As far as “white” goes, I’m about as white as they come. On a scale from one to ten, I’m guessing I’m ten. White blonde hair, blue eyes, skin that burns to a crisp in the sun, and as you might guess, I don’t know any Spanish.
Apparently, to live in the RGV you need to know Spanish. I soon found this out when I had trouble finding a job here that didn’t say, “Must speak Spanish,” listed as one of the job requirements. No matter that I had a Bachelors Degree, or a good resume; no Spanish, no job. I figured since I was moving 15 minutes from the border of Mexico this would be the case. I guess it just didn’t really hit home till I spent four months looking for a job. Don’t worry, I found one. I have to hand the phone over to a Spanish-speaking co-worker every so often and all is well in the world. My co-workers kindly even teach me some Spanish words every now-and-then.
If I would have only know that the three years of French I took in High school were not going to be much help to me while living in Texico (Texico: A combination of Texas and Mexico). There are similar words in French and Spanish but this actually makes it more confusing. Muy Bien, Tres Bien; Cómo está, Comment allez Vous. They are just similar enough to make it confusing.
A language that I didn’t have the option of signing-up for in High School is this new language some call, “Tex-Mex.” Tex-Mex: a nice blend of the English and Spanish languages. Here I am, understanding a conversation perfectly, following along, and all of sudden I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, that wasn’t English…did I hear them wrong? Maybe they were mumbling. Oh wait, now I understand them again.” After going through this same thought process a couple of times I realize that I’m not crazy or losing my hearing, They are just using two languages simultaneously. It requires some great skill to perfect this language. Your mind is constantly switching back and forth; Spanish, English, Span...no…English, and back to Spanish again. This is an acquired skill for the speaker and the listener. The person listening has to keep switching too.
As I live here longer I continue to pick up more and more essential words. I can only hope that one-day my periodic in-office Spanish lessons and watching the Novelas (I texted my co-worker to help me remember that word.) will lead me to expand my Spanish vocabulary beyond, “No hablo español. ¿Habla Inglés?” Until then, no comprendo.
Corinne recently moved from Utah to Texas and enjoys pointing out the funny things she notices that are “Only in Texas.” You can contact her with comments & questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.