Differences in language, differences in culture

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Of course the English language is very different from Spanish, and as such each language represents customs and cultural differences between the people that were born here and those who came from Latin America. The language is like a banner, a cultural flag for both Anglos and Latinos, and that’s why it’s very important. So important is the use of Spanish, but not liked by the far-right of this country, just as the use of English in Latin American countries is disliked by the far-right of Latin America.

When we come into this country and start learning English we realize that differences go beyond words. I’ll give you examples, because there’s a chasm between the use of these words from the point of view of the Anglos and the point of view of us Latinos, as to how we look at the world around us.

We came to this country to make money, right? Money to have a better life, that’s our mindset. The American mentality is so focused on having “success” (read: making a lot of money) that they even reflect it in their everyday phrases.

Let’s look at some of the most common: For example, while in Spanish we have a phrase, “ganarse la vida,” the English equivalent would be “to earn a living.” In practice, however, many people prefer to say “to make money” (“hacer dinero”)..  In Spanish, when we expect someone or something to win (for example, a certain football team), we say: “I’ll go with…”. But Americans prefer this phrase: “My money is on…” (“Mi dinero va a…”).

The phrase “hit the nail in the head” translates as “on the money,”(“en el dinero”). “Making good money” (“Hacer buen dinero”) would be the equivalent of “well-paid”, or “having a good salary.” When Hispanics say we wouldn’t do anything, we say “for nothing in the world,” but Americans say, “For the love of money,” (“Por el amor al dinero”). If we say that someone or something “gives a good fight,” the Americans say that it gives “Una buena carrera por su dinero” (“run for someone’s money.”). When we predict that something has an equal chance of happening, we say, “It sure will…”. But in English the phrase is “even money” (“dinero empatado”).

When Hispanics backs someone or something, we usually say “put the hand on fire for that,” or “if I had to choose…” Instead, Americans say “for my money, I’d pick…” (“Por mi dinero, yo elegiría a…”) If we ask a hypocritical person to do what he preaches, we tell him to, “preach by example.” But Americans say to him, “put your money where your mouth is” (“pon tu dinero donde está tu boca”).

And finally, a classic: When we try to value time, Hispanics say: “Time flies…” but Americans use an immortal phrase that defines Anglo culture as no other (and has even been adopted by many Latin American countries): “time is money”.


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