Wednesday, September 23, 2009


In my first year of university as a Spanish major, I had made a good friend who like me, had some basic fluency and previous contact with Spanish speakers, especially Venezuelans.  We were ambitious about learning and confident in our ability to make small talk.  One night we had the chance to test just how good it was.  We were invited to an international student party, eager to go to get the practice we always sought out. As we sometimes did when we would go out, we agreed to use only Spanish, unless, the other person didn't speak it.  On this occasion we decided to pretend to be Venezuelans. Part of the reason for this was that we hoped to be addressed in Spanish and not be considered Americans who were simply learning.  It was important for us both socially and linguistically to be viewed as legitimate speakers of the language.  Another reason  was to see if our Spanish was good enough, conversationally, to be taken for native (or having Spanish speaking family).  We were among the first to arrive.  The hostess, an American, asked us where we were from.  We answered - from Venezuela.  She seemed surprised.  Really?  You speak perfect English!  We glanced at each and quietly giggled.  She continued- Those girls over there are Venezuelan too.  I know how much you enjoy talking with your compatriots.  I'll introduce you.  We walked over, introductions made and got the same question in Spanish -Where are you from? -From Venezuela -What city?  -What city are you from?
 -Caracas.  We're from Maracaibo.  We only knew of these 2 cities and we had never been to the country so we had to be from a city they weren't.  Luckily they didn't ask anything else we didn't have answers for.  What seemed no more than a minute more of Q & A and then judgement:  Oh we're sorry, we thought you were Americans.  We thought, Yes!  We're in!  Test over, no more lables.  Now we could just hang out with them for the evening if we wanted to.  They might have been just playing along but we didn't care.  Aside from the fact that we got our practice, we just wanted to feel like we were more insiders than outsiders.

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