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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

A Class Act
03 August 2021 @ 12:08

An American woman I know comes up to me: ‘I met this man from Yorkshire’, she says, pronouncing it yawkshiyuh, ‘who thinks you don’t like him because of his accent’.

‘Don’t be silly’, I answer automatically.

We live in a town where almost everyone comes from Somewhere Else. Most people here have different backgrounds, different experiences and, naturally enough, different accents.

We didn’t share the same teachers, mayors, clergy or football teams, things which mark out ordinary communities where you may know what someone thinks or is going to say before he opens his mouth. Here, we are a melting pot of Germans, Spanish, Rumanians, Chinese, Britons, Americans and everything else. We all get along since we are a small community and as long as we can be understood. Communication is everything.

However, unfortunately for the English, who are often monolingual anyway, that's not the case. With the English, accents are everything. To hell with what someone is saying, in a foreign language or in our own. If it sounds wrong then we won't engage.

I have either a ‘middle Atlantic accent’, or ‘no accent at all’ or a ‘fruity la-di-da’ voice depending on who you ask. I’m comfortable with it (unlike a school-friend who carefully learned to speak cockney) and my English is easy to understand when talking to practically anybody. BBC stuff. You know.

Particularly when explaining something to a German. Nice and easy there, Helmut!

I walked into an Irish bar the other day and ordered a Guinness. IRA songs were playing on the music system. ‘I shot a British soljer’ goes one of them ‘straite between de oiyes’. Lovely. The barman asks how long I’ve been here. ‘Fifty years man and boy’, I tell him. ‘Why, sure and you haven’t lost yer accent’, he says.

Another time, I meet somebody: ‘how de do?’ I ask. ‘Oh yuss, ‘ow di doody’, they answer, taking the piss.

George Bernard Shaw said: ‘No sooner does an Englishman open his mouth than another Englishman despises him’. How true. And what a shame. My own feeling is, as long as I can understand what someone is saying, we are moving forward. There are some ugly accents, which are those that sound odd to somebody’s ear. I don’t like such-and-such an accent, and perhaps they don’t like mine.

I speak with German friends, or American friends or what-have-you. The subject doesn’t arise. It’s not a subject which overly concerns the Spanish either. They might think I sound ‘inglés’ when I’m talking in ‘castellano’, but it’s of no consequence. I was once live on the radio when a listener from Seville came on the air. 'After all these years in Spain, you still have an English accent', she said. I answered - 'Señora: after a lifetime in Seville, you still sound like una andaluza '. 

Curiously, the children here often have more marked regional accents than their parents. I know Manchester kids who have never visited their own country, and yet still remain incomprehensible. How can this be? Shouldn’t all of us, in the decades to come, start to create our own homogenised way of speaking? Shouldn’t we become, eventually, something like the two-language-speaking Gibraltarians?

We bring a lot of useless baggage with us when we come to Spain.

Discriminations, class, accents, regional ideas and so on. It's better to drop them off at the gate.

We can improve our life here - by getting to know our new area, by voting, learning Spanish, watching local television and adapting ourselves to our new environment; by taking siestas and drinking wine; by knowing our way round our nearby cities and by knowing Spaniards – as well as everyone else who crosses our path. In short, we have the opportunity to become émigrés. Better still - our children have the chance to become Europeans. The alternative to this is to act and consider ourselves as exiles – consuming ‘English’ stuff, reading ‘English’ newspapers and watching SKY (television that deals, of course, with a place where you no longer live). That way, we miss most of what Spain has to offer.

Next time I see that Yorkshireman, I'll buy him una cerveza...



Like 6




5 Comments


jane27 said:
07 August 2021 @ 10:25

Love this. Your blog keeps me amused and attached while we are stuck in the UK.


animate said:
07 August 2021 @ 10:30

Very well put. Many of the Brits who arrive in Spain take the opportunity to reincarnate themselves on a higher social plane than the one they left England with. I have met people from Barnsley, Liverpool and Huddersfield, who think they have lost all trace of their roots, lecture me on my Yorkshire accent. The best one was when a lady in Tenerife asked, "Do they still wear cloth caps up there." She was from Essex, so you have to give way to her ignorance. All the Andaluz farmers in the pueblo that I lived in wore flat caps, and they were all fiercely proud of their Andauz accents.


anthomo16 said:
07 August 2021 @ 11:19

So very well said.....my pet hate is when an english person cannot make themelves understood they start shouting ...I melt into the furniture


anthomo16 said:
07 August 2021 @ 11:19

So very well said.....my pet hate is when an english person cannot make themelves understood they start shouting ...I melt into the furniture


mestala said:
08 August 2021 @ 20:49

So do you think it's funny enough to tell everyone about IRA songs killing british soldiers,obviously there's no admins looking over articles on here...disgusting and you ought to be made to edit it


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