- Learning Spanish & Portuguese>
- The Fucked Up Gringo Accent
Back when I lived in a Mexican city called Pachuca de Soto….
I had to leave my apartment for the moment to get some groceries.
Now, during those days, I was living closer to the city center near a place called Plaza Juarez.
From what I remember, I would have to find a combi to take me to the nearest supermarket.
To be fair, combis are always a little bit confusing and not the most enjoyable but they are OK.
First, you see enough videos of people getting robbed on combis like you can see in this video here below.
In which some few dudes with guns demand everyone give up their phones and wallets.
Thankfully, I never had this happen to me.
Second, it’s not entirely uncommon to get lost using a combi if you are careless and don’t ask questions.
For example, when I lived in Xela, Guatemala years ago when I was new to Latin America, I got lost once because I had no idea how combis worked.
I saw them and assumed that they take you to anywhere you want to go in the city.
Instead, they have specific routes that they follow.
For that specific time in Xela, some old grandma realized that I was lost and made a mistake going onto this combi as it took us outside of the city into nearby towns.
And she ended up paying some guy late at night as she got off to take me back to Xela.
In Pachuca, I never had anything like that but I did have a confusing moment once or twice….
In which I’d ask the driver if he was heading towards one of the supermarkets (Soriana or Walmart) and he’d say yes.
However, once in a blue moon, it happened to be another supermarket with the name Soriana that wasn’t the specific one that I liked.
A less quality one with less quality products to sell.
Still, for the most part, it was fine.
And on one particular day, I got on one of these combis to head towards Soriana.
As I got dropped off and paid the 9 pesos for the ride, I walked through the parking lot to the mall that had the Soriana inside it.
9 pesos being about 45 cents more or less as of this writing…
Anyway, I got inside and bought what I needed…
Lots of meat, some pasta and plenty of black tea….
And I would sometimes take a taxi back home….
Especially as the taxis would cost usually 40 to 50 pesos for the ride from what I remember…..
So, for the ride back, I figured I might as well get a taxi since it was that day in which I bought a shit ton of black tea that would last me several months…
Suffice to say, a ride on the combi would be uncomfortable given the amount of things I have carrying on me.
Therefore, I walk up to some random taxi that is parked outside of the mall and ask the driver to take me to “plaza juarez” and “how much would it cost?” in Spanish.
Now, in the moment, the driver understood everything I said except the word “juarez.”
He understood “cuanto cuesta” and “plaza.”
And I repeated myself like 10 times literally saying over and over again the word “Juarez.”
With this skinny, medium brown skin and middle aged taxi driver going over and over again “HUH?!!?” as I repeat the word “Juarez.”
In which he’d look into the distance like he was trying to decipher the deepest riddle that humanity has ever come across.
Soon enough, some random fat younger man with light brown skin and a white shirt (I got good memory) stumbled upon us noticing the scene unfolding….
And helped decipher what "Juarez" meant.
Which, for the young guy, wasn't hard to understand my pronunciation of the word "Juarez."
He got it right away on the first try.
I explained to the guy in a simple sentence that “no entiende q estoy diciendo q quiero ir a plaza JUAREZ.”
And, in that moment, the guy understands the word Juarez and repeats it to the taxi driver.
Now, to my surprise, the taxi driver didn’t try to gringo price me.
The driver wasn’t genuinely trying to practice English on me….
As I wrote here, you do have some locals who genuinely have a difficult time understanding Spanish in the gringo accent.
And so, like I said, this driver understood everything I said except the word “Juarez.”
For some reason, my accent was fucking up that word too much for him to grasp it.
But, like I said, he was a fair sport about it and charged me a normal price.
And we got to Plaza Juarez soon after.
Once inside, I put the groceries inside the fridge.
And I texted a Mexican friend of mine named Angie about it.
Asking her “hold up, do I fuck up this word too much?”
Because that was genuinely the issue of the day for that taxi driver!
Funny enough, as he drove me home, we had a laugh about “Juarez” and we understood each other fine in Spanish in our brief conversation.
But the word “Juarez” in my accent was too much for the guy.
So I was curious – is it a me thing?
Therefore, when I got home, I sent Angie an audio in Whatsapp asking her if she can understand my pronunciation of “Juarez.”
And, though she understood it, she had a laugh about it.
Granted, she always had a laugh about my Spanish pronunciation.
If you sat down with her and asked her about “crazy shit ways that Matt pronounces things….”
She’d give you a laundry list.
She could always understand what I said but found it funny how I said it with my accent.
On top of my head, one word she always found funny was my pronunciation of the word “espera, espera.”
Similarly, according to her, my pronunciation of the word “Juarez” could use some work.
And I realized the same just recently with another woman on another word….
About a week ago, I was laying in bed with another Mexican gal named Jovi.
Someone you can read about here.
We been hooking up for a bit and she came by my place to spend the night last Wednesday as of this writing.
Anyhow, we finished fucking like twice in the same night and went to bed….
Then, in the morning, she wanted to fuck again and we did.
As we laid in bed, I remember making some joke with her.
Now, to be fair, my joke was pretty cringe.
So I’m not going to repeat it here!
But she found it funny so suck it.
Anyhow, the joke, being an American, involved the use of the word “muro.”
Which means “wall in Spanish.”
You know, her being Mexican and me being American…
Well, we get what the reference to that word is.
Still, I made some sex joke involving “muro.”
And, at first, the joke didn’t stick because she genuinely did not know what “muro” was.
Now, in me repeating the word to her, I knew that “muro” meant something in Spanish.
But she genuinely could not make out what “muro was.”
So I spelled it out in Spanish letters one letter at a time…
And she understood it fine.
“Oh, MURO!!!!” JAJAJAJAJAJAJAJAJA” she laughed out loud.
And, funny enough, when she said “muro,” it didn’t sound any different to me than how I was saying it!
But, being honest, I think that’s part of the issue, no?
To us foreigners, the very exact way of how you pronounce a certain word doesn’t hit our ears as well sometimes for very certain words.
Sometimes it can!
The Argentine Woman Who Loves Salt
For example, when I was in Bolivia, some Argentine woman gave me a time lecturing me about how to say the word “sal.”
I asked her to “pass the salt” in Spanish and she was a bit of a cunt about how I pronounced “sal.”
Granted, to be fair, Argentines can be a large bag of cunts about everything.
To wanting to feel superior to the rest of Latinos over race and heritage and also to foreigners about how to pronounce certain words.
Still, with the word “sal,” I could understand how my pronunciation was off key.
That is one case in which I could hear the noticeable difference.
But the rest?
Well, being honest with you, I thought I pronounced “espera” and “Juarez” and “muro” just fine!
But, according to the Mexicans, I do not pronounce those words just fine!
Well, most of the time, people understand me when I say those words.
And, when speaking Spanish, most of what I say is understandable.
But, in my case, you do have that occasional word that is said to the occasional local (especially one not accustomed to a gringo accent) in which it is hard to understand that word.
And so there’s some lessons there…
First, as I have said in other articles, don’t take it personally. Sometimes, someone isn’t use to your accent!
And, as I have said, the ones who are the least used to your accent are those who have minimal to no experience with foreigners speaking Spanish.
The less experience with our accent usually translates to a harder time deciphering how we pronounce words.
Second, I kinda feel like this issue will never be 100% resolved until you “fix your accent” by taking accent classes.
I’ve known about a few few gringos who have done this and apparently it helps.
Granted, in my time, I don’t think it’s necessary.
Most folks understand me just fine almost always.
Like 99% of the time.
But, once in a blue moon, you get a case like that taxi driver in Juarez.
For someone like that, the accent classes do help.
And, for those thinking of living down here long term, I’d recommend it based on what I have heard from others.
For me, it’s not something I plan on doing until I get residency in a specific country.
Especially as accents change by the country.
Third, have a laugh!
Angie and I always have laughed once in a blue moon about how I pronounce things.
Have fun with it.
Until you can change better how you speak in Spanish, you might as well roil with it.
Own up to your accent.
Fourth, a rare few will be cunts about your Spanish.
In my experience, it’s usually upper class folks in Latin America or Argentines and Uruguayans.
Well, OK, not everyone in those groups but it is what it is.
And that’s all I got to say.
Follow my Twitter here.
And thanks for reading.