Bilingual Inside Jokes

Nos gusta hacer el tonto.

That means, if you didn’t already know, we like to be silly. Since Mario has a girlfriend who speaks two (of his four) languages, it’s all the more fun. I like to make linguistic jokes, too. It’s okay, I admit to be hopelessly nerdy.

The other day, I got to thinking. Mario and I have some inside jokes (just writing that reminds me of high school and how hilarious we all thought we were), but they wouldn’t really make sense to most people—only to those who are blessed to understand both Castilian Spanish and American English. I thought about these for a while and tried to write them down. By the way, it’s quite difficult to write down inside jokes because they never come to mind when you’re trying to document them, only in the moment. At least for me that’s true.

  • Tejado de menos. To say, “I miss you” in Spanish, you say “Te echo de menos.” Well, “te echo” said in a hurried manner sounds quite like “techo” or “ceiling.” Thus, I thought it would be funny to turn “techo” into “tejado,” which means “roof.” So the phrase “tejado de menos” was born.
  • Estoy espalda. In English, when we want to say we’ve returned, we often say “I’m back.” I guess to Spanish speakers this must sound a bit odd when they learn it because being “back” (returned) and having a back (large posterior area of the human body) are two very different things. So Mario, being who he is, decided to tell me that he was back quite literally—“Estoy espalda”—which, as you might have guessed, makes no sense in Spanish.
  • Se me olvidó ponerme las lentejas. The word for “contact lenses” is “lentillas.” An Anglophone friend of Mario’s once said that she forgot to put in her contact lenses. Only instead of contact lenses (“lentillas”) she said “lentejas.” If you’ve read my previous entry, you’ll realize that you probably don’t want to put any lentil stew in your eyes. Especially without your contacts.
  • Espainish. Obviously, Spanish. We have no problem joking around about the other’s accent. Actually, though, Mario’s accent is pretty darn good, but we like to joke around saying “americanooouu” in the exaggerated way or “Espainish estudent from Espain.” You know, normal people stuff.
We really are completely normal.


How I Know I Wasn’t Raised Spanish

Surprisingly enough, I am not Spanish. I’ve written a few posts on such topics: How to Dress Like a Spaniard, Tapeando, Hittin’ the Bars, Saying Hello at the Gym. You see, I’ve had to learn it all as an adult. Gradually. I’m still learning everyday, as my conversations with Mario can bring up things I wasn’t aware of before or had heard but just hadn’t put together the puzzle pieces.

  • I don’t innately love a soccer team. (But yes, I do support Real Madrid now. Get over it.)
  • I am unable to de-shell sunflower seeds in my mouth. This caused Mario’s family to spend several minutes instructing me in the fine art of de-shelling sunflower seeds. These efforts failed.
  • I have never eaten cookies  and ColaCao for breakfast.
  • I never had a pincho until I was 21 years old.
  • I don’t “do sport;” I exercise.
  • I don’t innately assign gender to animals. For me, a snake isn’t necessarily a female just because it’s la serpiente.
  • I still don’t get the 11 o’clock break for coffee. Why is no one in their office at this time?!
  • Chorizo and Nutella does not sound like a good combination.
  • Going to buy “the bread” was never a daily outing.
  • I would consider living in yoga pants/sweatpants.
  • I would only get my hair done/buy a new dress for my own wedding and not every single one of my friends’.
  • I just recently discovered the greatness that are “aros de maíz.”
  • I find myself annoyed when things are closed on Sundays. And a little indignant.
  • I apologize way too much. Oh, I slightly touched you as I walked by in the supermarket? I’m sorry! It’s overkill.
  • I never had a house “in the village.”
  • My grandpa does not do the hands clasped behind the back amble through town. And I’m sad about it.

Accents (in English)

A while ago, this whole “Accent Vlog” thing was all the rage in Bloglandia. Nowadays, not so much. Nevertheless, I could not resist the temptation to make a little vlog (God, what a pretentious sounding word!) about it.

The instructions are to say these words:
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

And answer these questions:

  • What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  • What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
  • What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
  • What do you call gym shoes?
  • What do you say to address a group of people?
  • What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
  • What do you call your grandparents?
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
  • What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
  • What is the thing you use to change the TV channel?
  • What do you drink water out of at school?

They Still Speak Spanish at Home

I talk a lot to my fellow teachers, and many of them comment to me, “The family only speaks Spanish at home,” and look disapproving. They then glance at me, as though to elicit a similar disapproving response from me. I admit, I don’t give it to them.

The advantages of being bilingual are well documented.


I won’t reiterate what these articles say, except to emphasize that being bilingual is an advantage. No bones about it.


A funny bilingual cartoon I enjoy.


So, I get frustrated when the teachers insist to me that a child not speaking his/her native language with his/her parents is detrimental. What good do they expect to come of it? They will probably not learn English any faster from non-native speakers who do not benefit from 6 hours a day, 5 days a week language instruction like they do. Instead, the child spends time building up his/her skills in another language, exercising his/her brain synapses, improving many skills: multitasking, listening, speaking, etc.

The sad thing is many new immigrant parents insist on not speaking Spanish with their children, fearing that their children will not learn English. This is patently untrue and a bit disheartening. Every time a child loses the ability to communicate with relatives in their native language, it’s a loss. They can no longer hear the oral histories, listen to their relatives in their comfortable language. This is upsetting to me. However, I understand their motivation, as many English speakers here in the U.S. insist on the superiority of the English language. While I understand that immigrants should learn English, I don’t think anyone comes to the U.S. without that intention – it’s life circumstances that get in the way (work, exhaustion, third shift, etc.). One student recently commented this his mother didn’t go to free English classes because she couldn’t drive there (no license) and, um, I doubt she was going to walk upwards of 8 miles round trip when she has a family to look after.

I wish we could reach some middle ground where English was important, but not the be-all, end-all. I wish the kids I work with would learn both languages – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I wish they would get the opportunity to hear their grandparents speak of their home countries in Spanish. I wish they would grow up loving both, understanding both, living both.