Sometimes my students apologize because «their Spanish is very bad». Sometimes I apologize when I have to speak English. We all feel ashamed when speaking a new language. We forget, for example, that we are doing a favour to another person adapting ourselves to their language.
All of this shame comes, partially, from other people and institutions acting like gatekeepers. They rule over what is right or what is wrong in a given language. However, trying to rule over a langue is like trying to close off the countryside behind doors. That is to say: something useless, pointless and, at the end of the day, impossible.
Are you implying that I can use a language the way I want to?
Yes and no.
Something vital we need to know when speaking any language is: Do we have a goal? What is our aim? Do we want to communicate? Well, If that is the case, we can transmit thousands of meanings depending on our grammatical, lexical or pragmatic choices. Sometimes, breaking the rules is the perfect way for saying something.
Nowadays, most of us use social media. In Spanish Twitter, we have a meme. This meme is using the expression «haber si me muero» («I wish I were dead»). According to the RAE, under a purely regulatory framework, this is not correct. We should say «a ver si me muero» because when we want to express a desire, one of our options is the construction «a ver si…».
Using «haber si me muero» in a specific context is correct.
The meanings we communicate when saying «haber si me muero» are different from the meaning we want to transmit when we say «a ver si me muero». Using the meme, we are communicating a shared universe, irony and our knowledge of the memes, social media and the Internet. In fact, and this is important, when we use the meme, we want to clarify that we do not want to die.
So. How can we say this is incorrect? Does it make any sense to slash the expressive capacity with the aim of theoretical correctness?
What if I am a Spanish student?
If you are a Spanish student, this amount of information may sound confounding. But I can assure you that it is easier this way.
As a teacher, I spend a lot of time saying «that is correct» and «that is not correct». And it is ok. It is the easiest way to compile a considerable amount of information.
Nonetheless, what I am saying is that you are not communicating what you want to communicate. Let’s see an example:
- Cuando vienes me haces feliz.
- Cuando vengas me harás feliz.
In the first case, we are using the present simple. That is the easy one. We are using the Present Simple because we are talking about a habit. We are saying: «every time you come, you make me happy». The second case, though, could be a little bit more troublesome. When students do not know about this, they try to use Present Simple or Future. Of course, we are facing a problem between what we say and what we want to say. Are we asserting that the person comes? Are we guessing that the person comes? Nop. Neither of them. Therefore we need the subjunctive.
Understanding that there is not such a thing as right and wrong may be helpful for you. You will be both freer and more comfortable speaking Spanish. Knowing that you have control over what you want to say and, especially, how you want to say it and the impressions you want to give is one of the better senses when learning a new language.
The only bad-spoken language is the one you do not use
I live in a small town with two official languages: Galician and Spanish. The Galician language does not have a lot of speakers. Also, it is being minorized by the Spanish language. And as if this were not enough, there are plenty of people saying: «I would rather not use Galician, I do not know proper Galician». Native speakers of a language feeling ashamed because they do not use it ‘properly’.
Speakers of Galician not using their language because they do it ‘wrong’, students of Spanish not practising because they dot ‘wrong’, myself avoiding speaking other languages because I do it ‘wrong’. But who says that? Every time we are trying, every time we are completing communicative intercourses, we are doing great.
The nuances, the perfection or the blessing of whatever institution are accessories. If we want to achieve this kind of perfection, it is ok. We will need time and patience, but it is not something unachievable. However, it is not compulsory.
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