Pick a language to massacre…

Posted on May 21, 2009 by yankeebean

yankeebeanI have a theory that Americans are more likely to massacre the French language and English peeps are more likely to massacre the Spanish language.

Have you ever heard the way some English people say ‘jalapeño’ or ‘torrilla’???  Ha-lah-PEN-yo becomes Dja-lah-PEE-noh and tor-TEE-yah become tor-TILL-ah.  It’s both fantastic and hilarious… and it’s one the many reasons I love watching English cooking shows.

But that’s almost the mirror image of how I massacre French.  I pronounce ‘croissant’ as cruh-saahnt instead of ‘quah-sohn’.  I still remember the first time I said it in front of Mr Nice Guy and he couldn’t believe it.  He thought I was joking… but, alas… non…

It makes sense, I guess – Spanish is crazy-common in the States where English people are going to be much more likely to need French.  But the polar opposite of heinous pronunciation is just too beautiful to not become a blog.

But my absolute favourite is when someone that’s fluent in multiple languages pronounces a single non-English word in an otherwise English sentence.  A close friend of mine is half-French and when she says a French word such as ‘croissant’ or a phrase like ‘cafe au lait’ she instantly becomes 100% French before transitioning just as quickly back to English for the rest of the sentence.  It always makes my head spin and it always makes me smile…

And jealous because I only speak a little Spanish :)

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Moe February 27, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Thank you for posting this. I thought I would lose my mind if I heard my very English husband say “TACK-o” one more time. I keep going “taaaah….taaaah….taaaaah-co” and he just doesn’t get it. Thankfully he tends to stick with burritos.

  2. Senator July 29, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    While in the United States there is Mexican Spanish, mostly everywhere except New Mexico, At a museum I take care of in that State I get complaints all the time from “Spanish” speaking visitors from other states that they can not understand New Mexican Spanish. The Answer is simple. New Mexico Spanish was isolated pretty much during Spanish-Mexican colonial days and it more closely resembles the Castilian Spanish first spoken in New Mexico. Any changes in language there were influenced by locals themselves and not from Mexico.

    Now New Mexico also has Spanglish and even if you think you are English-Spanish bilingual, forget trying to make any sense of that without explanation.

  3. Bethany June 4, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I’m from and live in Texas atm- I grew up with Spanish speakers. It’s my in-laws native tongue (they’re Puerto Rican). It’s crazy common. Yes, outside of Texas.
    But we aren’t taught Castillian, like Yorkist J said.
    I remember how in school there were certain ways of translating verbs? that we didn’t use because they only used that form in Spain…and well, let’s be honest- I’m from a rural Texas town and they felt like the only Spanish we’d ever hear would be the Mexican tongue. Makes me bitter but eh? What can ya do..

  4. Michelloui May 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Makes for good discussion ping pong–or table tennis, take your pick (at least I can pronounce both of those!).

  5. yankeebean May 26, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Michelloui – Thanks so much for stepping in! :) Ya gotta love the literal ones, eh?

  6. Christiana May 25, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Wow, how timely! I always take the mick out of my fiance for saying “pa-ella” instead of “pie-eya” for paella. I keep trying to explain to him the double L means a “y” sound…but it just isn’t getting through. Though, I have made headway with “Hal-le-peen -yo” vs “Jal-le-peen-o” thank goodness. :)

  7. pacificyorkshirebird May 24, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hehe, I’ve always been to scared to try to learn French specifically because I think I sound so stupid trying to say ‘quah-sohn’ etc… What a beautiful language to listen to though!

  8. Yorkist J May 23, 2009 at 11:22 am

    This entry amused me, too. Although I should point out that Americans have their share of horrible pronunciations as well… when I was working at a restaurant in Oklahoma, I once heard a lady pronounce it “dja-LAH-peh-nose.” I cringed so hard… Still, that wasn’t as common as, for example, “TAY-co,” which I hear in Britain a lot.

    Of course, as a professional Spanish teacher, there are many things that make me cringe on both sides of the Atlantic. The American insistence on pronouncing it “LAH-ma” (the double l in Spanish is supposed to sound like a y, so the word “llama” is actually YAH-ma). And I too am frustrated by the British attitude towards the Spanish language; I’m told that schools really want to focus on French because the French are usually to stuck up to be willing to speak English, even if they know it (not my words, just repeating what I’ve been told), and Spaniards are more likely to learn and use English than the Germans… which I think addresses the point made by mct.

    Except that I will also add that yes, there are differences between Latin American Spanish and Castillian (which is actually the proper name for Spanish, but usually refers to the language as spoken in Spain). Some words are different (i.e. juice is jugo in Mexico but zumo in Spain), and some pronunciations differ as well (i.e. in Latin America the z and soft c are both identical to the s, but in Spain, they’re the same as the English th. So yes, Ibiza would be pronounced “ee-BEE-tha.” For the same reason, Barcelona is “bar-thay-LOAN-ah.” Those words wouldn’t be pronounced that way by Mexicans.

    On the flipside, though, I’m often told that when I try to speak French, I sound as if I have a Castillian accent…

  9. Michelloui May 23, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Eek! I have to comment on mct’s post.

    I too was thinking about all the Spanish speaking places the Brits visit, however, a fact one might not be aware of (most people who do not live in the States don’t realise this) is that Spanish is so commonly spoken in the States that strong consideration is being given to making it an official second language, which would require that it is taught in the schools alongside English.

    Look at this from Wiki:

    The Spanish language is the second most-common language in the United States after English. There are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than there are speakers of French, Hawaiian, and the Native American languages combined. According to the 2007 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by over 34 million people aged 5 or older.[1] The U.S. is home to more than 45 million Hispanics, making it the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking community, only after Mexico and ahead of Colombia, Spain, and Argentina.[6] Roughly half of all U.S. Spanish speakers also speak English “very well”, based on the self-assessment Census question respondents.[7]

    Interesting reading!

  10. peacefulyorkshire May 22, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Hi Yankebean
    Your post made me laugh big style. It reminded me of the time when I was living in London and decided to take some brush-up Spanish lessons at City College. Growing up on the border of Mexico and then coming to learn “Spain Spanish” with a bunch of Brits was HILARIOUS and I remember laughing in the class. Yes there was a lot of funny pronunciations, the “Ibitha” thing especially! I guess growing up in American with Taco Bell commercials really trains the ears even if you don’t speak a lick of Espanol in the first place!
    But then on the flip side there is me just trying to say the British names of towns like Aberystwyth, Dyfed, Kircudbright, even Harrogate. That makes my British man laugh as well… no one can win!

  11. mct May 22, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    “….Spanish is crazy-common in the States where English people are going to be much more likely to need French.”
    Well, may I remind you that in the European Union there is country called Spain and where the natives do speak spanish. And from my experience – as a German fighting for the best places at the Swimmingpool (to use another stereotype) – spain and all its Islands like Mallorca, Ibiza (yes, in school I was taught to pronounce it like an english “th”) or the Canarian Islands are very popular amongst britsh tourists. Ergo there is also a need of speaking spanish.
    By the way have you ever thougt of, that there is a difference between mexican spanish and … ähm… well…. spanish, similar to american english and british english?

  12. Megan May 22, 2009 at 1:01 am

    All I am able to tell you is that I visited Paris in February by myself and I do not speak French. I sat in restaurants and cafes all by myself and listened to the different languages being spoken around me. I studied Spanish for 6 years (highschool and university) and understood all of the Spanish conversations being spoken around me while I was in Paris which blew my mind (and made me feel less lonely too). I realized at that moment that while I love France with all of my heart, I had picked the wrong country to take a holiday in!

    P.S. When I do go to Spain someday, I’m sure the Spanish will cringe at the Arizona/Mexico inflected accent I am using. I’ll just smile a lot and try to charm the people I’m communicating with though. It usually works quite well. :-)

    P.S.S. I am delighted to learn from your readers that there are Mexican restaurants in England as well! Hooray!

  13. Bethany May 22, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Hilariously true! I am a Texan and I can easily read and pronounce Spanish words- but I am trying to learn French and I just know that I am killing the language… :-(

  14. I Love This Blog! May 21, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Haha! Actually, I’ve been told by Spaniards and Latin Americans alike that the British accent is incredibly annoying in Spanish. The American-English emphasis on syllables more or less matches Spanish emphasis so it’s a slightly less brutal butchering :)

  15. notfromaroundhere May 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    There’s a tiny Mexican take-out place near my flat and the first time I went in there the lovely people behind the counter tried to explain to me what a burrito was and what a quesadilla was… I proudly responded with my American accent that I was cool with the menu! They must spend so much time and energy explaining the food to the local Brits…

  16. Michelloui May 21, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Im with you on this. Although I must admit I have heard some Americans with lovely French accents.

    The thing that really drives me crazy is when British speakers don’t even say Tortilla but Wrap. I know tortillas are now frequently called wraps everywhere, but after working most of my teen and university years at tex mex restaurants I think this is as strange sounding as calling Yorkshire Puddings Bread Rolls!

  17. Christina May 21, 2009 at 10:58 am

    By the way, my home state has it’s own way of butchering languages. Huron = “Hurin”, Milan = “My-len”, Versailles = “Ver-sails”, Russia = “Roo-see-a”, Greenwhich = “Green-witch”.

    This was a source of mocking long before the English Husband was on the scene, and he is never short of fodder, but he definitely enjoyes taking the mick for this additional item as well. That and of our forefathers being completely uncreative!

  18. Christina May 21, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I have a theory that the deep-seated (and oft mocked, ‘Allo, ‘allo!) English disdain for the French is epitomized by their use of “fillet”. Fill-it. I never cease to chuckle and roll my eyes when I see/hear it. Which is everywhere, often.

    Jalapenos, chipotle, tortillas – on the other hand – make me cringe!

    The jury’s still out on the pronounciation (“pronounce-ee-a-shion” – love it!) of Ibiza (“Ibitha”… are all of the English secretly from Barcelona? Or do the Spanish really pronounce it like that?) and Rioja (where does the “c” come from???)

    @parlezvouskiwi – In addition to being an American in the UK, I have the added bonus of a French grandmother. She lives near a town named “Huron”. Have you ever heard a Frenchwoman say she lives near Huron? That also never ceases to amuse me.

  19. parlezvouskiwi May 21, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Hahaha loved this post – I too find it amusing to hear the way people speak, accents and all that jazz. It’s so interesting. I would love to know how my accent (kiwi) sounds in Francais! Hahaha.

    I love how the French boy pronounces “recipe” as “RE-CIP” and many other words and I must admit, I don’t correct him sometimes because its cute. And who wants to be perfect anyway? ;)

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