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Spanglish for Southern Texans

As a person born and raised along the Texas/Mexico Border I have been immersed in Spanish the entirety of my life. I spent 6 years learning it while in school before continuing to study it for the past two years privately. I can read, write, and understand most Spanish movies (as long as they don't talk too fast). One flaw however; is that I cannot seem to communicate with a good 75% of Spanish-speakers locally. Many people here in Texas speak what we refer to as Tex-Mex; a bizarre mix of Spanish phrases mashed into English sentence components and many, MANY, slang-terms. Many of my attempts to speak Spanish locally have often been laughed down because what to my ear sounds like Proper Spanish is to many of them as foreign-sounding as English. I don't have the advantage of any close friends or family able to help me sort out this language mash-up; but the ability to communicate locally was why I first started learning Spanish. Any ideas on how to re-learn Spanish? Is it even worth it to try to learn this variation? (Are Spanish-speakers everywhere so varied in their language?)

May 15, 2018



As I understand it, the "Tex-Mex" Spanish is a bit like "jive" English or the English spoken in, say, Jamaica. Yes, it's Spanish but it's not textbook Spanish. If you want to communicate locally, then you will have to learn the local variation.

When you speak textbook Spanish, it's a bit like going into a neighborhood where people are likely to say "Man, lookit them vittles. That there's some good eatin'!" and asking "Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?"

If you want to understand books, news articles, news broadcasts, television shows, and movies (that aren't set in a slang/jargon environment) then you should stick to textbook Spanish. The Spanish that Duolingo teaches will allow you to travel to any Spanish speaking country and communicate effectively. You may not be able to express how tubular that gnarly wave was, but you will be able to speak Spanish.


Thanks! I guess I'll just have to suck it up and muddle through all the laughs until I get better at our local slang. I've been wondering if perhaps I'd be better adopting more of a Argentinian or Southern Spain speech pattern as a way to disguise my obviously Not-Tex-Mex speech until I get the hang of it.


The Spanish part of Tex-Mex is based on Mexican Spanish. Spanish taught in Duolingo too. So, maybe you need only more conversation. In textbooks about Spanglish there are "classical" examples: "Te llamo p'atrás" from English "I'll call you back [?]" [Spanish: "Te devuelvo la llamada" or "Te llamaré de vuelta"] and "Vacuna la carpeta" from English "Vacuum the carpet" but literally in Spanish "Vaccine the folder" [Spanish: "Pásale aspiradora a la alfombra" or something similar]. But those examples are the "maximum potential weirdness", everyday Spanglish is mostly code-switching: "Hello, mum, ¿cómo estás?, what are you doing?"

Spanish grammar is not so different among 10-12 major dialects. Vocabulary can be very different about food and domestic life. Pronunciation has 4 o 5 major well known differences. My recommendation is: use books for learning the language, but adapt to local speech engaging in conversations and listening to people.


Continue with Tex-Mex Spanish just focus on the 25% of people that are polite and want to help you progress as a language learner and a person.

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