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Culture —– ¿Habla español?

by Brandi

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September 10th, 2010

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For this week’s culture discussion, I want to talk about a very common mistake that many of us “Gringo’s” make. Just as a quick reminder from our newsletter of about a month ago, the word “Gringo” basically means “foreigner”.

Anyway, the mistake I want to talk about is a phrase I have heard misused so many times that I wanted let you know about it so you can say it correctly. Many times a native Spanish speaker will begin speaking with an English speaker in Spanish. The English speaker will say, wanting to sound clever and knowledgeable in Spanish, “No habla español.” What the English speaker is trying to articulate is, “I don’t speak Spanish”, but what is actually said is, “You don’t speak Spanish.” There is a huge difference between these two phrases. Instead of letting them know that you do not speak Spanish, you are telling them that they don’t speak Spanish.

Here is how to say it correctly. The next time a native Spanish speaker begins speaking Spanish, you should say, “No hablo español.” This means “I don’t speak Spanish” and is correctly pronounced [No aw-blow es-pan-yohl]. There is only a one letter difference between the two phrases, but it completely changes the meaning. The word “habla” (with an “a” on the end) means “you speak” and the word “hablo” (with an “o” on the end) means “I speak”. Remember, “I don’t speak Spanish” is “No hablo español.”

Now, let’s change the situation just a little. Let’s say a native Spanish speaker directly asks you if you are able to speak Spanish — “¿Habla español?” Here is a easy but effective answer for them. You can say “Hablo un poquito” which translates to “I speak a little” and is pronounced [Aw-blow oon poh-key-toh].

Remember to continue to practice your Spanish with native Spanish speakers. Apart from a formal program, this really is the best way to improve your Spanish. Remember to use the “Comprehending Native Speakers” section in your Visual Link Spanish™ manual (a component of  your complete course) to get through almost any situation with a native Spanish speaker.

To learn more about speaking Spanish, please visit our website www.spanishprograms.com

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