Did I goof by saying that you speak to children with informal Spanish?

You may remember in my Synergy Spanish blog post, when to use Informal Spanish, I advised you to use informal Spanish when speaking to kids.

Well, it turns out that it’s not always the case, at least not 100% of the time. I’m going to tell you about an interesting exception to the rule.

You know, one of the best things about teaching my own second language is that I’ve spent years observing how Spanish speakers use their language. I never did that with English…

English just happened to me.

That’s why, I am so much better at teaching Spanish than I am at teaching English.

It’s counter intuitive; you’d think that I’d be better at teaching my native language. Yet, it’s just so much easier for me to teach you what I’ve had to learn.

I’ve already walked that path before you and it’s easy to show you the way. I truly believe is a key factor in why I get so much amazing feedback.

Recently, I’ve been given an insiders perspective on speaking to children.

You see, as a father of two “little Mexican jumping beans”, I have a daily insight into how to speak to kids.

I’ve noticed with my son, Andre, who’s not yet two years old, if he misbehaves Elena addressing him as usted.

Have you heard of the terrible twos? Lately, Andre’s been “usted” quite often.

You see, as well as using the usted form to speak respectful, it can also convey a sense of seriousness.

You can probably imagine something similar to this in English with people’s full names… For example, my brother’s name is Benjamin, but he’s always been called Ben. However, when he was in trouble with my Mom he suddenly went from Ben to Benjamin, “Benjamin, come here right now”.

Another use of usted that may surprise you

Our neighbor has a new puppy called Axa. He’s cute and my kids love him. However, he likes to jump the fence into our yard and either pull down the clothes from the line or tear up our plants. Usted isn’t the first word that comes to mind…

The other day I heard Elena, yelling at Axa, “a su casa“, (go) to your house.

Notice the formal Spanish, a su casa, and not the informal, a tu casa.

In Spanish, when you’re being serious, even a dog can be addressed with formal Spanish.

Or like Jose Luis joked…

Que respetuosos son en este vecindario, aqui hasta a los perrros les hablan de usted

How respectful they are in this neighborhood, here even to the dogs they speak to in (the) usted (form).

So, if you are starting to advance in your Spanish you might like to start observing these subtle variations in the language.

I have a couple of resources to help you with understanding and using more Spanish…

Firstly, I always enjoyed the comic Condorito. Hopefully you can get it where you live, if not, you can see some of the comic strip by clicking here. Once you get to the page, just click the anterior or siguiente links for more of Condorito.

Elena’s family think it’s funny that Condorito helped teach me Spanish. I always found it really helpful. Just like the examples with Andre and Axa, I always enjoyed noticing how the characters in the comic use the language and then seeing how my Spanish speaking friends use the language in the similar expressive ways.

Here’s your second resource. It’s some audios from a series of lessons on Informal Spanish commands or the imperative that I created for members of Spanish Ear Training.

My students in Spanish Ear Training are becoming quite advanced in the Spanish they are able to handle. So, I can take them into more complex directions than I would for students in my other programs. Nonetheless, I think you’ll find these audios helpful even if you are not at the same level just yet.

Informal Spanish audio 1
Informal Spanish audio 2
Informal Spanish 1 and 2 Transcript

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