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Dear Abby: Anglo Woman Using Spanish Fears She May be Out of Line

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DEAR ABBY: I am a retired librarian who lives in Texas. I am what around here is called “Anglo,” meaning white and not Hispanic. I speak four languages, with varying degrees of proficiency.

Recently, a friend who is Hispanic told me that if an Anglo speaks Spanish to a Hispanic person, it’s considered an insult because it implies that the Hispanic person is “too stupid” to learn English. I had never heard of this before, so I asked a retired college-level Spanish teacher who is also Anglo. She informed me that Hispanic people use the language difference as a “boundary,” and my speaking Spanish to them was a violation of their boundaries.

It came as a complete shock! This happened more than a month ago, and I’m having a hard time dealing with it. I spent a lifetime developing language skills. I always considered speaking another language to be a sign of respect and friendship. Now I’m being told that it’s insulting and intrusive?

I can’t believe all Hispanic people feel this way, but I don’t know what to do with this information. My next-door neighbors are Spanish-speaking. I’ve always spoken to them in Spanish because it’s what I heard from them when I first met them. Now I don’t know if I’ve been insulting them. What should I do? — IN SHOCK IN SAN ANTONIO

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26 Comments to "Dear Abby: Anglo Woman Using Spanish Fears She May be Out of Line"

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  1. “She informed me that Hispanic people use the language difference as a “boundary,””

    it’s also used as a way to insult you at parties to get laughter at your expense….or as one reveler put it “i was just clowning”

    why wouldn’t this be considered racist? Or a micro aggression?

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  2. Dear Abigail van Buren -

    – I’d assume you have discovered a social fact, that’s (for reasons, Steve Sailer specialised in) a little bit hid, nowadays.

    One of the very reasons, that there are so superfluosly many Languages on earth is, that they are a very strong means of separating and protecting one group of humans from the other.

    Having the same language is an entitlement of sorts, that can be very easily carried around and applied in everyday life.

    If you look at language for a little moment as a code to a vault, then the person, who speaks the language knows the code, the person who doesn’t – – has no access to the vault with all the social (and sometimes: material…) goodies and secrets. –

    If this theory does appeal to you, you might want to have a closer look at the work of the Britisch socio-linguist Robin Dunbar: “Groom, Gosip and The Evolution of Language”. – The book is fun to read too.

  3. Why don.t you send this question over to Gustavo Arellano @ “Ask a Mexican” ?….I’m sure he will have some big fun with this one…..

  4. Back in the day, when LLoyd Bentsen was running with Dookie, he’d give speeches in Spanish and the Repugs would whine that “Back in Texas big ranchers spoke Spanish to their peons because the assumption was they were too stupid to learn English but even a moron can learn Spanish, so Democrats are the real racists.”

    Basic rule: YT is always wrong.

    • Agree: Ace
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  5. Redneck illegal alien smuggler speaks fluent Spanish to new arrivals, slugs labor organizer:

  6. This bullshit game can be played from a lot of different angles. I like to stand in a line at the grocery store or DMV or wherever (haciendome el Gringo angloparlante baboso) and wait until I overhear a really off the wall conversation in “Spanish”. Occasionally it will even be one in which disparaging references are made about me.

    Then (depending on circumstances/my mood) I’ll cut loose with some litany of foul mouthed insults or say something really professorial , sútil y matizado and all. It’s a lot of fun.

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  7. I personally consider a person who speaks two languages, double smart! So if you do speak four, you are four times smarter than the rest! Good for you.

  8. it’s a huge benefit to be a member in a community that knows a language that most people around them don’t. they are just trying to preserve that power imbalance.

    • Replies: ,
  9. says:
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    You didn’t half say it. Look here at Canada. For every French speaker who can speak English, there are two who can only speak French. But for every English speaker who can speak French, there are more then fifteen who speak only English.

    Now who do you think gets to benefit from Canada’s’ pervasive sea to sea, border to pole, “official bilingualism”? Who gets all those cushy, high paying jobs in the federal government with all the goodies, benefits and pensions?

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  10. A covert army of 4GW invaders objects when their communications code is broken…

    How do you say “The Wall just got 10 feet higher” en espanol?

  11. Perhaps it could sound condescending, but that’s really besides the point. She should make it a personal policy to speak English in America, because that’s the lingua franca. Nobody’s ever tried to speak to me in Chinese here, and if in China, I would insist on using Chinese even to an English speaker.

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  12. Dear Abigail Van Buren …..

    A 2009 study, titled, ‘The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness’, conducted by professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers (University of Pennsylvania) for the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) – concludes that though American women are better off economically since 1970s – socially they feel more miserable than before….. The women who have been to a women shelter (there are 300 of those in Canada as compared to none for the men) – will tell you how callously they are treated by the hags employed there. Distressed women are pressured to end their marriages and are offered help and resources to do so. Feminists are not interested in the welfare of women. They rely on domestic violence for their cushy jobs and to emasculate men – by portraying them as abusers….”

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  13. Not surprised that a Islamist blogger writes a post about how domestic violence is OK. Your countries are so horrible, why can’t you just stay they are stop trying to change and immigrate to our better countries?

    • Replies:
  14. Now guess whose holy book has this prayer for men: “Thank G-d for not making me a Gentile, a Woman or a Slave”?

    Which religion doesn’t allow women the right to divorce?

    Who are the S**t people who discriminate their women at eight places?

    Which country has legalized woman sex slavery?

  15. Dear Abigail Van Buren …..

    On August 29, to show his hatred toward nine million French Muslims, French prime minister Manuel Valls (married to a Jew) became a laughing stock when he claimed that naked breasts and not the Muslim modest female beach dress Burkini represent French ‘secular values’…..

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  16. Yes, I know. But it makes me sympathetic to unilingual Franophones. Sometime they are the nicest people you can talk to, and they are almost always polite when I struggle to make conversation in French.

  17. Why am I such a sceptic? I don’t think Hispanics view Spanish as a barrier, and I doubt very much that Abigail received the question unsolicited. I just don’t. I long ago came to the conclusion that preachers make things up. People, to hear them tell it, are always approaching them, and asking questions, which conveniently provide the subject for a sermon. I suspect these columnists feed themselves topic questions, and that’s why I don’t believe the topic really exists among Latinos. I speak poquito Espanol occasionally, when the Latino I’m trying to communicate with doesn’t seem to understand me, and they always seem to appreciate my pathetic effort.

  18. The further south you go, the less necessary it is for Latinos to distinguish themselves from the gringo population. So you see a lot of oddities in places like south LA that you wouldn’t see in like, Peru or even Guatemala. Ie if you are one gringo in a sea of a million latinos, no one gives a shit.

  19. “recently, a friend who is Hispanic told me that if an Anglo speaks Spanish to a Hispanic person, it’s considered an insult because it implies that the Hispanic person is “too stupid” to learn English. “. ” …Hispanic people use the language difference as a “boundary,” and my speaking Spanish to them was a violation of their boundaries.”
    This is absolute BS. The rule to be respectful is very simple: if they start the conversation in English, use English. If you start the conversation, use whatever language you want.
    If you start in Spanish and they respond in English, you can ask if they would like to speak in Spanish or just continue in English. If you start in Spanish and they speak to you in English, they probably want to speak in English (for whatever reason).
    I would be extremely surprised if you were surrounded by people speaking Spanish, you used Spanish, and then they only spoke to you in English (that would be rude).
    I repeat, the boundary thing is absolute BS. Maybe the college teacher is not a likable person, and people just want to keep from distance him/her.

    • Replies:
  20. Then there’s the 19th-c. Englishman who wrote to the Times that one should speak only English in Britain and if one should wish to speak a foreign language he should go to France and speak English.

  21. Actually, it’s the burkini that makes Muslims the laughing stock of Europe.

    There was also an amazing photo a while ago of a Muslima in a pool up to her neck wearing some kind of a Bat Girl headdress. I could see her eyes so I was naturally filled with lust. Why do Muslim men leave the raw meat out in the open like that? It’s an open invitation to rape.

  22. The best response in this thread. Give ‘em hell Jim Bob. I wish I could be there to witness one of your en espanol tirades and see for myself a little dumbfounded, open mouthed spanglish shock.

  23. There is no such thing as a “hispanic person”, but there is such a thing as a welfare whore and every hispanic is one.

  24. This happens abroad to native English speakers too, especially in countries like The Netherlands. The foreigner will speak passable Dutch only to receive a response in near fluent English or the native wants to practice their English. It is frustrating for the foreigner who is trying to improve their language skills.

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