Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You can speak to me in English

By Claire Pescheret
I have been speaking Spanish for about 10 years throughout my schooling, and I believe I have a good understanding of how to speak and pronounce. Yet, I have discovered that the students who I have worked with at Booker T. Washington Elementary are very perceptive on what my native language is.

My first experience with this phenomenon was in a pre-k classroom. At first, I spoke all in Spanish to the teacher and the students. Thus, the children addressed me in Spanish. Later on, the teacher explained something to me in English and some of the children overheard. Immediately, they began to speak to me in the bit of “Span-glish” they knew. It amazed me that they picked up on this so quickly, and adapted their speech.

I had a similar experience in the first grade classroom I volunteered in. In this instance, when speaking to the children, I mixed up my Spanish words a little, causing the children to not understand what I was trying to say. These students, being a bit more proficient in English, responded to me by saying, “You can speak to me in English.” This surprised me! I was not expecting these students, who spoke to each other and the teacher in primarily Spanish, to pick-up on the fact that I spoke English.

I attribute all of these occurrences to my pronunciation and my appearance. Appearance is something I cannot change, but I will work on my Spanish pronunciation and fluency for this reason alone!


  1. I ran into a similar situation when I was studying in Mexico. Usually, if the person you're speaking to does want to practice their English, you can have them talk to you in English and you speak Spanish back to them. Sometimes I do wish that my appearance wouldn't immediately connote "English-speaker", but I guess it's just something the whole world will have to work on. Not assuming language/culture/heritage based on appearance.

  2. When I talk to people here in the US and they notice my Spanish accent they sometimes switch trying to "practice" their high school Spanish from 10 years ago, as some people even tell me ("oh, I studied Spanish in high school")

    I think it goes beyond merely assuming appearances, and it can be included within the realm of bonding, creating a "connection" with the other person through my understanding of his/her language.