Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals: Señorita Inés Álvarez-Gortari Mínguez.

I had the pleasure of interning last summer with Inés at a European policy journal in Brussels. I started my internship while Ines was on vacation, and was definitely intimidated when I went through past emails with article authors, as she seemed to be corresponding in perfect English, French and Spanish with everyone! I was immediately jealous and curious to know how this Spanish chick was hired to edit articles in the Queen’s English.

Well, Inés comes back from vacation and ends up being the best co-trainee/trainer ever, full of knowledge and interesting stories. Turns out Inés is Spanish, but her mother worked for the EU so Inés had grown up her whole life in Brussels and attended international school in English. Her school days and school years were split up into English, French and Spanish, and she had attended “uni” in London, so she has this fantastically posh way of speaking English, but still says really American things like “buddummmm” for “but, ummm”. Inés is now in Paris studying urban planning, so let’s hope she keeps her Belgian roots and doesn’t come back talking like an enculée de Parigot 😉


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

Inés Álvarez-Gortari Mínguez (yup, it sure is Spanish…)

Where were you born?


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

Spanish, English and French. Mother tongue is Spanish!

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

 Luckily completely painless – I got sent to an English kindergarten and even since then I’ve pretty much always followed an English-speaking education!

What language do you think in? Dream in?

Depends. I’ve noticed I’ll start thinking in the language where I’m based. So when I lived in England I’d think in English, but when I spend a lot of time in Spain then the whole process changes to Spanish. Same thing happens when I’m dreaming!

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

Laughter, good food, family, loud noises and people shouting (we love to speak loudly in Spain)

What language do you feel most comfortable speaking in?


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

Some expressions come out when I’m frustrated or pissed off that simply can’t be turned into English – like ‘me cago en [insert noun]!’ Makes me feel better when I say it in the heat of the moment!

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

I always speak with my whole family in Spanish.

Do you feel different when you speak your mother tongue?

I feel more like me.

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


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?

Nope – they have no idea I’m the little ‘outsider’ until they hear the life story. They all think I’m Madrileña when first meeting me!

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

Mariposa – it means butterfly. Just like the way it sounds!

A naughty, naughty word please.

Cachondo – (can be interpreted in very different ways depending on the context ;))

A sexy word please.

Ay papi!

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

Popular/rude(r) version: Alice es la hostia y la quiero y la echo de menos !

Politically correct version : Alice es super guay y la quiero y la echo de menos ! (BIG difference between ‘la hostia’ and ‘super guay’…)

P.S.  – Echo mucho de menos Bruselas L

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: Señorita Inés Álvarez-Gortari Mínguez.

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