I found this funny video via the Matador Network and it’s sooo true! If you don’t speak Spanish, basically it’s about how words can mean completely different things from one country to another.
Here’s part of the chorus and Matador’s translation:
Que difícil es hablar el español
Por que todo lo que dices tiene otra definición
Que dificil es entender el español
Si lo aprendes, no te muevas de región
It is so difficult to speak Spanish
Because everything you say means something else as well
It is so difficult to understand Spanish
If you ever learn it, stay where you are!”
Basically, words that are harmless in one country can be totally offensive in another, or the other way around. There’s a TON of variation in what words mean because each country has its own slang, and there seems to be more variation than in English.
For example, I came to Spain for the first time well-prepared with insults I learned in southern California…which, of course, were mostly Mexican insults and nobody in Spain understood.
I had another misunderstanding last week. Here’s what happened. I was hanging out with some people from South America who kept calling each other “marica”. I didn’t understand what it meant, so I asked if it had something to do with the offensive “maricón” (“queer” or “faggot” in English).
They said it was totally not related and meant something like “dude” or “mate”, which was confirmed by people from two different countries. So I proudly tried it out on a Spaniard, glad to have a new slang word.
Turns out marica is related to maricón in Spain, and is also pretty offensive. Thankfully, the Spaniard in question let me know before I kept using it! I thought maybe that was only a Spanish thing, so I rushed to Word Reference to read about marica.
Nope, it’s definitely offensive in pretty much every single Spanish-speaking country….except Colombia and Venezuela. And guess which two countries these South Americans were from? Yep, Colombia and Venezuela. Sigh.
Still, it’s better than the time my Argentine friend invented a word every time I asked “Como se dice ____?” It took me a ridiculously long time to realize he was making things up!
Or the time my other Argentine friends told my German friend consolador was the word for “corkscrew”. She asked an entire party full of people where her consolador was, which made everyone laugh and say they didn’t know.
Only after she’d asked everyone did they let her know it actually meant “vibrator”, not “corkscrew.”
All I have to say is….¡qué difícil es hablar el español!