My Spanish Is Way Better Than Yours

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Dora The Explorer and Diego

Dora The Explorer and Diego


Let’s say there are two native Spanish speakers, both of whom don’t come directly from Spain, but have Latino backgrounds, one comes from a South American country and the other from a Carribean-based country. While discussing language, the first comments that their Spanish is “better” than the other. After the second suggests the lack of real difference between the written form of proper Spanish in both countries, the first gets infuriated and storms off. Neither are each other’s parents nor teachers. What would you say?

That’s what I had to ponder as I sat there watching this unfold. My first instinct was, essentially, “Who the fuck are you?” However, seeing as how that’s completely inappropriate for the setting, I simply said “Whatever.” It felt like those Bud Light commercials where I had to choose between too heavy and too light.

Naturally, I mulled it over some more, talked with some online friends, and came to the conclusion that what I witnessed was nothing short of prejudice and possibly even bigotry. Many of us who speak Spanish as natives often differentiate between what we term as proper Spanish and slang, but the bigger distinction throughout the Western hemisphere seems to be between the countries and classes within Latin America. There’s a large perception that those from South America have a “better” Spanish than Central [and particularly Carribean] America.

Unfortunately, in the past, even I’ve fallen into that trap. The intonations of many of those who come from Argentina versus the grit and syncopation of those who come from my native Dominican Republic made me fall into that mentality early and often. Plus, early in my life, my primary connection to South-American based Latinos came in the form of novelas and noticias with predominantly white Central and South Americans. None of them spoke the way I heard my mom and other family members speak, so there was already the complexes laid out for me in plain view.

What becomes more interesting is telling those who hold this belief that their Spanish … sounds less like the Spanish that the Spanish themselves speak.

We reinforce this vision by continuously perpetuating this farce in this many venues. Frankly, the only Spanish I’ve never understood is the Spanish coming from someone who couldn’t speak any language, so if the idea of language is to effectively communicate, then aren’t many of these dialects valid? Furthermore, is there a difference between calling one’s Spanish castellano and calling it proper? I’ve met academics of all varieties who speak Spanish, and their proper Spanish sounds “well-spoken.”

And that leads me to believe that those who perpetuate the nonsense also perpetuate differences in class and schooling (different from education). Even if you don’t speak Spanish, this is akin to the giant pink elephant in the room when it comes to discussing English, except that in this country, speaking Spanish natively can actually work against you.

Am I wrong? What do I say here?

Mr. Vilson, who doesn’t think the Swiper should be swiping …