So the other day I just happened to overhear this conversation. Believe it or not, I wasn’t even trying to listen. My Metiche tendencies have very purposely been subdued over the past couple of months. Okay, okay… so not really. I’ve just been kind of too busy to be as chismoso as usual. I promise to change that. I promise! De cualquier manera at the end of the conversation, which was the only part that I really caught, one person leaned over and asked their lunch partner this question. They sounded sincerely curious and since I had not caught the beginning part of their conversation I immediately decided it wasn’t even worth getting worked up about. But the question did pique my curiosity.
Is its possible to speak Spanish quietly?
Now granted the people speaking Spanish in the room were speaking quite loudly. They were four young people, two men and two women, chilangos or regios from what I could make out, and they were carrying on about some of their friends or acquaintances that had been at some type of event with them recently. The jokes were flowing, as were the carcajadas, and well, I just gotta tell you, some of their cracks (mostly about their friends or acquaintances who weren’t there) were actually kind of funny. That’s one of the things I do when eating alone in public places, observe and listen to anything interesting that’s taking place around me. Hence the metiche part of my personality. Come to think of it, I think I was chuckling quite loudly, at one point even turning around to smile at them and let them know that I was a Spanish-speaker too and was enjoying their banter.
That’s probably why the pair of curious lunch mates on my other side had all but completely gone unnoticed until they got up to leave and asked that question.
In that moment, when I overheard the question, my eyebrows went up, my eye balls kind of rolled back a little bit. Their question didn’t really offend me, but in some way it seemed very inappropriate. Later that day and in the ones after, that’s when my mind seriously began to obsess over the question. I know, it is possible to speak Spanish quietly. People tend to think everyone in my family is completely soft spoken. I guess we are, mostly when we’re speaking English though. When we use our native Spanish, for some reason, it always seems we can’t help but to raise the volume in our voices too. I know plenty of others as well who are not as soft spoken in English as we are and who are WAY louder in Spanish. I mean WAY LOUDER!
Why is that? I wondered.
Then a thought raced into my mind. Of course we speak Spanish more loudly! Like our Latino culturas, our language is all about celebration. We’re celebrating the fact that we have preserved our language over so many generations. We’re celebrating the fact that so many of us, across the globe, and across so many borders can speak the same language. We’re celebrating like that Gloria Estefan song that says hablemos el mismo idioma, dame la mano mi hermano. Or maybe it’s just the fact that there are so many more words in the romanticism of el español. Whatever the case, I now had the answer to this stranger’s question.
No. It’s not possible to speak Spanish quietly. And even if it were, we wouldn’t want to anyway!
What do you think? Do you speak more loudly in Spanish? Why do you think so many of us do? I’d love to read your perspective on the subject.
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Juan, this is a very interesting issue you raise and a good discussion. El otro domingo, mis suegros (who live with my wife & I) made a pot of menudo and invited their good friends over, this at 7:30am. When the noise level reached a peak level, it woke us both up and we looked at each other, my wife & I, and con juntos, we said “really?” signalling that Sunday was our really our only day to sleep in past 8am. I asked my wife “does it need to be that loud” but not in a gringo or disrespectful way, only in the manner of hey, its early, its a Sunday morning, folks are still trying to sleep! This is still very new to me as I continue struggling in trying to learn the language and converse with my suegros. I’m having a very very very hard time with this right now. There’s a blog post for you, how do you communicate with live-in spanish-speaking suegros? jajaja
Ha, I like the question Erik! I’m adding it to my list of topics for blog posts. Oye, I sympathize with your pain. On a Sunday morning at 7 a.m. all I want to do is sleep too, menudo or no menudo, jajaja! But for your wife’s sake and her family’s you might just want to make sure they know the invitation is not until later next time. If they are in fact staying with you or living with you, hmm… well buddy, I think that’s where for better or for worse comes in. Thanks for the comment and hang in there. Your wife will repay you for your patience hopefully, jijiji 🙂
She already is, she’s carrying our child!
I got a chuckle out of this because it’s so true. My husband always asks me when I speak to someone in Spanish, whether over the phone or in person, “Why do you have to yell all the time?” At first I thought he was being un poco delicado. Afterward I started paying attention to my conversations and realized I was being loud, then tried to lower the volume a few times. Didn’t work. Lol I’m set to one volume. It’s the way I speak! Great post, Juan.
I think the voice level varies among different Spanish-speaking peoples. For me, in general the loudest Spanish I’ve heard is from Cubans, Spaniards, and Venezuelans.
Also, people from the northern states of Mexico, and from Veracruz usually speak louder than Mexicans from other states.
But, on the other hand, this could happen too in English: one of the first experiences I had in the United States was at a restaurant, where a group of African-American teenagers made sure everybody heard their conversation clear and LOUD.
LOL, I think you may be right there 🙂
I think it must be cultural, in the way that Groups of African Americans tend to be louder than whites of roughly the same status. Not bad, just different. Why should everyone have to police their volume to please white people? I like to hear the different cadences and volumes of different people around me.
Ellen, how about “because our three young daughters are trying to sleep and it’s past 11pm?” Seriously, I cannot believe you are defending people who plainly do not understand it is possible to carry on a sotto voce conversation –
one where you aren’t sharing your every thought with the entire room or (in our building) the entire neighborhood. Both my wife and I are Spanish heritage (Latino/Hispanic, if you prefer), my wife having been born and raised in Mexico City. I, on the other hand, spent my childhood in Europe, where it is consisted rude to carry on in public so loudly that others can hear your every word at the next table. Indeed, police get called and people times when the noise in one’s home disturbs the neighbors, as should be the case, everywhere! This utter nonsense of an excuse “it’s our cultural heritage,” is ridiculous. What this amounts to is excuse to be rude… Please, instead of behaving like a pack of animals and raising your children to do the same, consider that it is your messed up attitude that engenders stereotypes about all of us, even those of us who were raised with proper manners.