Bad Language

“Pass me the, er, wotsit?”

“The what?”

“Thing-with-buttons-make-telly-work. You know, mando a distancia.”

“The remote.”


Before we ever left the UK, it was clear that language would be a key factor in the success, or otherwise, of our expat adventure. We were, after all, intending to move to a rural region of Spain where the locals’ experience of foreign languages, customs and culture was little or none. We’d just have to immerse ourselves and get on with it. No excuses.

And over the intervening six years or so, progress has been made, though if I’m honest, not as much as I’d hoped. These days I can get the conversational ball back over the net most of the time, except when I’m faced with some more-or-less toothless local Pete Sampras who would, frankly, need subtitles to be understood by the average madrileño.

However, an unforeseen and much more worrying trend has surfaced, one that may eventually prevent me ever returning to my homeland. I appear to be forgetting more and more of my native English.

So now the race is on. My major fear is that, if I carry on losing my mother tongue faster than I learn Spanish, I may end up without a language at all. I could turn into one of those weird, dribbling guiris who can only communicate via grunts and questionable hand gestures, and be sent to live in Fuengirola.

Even if the vocabulary stays with me, though, travelling back to the UK becomes ever more risky. The hushed tension of travel by public transport and the taboo against speaking to strangers (and, especially, their children) are British customs I’m not at all sad to have lost. Neither does la republica independiente de mi casa – pardon my Swedish – have any repressive culture of political correctness; these days we’re proudly unafraid to call the shots as we see them (albeit distorted by the bottom of a glass). There are no prohibited opinions. There is no obligation to be right. And you can change your mind tomorrow.

So spending time in the UK is now fraught with dangers, you see; things can go bad so quickly. Just when I think it’s safe, I might suddenly proffer a banned opinion. To somebody’s kid. On a bus.

So please forgive me if any of these posts are left wanting, linguistically, but clearly it’s not my fault. It’s the immersion in Spanish language and culture that’s doing it. Or too much pitarra. Or the first signs of early-onset … er …  wossname.


4 thoughts on “Bad Language

  1. Another great post Phil! I did roar at the Fuengirola quip 😉
    I know exactly what you mean. There are a number of things that I only ever use the Spanish words for… either because I don’t know the English word, or because it is simply become a habit. Reading new words is always done in Spanish now. But although the words are there… the grammar is noticeable by its absence *cough*
    Elle x

    • Thanks Elle.
      The most embarrassing moment is when a Spaniard asks you what something’s called in English, and you can’t remember!

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