Every now and then someone on one of my tapas tours, upon hearing that I have lived in Spain for more than 27 years, says to me “wow, and yet you still have your Canadian accent!”. And I am always puzzled by this. I mean, what am I supposed to sound like? If I were living in England or Australia/New Zealand then, yes, it is possible that I would pick up something of those ENGLISH accents… but in Spain? Is it expected that I speak with a Spanish accent now when talking in my native language?
Meanwhile, Spanish people are always, um, appalled when they find out I’ve lived here for 27 years and still speak like I do in Spanish. Apparently with a very strong Canadian accent. In fact, I’ve been told many times that my accent in Spanish is atrocious (!!!). Which of course makes me never even want to speak to anyone again. And I know, there’s really no excuse after all this time, etc etc. But there are a few reasons…
When I first arrived here in 1992 (not knowing a word of Spanish) I was a broke English teacher in Salamanca and couldn’t afford to take language classes. But I could afford a beer! So every evening I’d pop down to my local bar, La Luna, and just chat with my friends there. But of course, most of the time I was speaking English during the day, something that continued for the next 15 or so years after moving to Sevilla. Yes, I learned to speak fairly fluently, but I didn’t spend all day speaking Spanish, like some friends who came here from other countries and worked at Spanish companies. As with all languages, the more you use it, the more comfortable you get and the more you learn.
Well, it got even worse in the Spanish speaking department once I started doing the tapas tours. At least during my classes I would speak some Spanish with my students. But of course now all my clients speak English and so do I. So these days I can go a whole week without having a proper conversation in Spanish, and yes, one does get rusty. But other times, I dunno, I am with people I’m comfortable with and conversation flows. And words and expressions I hadn’t remembered in ages come back to me.
But getting back to The Accent. I’ve always liked to think that me speaking in Spanish is a bit like when Antonio Banderas does Puss in Boots in English. Obviously with a very strong Spanish accent, but you know, also cute, right? Well, apparently that’s a big NOPE. Antonio can get away with it, but not me. And as for still having a Canadian accent when speaking in English… why wouldn’t I?