Back in 1999 tenia 34 anos. (I was 34.)

The street vendors in Mexico would call out ‘joven’ (young man) or ‘güerito’ (a term of endearment for a light-skinned or blond person).

These days they just seem to call me señor.

Once at my father-in-law’s house a vendedor (vendor) caught his attention by yelling ‘joven.’

He replied “gracias por el joven:” Thanks for (calling me) the young man.

He was about 78 at the time.

That’s a good line. I’ve borrowed it and it always gets a smile.

However, people who know him don’t call him joven, güerito or señor. He gets called ‘don.’

It’s nothing like Don Corleone in the Godfather. It’s a simple term of respect.

My daughter did something mildly naughty the other day, and I said, ”And what do you have to say for yourself, young lady?”

She just burst into laughter.

It was a real belly laugh too. It went on for minutes.

I sounded so silly that I had to laugh too.

Maybe, I’ll get some respect as I age, but probably not.

In the Spanish-speaking world, elders are still respected. I think that’s a good thing.

In fact, Spanish still has both a formal and informal way of speaking. So, when you speak to an elder or someone you respect, you speak one way. When you speak with kids, another.

It’s important to know both.

Here’s an article and free audio to help you use and understand when to use formal and informal Spanish: