Many of us English speakers live in Spain; whether we’re here to teach, study, or do something else, I can assure you that none of us has managed to keep our English purely intact. Here’s a list of the common symptoms you should watch out for if you’ve been living here a while:
Now I’ll dig a bit deeper into each sign, and try to offer some guidance if you find yourself suffering from any of them. I’ve included several English regional equivalents that can be employed in different social situations, depending on the formality and context. Be warned, not all forms might sound good or natural to you… You can also use this in your next English class. Spanish students love it!
1. You say ‘I invite you’ instead of ‘It’s on me’ or ‘My treat’
What Spaniards say: Te invito.
What’d we say if we didn’t live here: I’m treating you. It’s my treat. It’s on me.
This expression’s mistake is twofold: in English, we do not use the simple present to express something we’re planning or about to do. Therefore, a more accurate choice would have been with the present progressive tense: I’m inviting you.
However, even then, the problem persists–‘I’m inviting you’ only means we’re trying to invite our listener(s) to a party or another social event, not what the Spanish expression is trying to convey (treating them to a meal or a coffee).
2. You say ‘it’s well-communicated’ instead of ‘it’s well-connected’ or ‘easy to get to’
What Spaniards say: Está bien comunicado.
What’d we say if we didn’t live here: It’s easy to get to. It’s close to the metro / underground / subway / train station / buses. It’s easily accessible / well-connected by public transport.
I’m not sure what the literally translated English ‘well-communicated’ can mean exactly, but I suppose it can be used to describe someone who’s good at expressing him- or herself through words and emotions? Certainly not about a house or a flat / apartment!
3. You say ‘yes, yes, yes’ instead of ‘okay, okay’ or ‘right’
What Spaniards say: ¡Sí, sí, sí!
What’d we say if we didn’t live here: Sure. Okay. All right. Yes. Yeah. Why not. Right.
We simply don’t say ‘yes, yes, yes’ so much. In fact, in a more traditionally Anglo-Saxon culture, repeating the same reply even only twice might be considered rude as it may denote impatience and indifference. Three times might just be unacceptable in careful English!
4. You say ‘no?’ at the end of every sentence. ie. It’s a nice day out, no? (instead of ‘It’s a nice day out, isn’t it?)
What Spaniards say: Está bien, ¿no?
What’d we say if we didn’t live here: That’s good, right? Isn’t it? Hasn’t it? Shall we? Eh? Hey? Don’t you think? Yeah? Correct? Innit?
When my American friend’s mum came to visit, she thought we were so ‘Europeanised’ for ending every single sentence with ‘no?’ (Of course, saying ‘ciao’ to bid our farewells didn’t help either). However, out of all the foreign-sounding question tags (such as ‘yes?’ and ‘true?’) this tag question ‘no?’ might sound the most natural in English.
In fact, my colleague at Rodmell House, Daphne, started saying this so much at one point that her sister threatened never to talk to her again unless she stopped!
5. You say ‘super’ before every adjective, i.e. ‘it’s super nice’ instead of ‘it’s really nice’
What Spaniards say: ¡Está súper bien!
What’d we say if we didn’t live here: That’s really good, or we use a more emphatic adjective such as ‘great’, ‘awesome’ or ‘terrific’.
The trend to add ‘super’ in front of all Spanish adjectives and some adverbs has been deep rooted in Spain, perhaps since the infamous ‘movida madrileña’ when many of the current slang and jargons were invented or made popular. Of course the word ‘super’ exists in English, but we don’t use it nearly as frequently as the word ‘really’.