Ten ways a second language can make you look like an idiot

ways a second language can make you look like an idiot

In season six of Modern Family, crotchety old Jay and his Colombian wife, Gloria, are arguing over her son’s Spanish tutor. When it brings up a bigger issue—that Jay doesn’t understand how hard it is to always speak in a second language—Gloria snaps that she is very smart in Spanish. Seeing her point, Jay decides to give lessons a try. Later, when he apologizes to her (in Spanish), she hugs him and laughingly says, “Oh Jay how I love it, now you sound like the stupid one!”

I wish this wasn’t so right! Until you’re fluent, some of your personality and smarts are unavoidably lost in translation. There are just too many opportunities to look like an idiot.

Keep reading for ten tongue-in-cheek ways that learning a second language does you no favors.

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An American’s guide to yoga in Madrid

yoga in madrid

I’m not exaggerating when I say you can’t throw a rock in San Diego without hitting three yoga studios. I thought that because I knew some poses and had some Spanish under my belt, I could just pop into a yoga class like it was no big deal.

Um, not so much.

Depending on how seriously you “practice,” you could be in for a whole different experience.

If you’re an American interested in yoga in Madrid, keep reading for a few pointers on what to expect when you om in your new home.

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Spanish lessons from a former Bogotana

common expressions used in spain

I arrived in Colombia with only a handful of Spanish phrases at my disposal. While I knew it would take me a long time to be able to speak and comprehend fluidly, I received some very good advice about where to focus my energy: learn how to speak like the locals.

But, a language is a living thing. Even among countries that speak the same language accents and dialects are wildly different. It’s like an American saying they’re wearing pants to a Brit. The British person probably gets their meaning, but they’ll also be holding in a chuckle. That said, after a few sideways looks in Madrid I realized I had some linguistic housecleaning to do.

Keep reading for the words I had to leave behind in Bogotá and what to swap in to sound more like Spain.

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Learning Spanish, Part II: Practical Advice


Today’s post of advice about learning Spanish is what I set out to write last week.  But, while compiling my list I realized it had become more of a treatise on the emotional and mental surprises that come along with immersion rather than anything technically applicable to the new speaker.  Now that that’s out of the way, keep scrolling for a few things that have helped this gringa habla español...

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Learning Spanish, Part I: How it feels


When I meet other expats here in Bogotá, one of the first questions inevitably asked is how’s your Spanish?  It’s possible to live here without learning the language, but that was not the kind of experience I wanted.  Cody and I made a pact in 2013 that we’d learn another language someday and when we moved to Colombia I knew that even if I could get by without learning Spanish, I’d have a much richer experience if I did.

After six months of classes and a year of being immersed in the language, I’d say that I’m conversational—but still far from fluent.  In fact, the more I venture out conversationally, the more I bump into topics where I don’t have the words I need to articulate myself!  That said, this week’s post about language is coming to you in two parts—the first being a bit about my experience as an adult learning a new language and the second, which will be a few pieces of practical advice.

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