12 Problems All Latinos Who Don't Speak Spanish Will Understand

“Yes, I am Latina. No, no habla español.” Sound familiar? Here, some of the biggest problems Latinos face when they admit they don’t speak Spanish. 

1. Mistakes

Pretty much always being reminded of a HUGE MISTAKE you made in your life.

Yes, I realize the importance of speaking Spanish now. (Hindsight sucks.) And no, I’m not mad at you if you ask me whether I speak Spanish or not. That’s a fair question. I do, however, get offended when there’s a sigh or an eye roll or something that happens that implies I’m a terrible person for not speaking Spanish. I promise you, I regret it enough for the both of us. But my follow-up question will always be “Do you speak Latin?” And then I’ll be like, yeah talk to the manibus, but, you know, it just doesn’t have the same effect.


2. Not knowing what anyone’s talking about.

Not knowing what anyone’s talking about.

That’s kind of the biggest one, right? Any non-speaker of any language can tell you that. (Duh.) But it’s even more terrible when you look like you should know the language. You know that scene in Selena when the little girl figures out young Selena can’t speak Spanish and tells her she has a booger in her nose and everyone is laughing? Yeah, welcome to my life.


3. Or not knowing enough to have an actual conversation.

Or not knowing enough to have an actual conversation.

Yes, I understand you’re asking me for directions or talking about how delicious the food is. I’m sorry that all I can do is point North or smile and rub my tummy with a big thumbs-up and say, “si” like a one-year-old child just learning how to communicate thoughts. 


4. Speaking slowly gets us nowhere.

Speaking slowly gets us nowhere.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Spanish dialects are different. I’m Mexican. The Caribbean dialect? It’s like you’re not even pronouncing sounds, yo! I’m going to need you to write it down. Like Anjelah Johnson says: “It’s like you have water in your mouth and you don’t want it to spill.” 


5. The awkward exit after a Spanish speaker realizes you can’t communicate with them and they can’t with you, either.

The awkward exit after a Spanish speaker realizes you can’t communicate with them and they can’t with you, either.

Smiling and awkward laughing is the universal language, amiright?


6. Your Friends Not Understanding That Although You Don’t Speak Spanish, You Can ____ in Spanish.

Your Friends Not Understanding That Although You Don’t Speak Spanish, You Can ____ in Spanish.

Sing all the lyrics to Marc Anthony. Curse out your primos. Watch a telenovela with your abuela. 


7. judgment and justification

That whole judgment and justification about being “Latino enough” thing.

“But you’re Latina, right?” Last time I checked, yep.


8. Pity

Or, worse, the pity.

“It’s OK. It’s not your fault.” Well, it kind of is! Or rather, it’s my dads? Wait, should I be mad at someone? Me? My dad? My 8th grade Spanish teacher for not encouraging my love of el idioma? I DON’T KNOW GUYS.


9. 20 Minute Conversation

The 20-minute conversation (with an English speaker) that inevitably follows.

“Do your parents speak Spanish?”

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“Well, my dad speaks Spanish but my mom doesn’t, and my dad is a couple generations in, so he went to school speaking English and my grandparents knew English but both of them spoke Spanish as their first language, but then my dad moved from Texas to Indiana and had us kids and then he didn’t really see the need to speak Spanish because that side of my family wasn’t around and my dad’s a bit older and grew up during the U.S. civil rights movement so to him, being ‘American’ was really all that mattered because he was discouraged from speaking Spanish in school and…” DEAR GOD WHY AM I GIVING YOU MY LIFE STORY. I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU. 


10. Non-Latinos Who Speak Spanish Claiming They’re More Latino Than You

Non-Latinos Who Speak Spanish Claiming They’re More Latino Than You

Sigh.


11. People telling you things you already know.

People telling you things you already know.

“It’s really a beautiful language, you should learn it.” “You really should learn it.” “It’s never too late to start!” "Pick up some Rosetta Stone!" "Learning a new language is hard, but worth it." "I know a girl who spent a month in Honduras knowing only English and now she's fluent." YES I KNOW HOW LEARNING A LANGUAGE WORKS, THANKS.

12. So Many Questions

Just. So. Many. Questions.

“Didn’t you want to learn?” “Why didn’t you take it in high school?” “Why don’t you learn now?” “Do you ever think of trying it?” “Do you want your kids to speak Spanish?” “Does your family speak Spanish?” “What does your family think?” “Do you understand it?” “But do you know any words?” “How long has your family been here?” “Why is your face turning red and your eye twitching?”