Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals: Gerardo (or is it Guillermo?) Vazquez

This is mi amigo Gerardo. Here is us back in the day as wee little galavanting freshman, and then us all growed up:

Gerardo, who will whisper sexy Latin things into your ear on cue, understands my inner boriqua and knows that my gringa-ness is only the fault of my birth parents. He also knows every word to “Bug-a-Boo” and “Jumpin’ Jumpin'” like any respectable homo.

I just remembered a funny story G told me. He used to work at the American Eagle Outfitters in Times Square, which receives tourists from all over the world, looking to buy shirts that say things like “Est. 19__” or “Property of ___”.  A Latin-American couple walk in with their little son, and Gerardo starts chit-chatting with them in Spanish. They ask where he is from and Gerardo says, “I’m Dominican and Cuban”, and the little boy looks up totally bewildered and goes, “You mean you swam all the way here?!?!” Jajajaja

What’s your name (accents, characters and all)

Gerardo Vázquez

Where were you born?

New York, NY

What languages do you speak? What’s your mother tongue?

Spanish (mother tongue), Portuguese, very little German (editors note: he speaks English as well, duh)

When/how did you learn to speak English (Colm, for you French)? Was it a hard and painful process? 

I learned English when I was 7. I had previously been in all Spanish-speaking classes, and then wound up in an English-speaking class for second grade, completely bypassing any bilingual intermedian. I assume it was a computer glitch. Anyway, I was forced to pick up English as a result.

What language do you think in? Dream in?

I think and dream in English.

What sort of things do you associate with your mother tongue? 

I associate it first and foremost with home, as it is the primary language spoken there. I also think of Spanish as extremely useful. I love how poetic it is, and despite how dramatic it can seem (in comparison to English), I do think it is much clearer than English in terms of communicating effectively. There don’t seem to be as many loopholes in the structure.

 What language do you feel most comfortable speaking in?

Definitely English.

Are there certain things you can’t feel you simply can’t translate into English? Like what?

There are some phrases that don’t translate correctly, and many words that don’t have a specific English equivalent. — my favorite example is the word “seca”. It literally means dry, but it is also used to describe personalities, in which case it means prickly. (Like my sister haha.)

Do your parents speak English? What do you speak with them? With your siblings?

My parents speak some English. I primarily communicate with them in Spanish, though we do throw some Spanglish into the mix. I communicate with my siblings primarily in English, though some phrases and ideas are better expressed in Spanish, in which case we switch into Spanish.

Do you feel different when you speak your mother tongue?

Not really. It is just a natural transition, though from an academic perspective, it does require me to think a little more effort to communicate at a high level.

Do you feel awkward speaking your mother tongue in front of your friends?

Not at all. Let them bitches deal. 😉

Do you think people who speak your mother tongue natively can see that you’ve spent a long time outside of that country? Do you think you sound foreign in your mother tongue now?

There are definitely mistakes and errors I make that a fully native speaker can pick up on. As for my accent, it isn’t an issue, it remains natural.

Can you teach us a word/expression in your mother tongue? What does this mean and why did u choose it?

Let me get back to you on this.

A naughty, naughty word please.

Mamaguevo. It’s a Dominican colloquialism meaning cocksucker. Thrown about as casually as “bro” sometimes, interestingly enough.

A sexy word please.

Acariciar. To stroke. Without being that goddamn awkward.

“Alice is awesome and I love her and miss her!”

Alice es un amor, y la quiero y la extraño!

Muchas gracais Gerardo et buenos cumpleaños!!

About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
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2 Responses to Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals: Gerardo (or is it Guillermo?) Vazquez

  1. Emmali says:

    I love how “all growed up” is the picture that we took as an excuse to take a pic of the ice cream man.

  2. Gerardo says:

    Emmali — hahahaaaaaaaaaaa so true!

    Al — so happy to see this! And thanks for the birthday love!!!

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