe we are not at the top in Europe but honestly...we are way ahead of britain. Languages are an important issue for the system and for the families.Most english people can just about manage "dos cervezas por favor". Honestly!

Alberto, you are bilingual and therefore priviledged. Unfortunately, the accent for a second language is a developmental issue. Unless you hear and practise a language as a todler and your brain, tongue and larynx get on with it at an early age, you'll never adquire the sounds properly. I have lived as many years as my kids in Britain, their accent is spotless, mine is terrible. There is nothing that can be done. Y además tengo que aguantar que se rían de mi acento...!!!