Friday, October 4, 2013

Soy malo

Since you are reading this blog you must speak perfect English.

Oh, you don't?
I didn't think so.

What I'm really getting at is that I went to an English Teachers Conference last week and some of what I learned came full circle tonight.

Starting with English.

The coolest thing I learned at the conference was the difference between "can" and "can't".
Now, I didn't actually go to this session, so I have another volunteer to thank for the details, but it sums up like this:

When native English speakers say can, they draw the word out, but when they say the word "can't" they pronounce it basically the same, but it is always a short almost harsh pronunciation.

Try it for yourself. Say, "I can speak English." And then say, "I can't speak Spanish." It's like your living my life through words! Try to simply say the sentence, but don't focus too much on pronouncing things "correctly". Did you hear it? Yes (good job). No (you're lying and you don't know how to speak English... Be better at English, you lying native English speaker.)

Okay, now I do the same thing with Spanish. A lesson in pronunciation.

I have heard more than once a child here will me reprimanded by their parent and the parent clearly says "soy malo". For those of you who know basic Spanish "soy" means "I am". So I have been racking my brain for about 2 months trying to figure out this "soy malo" thing people say to their kids. For a while I thought it was some kind of psychological way to reprimand by saying to the kid what they wanted the kid to think. I just didn't get it. I even mentioned it to my Peace Corps friend and he to was at a loss.

Well, full circle, I was coughing again (yes, Amanda almost always has gripe (gripe is flu like symptom illnesses) here. I wish I had some NyQuil to pass out with. Cherry if you're planning on sending or visiting, I love you, thanks), so I cough and my neighbor says "soy gripe". JUMP BACK. I can ask her about this because she understands how to explain language sometimes. So I explained to her about the kids and ask her why she said "soy gripe" instead of "Eres gripe" even though that didn't make sense either.

She went into a long discussion about basic Spanish pronouns and I went on to say okay, I get that, so why are you saying "I am flu" when for one you don't have the flu and that wouldn't make sense even if you did.

Well, it turns out she was saying "eso es gripe" which means "that is the flu". And the parents were saying "eso es malo" which means "that is bad". Which makes so much more sense. Also, it reminds me that sometimes it kind of sort of sounded like "Ah-soy malo" which is maybe where the first "e" in "eso" went.

So, a lesson in language:

Sometimes is sounds like "can" but it is really "can't" and sometimes it sounds like "soy", but it's really "eso es".

If you are ever teaching pronunciation, it's a good idea to know what people actually say, and not what they should be saying, as a way to teach the difference.

Accented English for the win!


  1. My Spanish knowledge is all from in school textbook learning and Eric's is all from working with Native Spanish speakers from different countries, guess who can actually understand them!

  2. Ballin' blog post

  3. Thank you anonymous blog reader/commenter.