Are you one of those “Habla” people?

I am very proud of my Latin heritage even though I am not Mexican. However I have to laugh at some of the misconceptions or misuses of the Spanish language to try to make me feel “welcome.”

The term “habla” or speak is probably the funniest one that I have ever heard. I was actually one of those “habla” people. I acted confused because I wanted to see where the person was coming from. I assumed two things, one that the person felt comfortable enough to use a Spanish term by either having worked with a lot of Hispanics or actually related to one via extended family. I also assumed that the person had little to no knowledge of the actual language.

I made my best confused face and asked, what do you mean. I wanted to see where the person took what obviously became an uncomfortable encounter with one of the “habla” people.

You see, I am almost immune to people’s ignorace about my country. I blame mostly the schools, but the interwebs have taught me that people all over the world are very clueless about other countries. Even Europeans that claim to be wordly people often make huge assumptions about Americans that also crack me up. Most people assume that just because you get a label stuck on you like “Colombian” your individuality is completely removed and topics from drug trafficin to coffee trade should be part of your repertoire. See exibit A. A recently made comment on my Arroz con Pollo post.

I made this for my Columbian neice Julie and she said it was just like they make it in Columbia. Very delicious, it reminded her of when she grew up as a child. She used to work for a Drug Lord whose mamacita made it all the time. Thanks for the help!

Written By Beverly Grady

At first glance you would be like, awesome, you are being thanked for a recepy. What Beverly seems to miss is first that Colombia the country is actually spelled with a “O” but common mistake, I will let that slide. Then we move onto the crown jewel of Colombian missinformation. Just because I am Colombian it is not O.K. for you to relate to me meaningless information while trying to compliment me for providing you with a recepy. I don care if Julie used to work for Pablo Escobar himself, I don’t know him any more so than Juan Valdez.

Now the funny thing about the rest of the sentence is the use of the word “Mamacita” and now I am really confused. Colombians are easy to identify when they are speaking Spanish. We use “ito” and “ita” a lot. That colorful stroke of language happens in our every day speech quite often. When we ask you to move over, we don’t just say, “excuse me” we say “could you please move over just a little bit.” Its a funny thing that most people can easily pick up if they speak Spanish and are not good at picking up actual accents.

Confused? good. So the lady uses the word “Mamacita” and it could mean two things. The slang trying to convey a “girlfriend” type relationship, or the actual mother of the drug lord. Not sure why drug lord was capitalized. Its irritating, I have no clue who used to make the Arroz con Pollo.

Going back to the other story, the person I was having the “habla” conversation with started to get embarrassed and apologetic. I can hide my accent in Chicago even more so, the person did not know me, so in my very proper dictation I said I’m sorry are you referring to a word in Spanish? trying to insinuate that I did not speak the language.

The person was turning colors now and I had enough fun. I explained that what she was asking me was if I spoke, and sure enough I can speak :) but what she meant was to say if I was someone that actually speaks Spanish… “Habla EspaƱol.”

Once the embarrassment wore off the person was actually cool and happens to be married to one of the “habla” people but does not know any of the language besides slang. From experience I know how tough it can be to be a non-speaker in a family of fluent people. I would caution you to not use a language you don’t know or understand, but in reality I have tons of fun with people misusing Spanish, and thank every single day that my wife can understand me in two out of the three languages that she speaks.

7 comments on “Are you one of those “Habla” people?

  1. If I had some level of immersion after High School, I might be fluent(ish). But hell I can’t even remember a lot of basic vocabulary in Spanish.

    When it comes down to a necessity to communicate with a Spanish only speaker, I explain “Yo hablo Espanol, pero solo un poco.” and hope I am close enough to what I think it means.

    I have to say I know some people who like to throw Spanish slang around, and it amuses and annoys me in equal parts. These same people would not react well to people “kidding around” about their heritage. I know YOU have a good sense of humor about these things Logtar, but I still think it is kinda rude.

    I will sign off saying I recall enough of my 4 years of HS Spanish to be comfortable calling you “Mi Hermano.”

  2. I made the mistake of saying “Hola” to a kid when the world softball championship was in town, after I had taken a year of Spanish in high school. He rattled off a long stream of Spanish which the only word I understood was “mama”. I promptly replied with “no se” and got the hell out of there!

    So, do you think it is just a Spanish stereotype thing? I’ve had some Brazilians try out their English on me when they didn’t speak fluent English but I was amused and wanted to help them rather than being offended.

  3. If someone is trying to speak a language I know I am never offended. However, if you can accomplish communication with another language why try to murder one you don’t really even have minimal grasp on?

    I was not even offended by the “one of those people” type of comment because, well, I am one of them. I don’t even get offended by being called a beaner, but it has nothing to do with my heritage, I just love beans.

    I find it all pretty amusing in many levels. What I find offensive is when I walk into a gas station in the middle of nowhere and the attendant is yelling WHAAAAT? (Foreigners are not deaf, and no language becomes more understandable when you speak louder… slower, maybe, but never louder) before I even say a sentence. Its happened more than I care to tally up.

  4. Yeah, I don’t know why people do it, but it seems to be a natural response for a lot of people to talk LOUDER and SLOWER when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak their language. My wife did exactly that when trying to send a postcard while she was in Brazil =)

  5. i am still gonna call her cholita. until she stops calling me cholito. funny how a word changes in meaning depending on where you are in the world. i am not one of those habla people. one of my biggest shames sense i have some descendants who most certainly did.

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