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Stairwell Teatro 2023 Ep. 08 If Only I Could

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

I love that some of you send me emails, texts, and call to share your name stories. I summarize or rephrase because I’m seeking to tell a story in two minutes. Hopefully, I present a “good-enough” shortened version of what you've told me. In my writing I can provide a bit more about the stories you share.

When my friend Maria got high praise for her good Spanish, she told her friends the following:

"I'm blessed to be bi-lingual, but trust me, I know what you mean. In learning to speak English, I knew pronouncing English words correctly was crucial - why wouldn't I? And English is exponentially much more difficult to learn than Spanish, so few words are phonetic, like in Spanish. It just takes practice and a commitment to respecting language - any language."


Yep, there was complete silence; no one said anything in response to Maria's comments. Awkward.

Maria concludes her email by saying, “if an English speaker can pronounce the following words correctly, a Spanish R or double L should be easy/peasy:

  • Au contraire

  • Bon appétit

  • Bourgeois

  • C’est la vie

  • Cliché

  • Entrée

  • Faux pas

  • Nouveau

  • Potpourri

  • Touché

Questions to my friends who are not native speakers of English. Do you make an effort to pronounce French words correctly? Does it feel embarrassing if you don’t get them quite right? Do Spanish words feel more intimidating than French words? Do you find yourselves offering explanations (to self or others) about why you might struggle with Spanish words?

Asking for a friend.

Know someone in the Phoenix area? Maybe you even live there yourself. If so, I hope to see you on December 10th when I perform my final live show this year at Arizona State University’s Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale, AZ. Spread the word to friends or family in the Phoenix area. I promise you the best show I’ve got. Click here for tickets.

When I was in San Antonio, I enjoyed recording a podcast with Dr. Elena Foulis at Texas A&M University, San Antonio. Latin@ Stories is a podcast born out of the oral history project about Latin@s in Ohio, Oral Narratives of Latin@s in Ohio (ONLO). It seeks to amplify the Latin@ experience with interviews in Spanish, English and Spanglish. The podcast has stories about Latin@s that live all over the US. Have a listen at this link.

You can watch the previous seven episodes of my Stairwell Teatro in under 20 minutes, since individual stories are typically around two minutes. Click here for the playlist.

Finally, please join me in sending thoughts of loving kindness into the universe. Many of us feel hopeless and despair with the world in such a crisis. Let us choose empathy and compassion for all our brothers and sisters experiencing this unimaginable trauma.

And remember, spread hope and love. No te cuesta nada, an expression I grew up hearing about many things, and one that certainly applies to spreading hope and love.

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Fern Ebeling
Fern Ebeling
Oct 29, 2023

I love the simplicity and humility in your stories Irma. Yes, I would agree with you that there is a great deal of prejudice against Latinos and hence the subsequent disrespect of their language. Thank you for pointing out very common real world examples of how native English speakers can and do pronounce many French words, illuminating their hypocrisy. ¡Muy bien hecho!


Oct 20, 2023

Irma, this is a very interesting episode and I think you're right. I think here there is more prejudice toward Spanish people, thus the language. Que lastima! it's such a beautiful language. It's a great point to compare to French words, and maybe it's just me because I started learning Spanish early but I find Spanish so much easier to pronounce as the rules seem more straightforward, not so many silent letters. French was very hard for me to get comfortable with pronunciation and rules! (Also I never could do more than 1 little trill of my r's but that's not the only measure of saying Spanish words right!)

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