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Habla Español? 11 Things Black-American Spanish Speakers Encounter

Let’s be real. Being a Black-American Spanish speaker is fun. You get to dip in on all the chisme like an undercover spy, and flirt with cuties in two languages. However, it can be difficult when people don’t understand your passion for this romance language. Here, I outline 11 things that happen when you speak your second language:


1. You’re asked on more than one occasion, “Where are you from?” And when you answer, the person inquires, “But where is your family from?”

Society is just now getting hip to the notion of an Afro-Latina. So, the fact that your Spanish is causing conversations about that African Diaspora is a plus. You just wish they would be satisfied when you told them your family is from the U.S.

2. If you are in school, your classmates always want to copy off of your paper in Spanish class.

Okay, so your peers didn’t do their conjugation charts? But they think they’re going to get the answers you spent your precious time working on? Ay, no.

3. Latinas often address you in English when they first meet you because well…eres Negra.

Even when you are with your Spanish-speaking amigos, Latinos greet everyone besides you in their native tongue. When you start a conversation in Spanish, they are in utter shock and amazement.

4. Your Black friends tell you “You are trying to be Latina” all the time.

If Spanish is your passion, you’ve probably been told that it’s not a “Black thing” or that “Black people don’t speak that language.” Both of which are not true.

5. You gladly apply for bilingual jobs and opportunities.

Does that job posting say “bilingual in Spanish and English”? Check. You got that!

6. But you’re asked to jump through hoops to prove your bilingual ability.

“Oh, YOU speak Spanish?” is the first question you’re asked in job interviews. After a series of tests, they finally believe you.

7. You butt in on the chisme because you know exactly what people are saying.

Chiming in on Spanish conversations can be a source of amusement because people don’t expect you to understand. Or, maybe you don’t join in. You just get the deets. They won’t suspect a thing!

8. Your family and friends call you to translate. All. The. Time.

You have grown used to your mom calling you every time she encounters a Spanish word, or your bestie asking you to read over her Spanish homework. You just wish they’d use Google translate sometimes.

9. Your iPod becomes the go-to for salsa, Latin pop, reggaeton, merengue and other genres of “Spanish music”.

You’re a music lover. It’s not uncommon for your music selection to skip from Ed Sheeran to Ciara to Marc Anthony, but Your “Latin” genre selection is on point. From Celia to Los Rakas to Los Kumbia Kings, nothing misses you.

10. Your dating pool increases because you can flirt in both languages.

The job pool isn’t the only pool you’re expanding. With a second language under your belt, you have even more options when it comes to dating.

11. You feel a sincere connection with and love for Spanish-speaking Latinas of African descent.

The Diaspora is vast and beautiful. You see your Spanish ability as a way to learn about the experiences and cultures of your kin. The Black experience is more than being Black American. It encompasses a wide variety of nationalities, ethnicities, identities and cultures.

Whether you learned your second language at school, your environment, or both, one thing’s for sure: It’s now apart of you. And you wouldn’t trade your ability to communicate in your chosen tongue for the world.

Jelisa Jay Robinson is a writer and playwright. You can catch her musings on fierceness, Afrolatinidad, and art on her blog, Black Girl, Latin World, and Twitter @jelisathewriter.

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  • PrimmestPlum

    I used to love learning Spanish in high school and I even took some college level Spanish courses. However, when I attempted to speak Spanish with native Spanish-speakers to hone my language skills, I would be promptly ignored and just overall not very well received. That discouraged me. A lot. I’m sad to say I let it get to me and lost a lot of my passion for the language.

    I spoke to my Spanish professor about this and she was very honest with me and actually apologized and said, in short, it was because I was Black. I look back on it now and wish I hadn’t have gotten so discouraged in my pursuit of learning another language. But lately, I’ve been feeling brave so I’m going to try and get back into the swing of things. Being multilingual is too much of too opener for jobs for me to pass up.

    • That’s terrible you went through that because there are latinas that look just like you. how did they know you wern’t Afro Latina?

      • PrimmestPlum

        It was particularly shocking to me because before, when I was in middle/high school, I actually would have native speakers coming up to me, asking me for directions in Spanish regularly enough that I memorized how to give directions. I didn’t have a problem then, so I don’t know what changed as I got older.

        I either got the silent treatment or they would answer back only in English and refuse to speak to me in Spanish. But I’m over that discouragement now and willing to put extra effort into learning. Now that I know what to expect, it should be easier.

        • aintilatina

          Yes, please continue on your journey! Don’t let their silence or discrimination deter you from speaking Spanish. You’re opening up so many doors for yourself. We support you!

          • PrimmestPlum

            Thank you!

          • aintilatina

            You’re welcome!

    • Laila Bean

      Yeah, that sucks. I’ve encountered that kind of “resistance”, too. I can’t say it’s because I’m Black; I think it’s more so because I’m “other” (i.e., not one of them). These are just my thoughts; I don’t mean to offend any Latino readers. I volunteer in a Spanish-speaking environment where 80%+ know I speak and understand Spanish but either don’t speak to me or speak to me in English. I honestly don’t feel well-received although I get along fine with other people of different backgrounds (American, Carib, Asian, African, Latino, etc) in English environments (even broken English environments, lol). I don’t fully understand…(??) Maybe someone can shed some light.

    • Jamii Linguists

      I know this was posted a long time ago BUT if you are still interested in learning Spanish PLEASE get in touch with!

  • Laila Bean

    I can relate to most of these and the last one is so true. I love being able to bond with Afro descendants, be it in America (USA), Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, or, of course, Africa. Cheetah Girls said it best: We are sistas <3 Lol (and brothers). I like being the Go-To person in my family when it comes to Spanish, too, lol.

    The one that bothers me the most is when ppl assume you have some kind of romantic or identity-related agenda for learning Spanish. I haven't been told that I "want to be Latina" (I have my my own cultural identity, sheesh) BUT I once had someone with a "respectable" title ask me if I wanted to marry a Latino guy; and he insinuated that it was because I like learning and immersing myself in Spanish. I answered "no", and that I liked all men, regardless of color, language, or nationality. Idk. It bothered me that he thought that was my motivator. No… I just enjoy the language and the connections I can make in general 🙂 I may marry a Latino, but it's not #goals. Loving myself is #goals. Loving life is #goals. And if I get married, a good man is #goals.

  • jamasian

    This is 100% correct and even more so for those of us that seek fluency in an Asian language. I know it’s old but I wanted to share it on my page. I hope none of us give up because someday, there will be a good group of people that respect that you’re either native bilingual or studied your gluteus maximus off.

  • Jamii Linguists

    1000% correct…..exceptionally on point! BUT, you forgot to add a part about dancing…if folks are shocked when you speak…there is shock and awe when you start dancing…and you’re GOOD….really GOOD! Why? Because you grew up to a solid drum bass beat too…we may learn the language but Africa was in us all at birth!

  • sean

    I have to say it but often times when I speak Spanish. So many Latinos or Mexicans appear to be pissed off at the notion of a black man speaking their language. I don’t get it. Almost like they’re threatened. If it’s okay for a native Mexican to learn English, why can’t a US Black learn Spanish?