Can you read between the lines in Spanish? 5 tips to understand the nuances of Spanish

Can you READ BETWEEN the LINES in Spanish?

Have you ever been in a conversation with a Spanish speaker, and you didn’t quite understand what they meant, even though you understood each one of the words? This video is for you! I’m Paulísima from Spring Spanish, and in this lesson you’re learning how to read between the lines in Spanish!

¡Empecemos! (Let’s get started!)

1. A secret on how to read between the lines in Spanish

We Mexicans often don’t mean what we say! Let me explain.

First, we must understand that Mexico has a high-context culture. This means that we communicate in a more indirect manner. Contrary to low-context cultures, such as that of the United States, where communication is very direct.

To understand how to read between the lines, we ought to consider:

2. Nuestra visión flexible del tiempo (Our flexible view of time)

Mexicans see and treat time as something flexible. Arriving between 10 and 30 minutes is considered normal. Mañana (tomorrow) is not always tomorrow. Even in a business setting, if you are promised a follow-up meeting that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to actually happen.

Actor 1
Muchas gracias por todo, estaremos en contacto.
(Thank you very much for everything, we will stay in touch.)

Actor 2
¿Te parecería bien que hiciéramos una reunión de seguimiento?
(Would it be okay with you if we had a follow-up meeting?)

Actor 1
Sí, sí, como no. Yo te aviso.
(Yes, yes, of course. I’ll let you know.)

Read between the lines: That meeting probably won’t happen. That “yo te aviso” (I’ll let you know) is the give away.

This flexible view of time is reflected in our way of speaking. We have one of the most commonly used words in Mexico: AHORITA.

In this other video I tell you everything about that word, but for now just remember that it has multiple meanings. From “right now” up to “probably never”.

Actor 1
Ya vente a comer Peque, ya está la comida.
(Come eat Peque, food is ready.)

Actor 2
Ahorita.
(Right now.)

Actor 1
Pero ahorita.
(But right now.)

Actor 2
Sí, ma, ya voy. Ahorita.
(Yes, ma, I’m coming. Now.)

15 min later

Actor 1
¡Peque!
(Peque!)

Actor 2
Ya voy, ¡ya le dije que ahorita!
(I’m coming, I said “ahorita!”)

3. Nuestra realidad tratándose del crimen (Our reality when it comes to crime)

A common unspoken agreement among Mexicans is the fact that we are very aware of the dangers of crime. In Mexico when you’re saying goodbye to a friend or acquaintance, you’ll always ask them to:

Me avisas cuando llegues a tu casa. (Let me know when you make it home.)

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A lot of foreigners tell me that they find this very endearing. An English friend was so moved because his date asked him that when they parted ways.

Actor 1
Me la pasé muy bien.
(I had a great time.)

Actor 2
Yo también. Ya quedamos de ir al cine la próxima semana, ¿ok?
(Me too. We agreed to go to the movies next week, ok?)

Actor 1
¡Sí, sí, Claro! Va a estar genial.
(Yes, yes, of course! It’s going to be great.)

Actor 2
Bueno, ya llegó mi Uber.
(Well, my Uber has arrived.)

Actor 1
Ok, que te vaya muy bien. Me avisas cuando llegues a tu casa, ¿ok?
(Ok, have a safe trip. Let me know when you get home, ok?)

Pensando: ¡Guau! Cómo se preocupa por mi, debe estar enamoradísima.
(Thinking: Wow! She cares about me so much, she must be so in love.)

She would have asked anyone to message her about your safety. Why? Because we actually do worry.

We ask you to let us know that you have arrived because we are well aware of the possibility of something bad happening on the way to your home. Especially if you’re a girl.

4. Sexual Innuendo

Before I continue… Have you subscribed to the channel? This is the right time to do it here!

Now, another thing to consider to read between the lines in Spanish is “albur”.

In Mexico, albur, a play on words with sexual connotations is very common. It’s common that Spanish learners miss the innuendo that is incredibly obvious for native speakers.

Actor 1
¡Cómo se me antoja un pepino en este momento!
(I really feel like having a cucumber right now!)

Actor 2
¿En serio? ¡Qué golosa, Susan!
(Really? You’re such a glutton, Susan!)

Actor 1
¿Golosa? El pepino es muy saludable. Tiene casi cero calorías.
(Glutton? Cucumber is very healthy. It has almost 0 calories.)

Actor 2
¡Ay, cómo defiendes el pepino! Se ve que te encanta.
(Oh, how you defend the cucumber! It shows that you love it.)

Actor 1
Pues, sí, me gusta.
(Well, yes, I do like it.)

Susan pensando: Ay, este loco. ¿Por qué tantas preguntas por un simple comentario sobre un pepino?
(Susan thinking: Oh, this crazy guy. Why so many questions for a simple comment about a cucumber?)

Read between the lines: They are throwing an albur at you, Susan!

Learn everything about albur, in this video. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if your Spanish-speaking friends chuckle when, for example, a phallic noun is named in conversation.

5. Nuestro rechazo a decir no (Our reluctance to say no)

We just don’t like saying a clear cut no. It sounds too fatalistic, too dooming.

In Mexico, we tend to avoid saying no in a clear and direct way. Therefore, if someone tells you something like “I’ll think about it” or “We’ll see”, they probably don’t want to do what you’re asking but at the same time they don’t want to say no in a direct way.

Actor 1
Vamos a ir este fin al bufete de comida china. Ven con nosotros.
(We’re going to the Chinese buffet this weekend. Come with us.)

Actor 2
¿Bufete? Casi no me gusta comer en bufetes.
(Buffet? I don’t really like eating at buffets.)

Actor 1
Ándale, vamos. Este es buenísimo, te va a encantar.
(Come on, let’s go. This one is really good, you’re going to love it.)

Actor 2
Ok, lo voy a pensar. Voy a checar mi agenda. Yo te aviso.
(Ok, I’ll think about it. I’ll check my schedule. I’ll let you know.)

Actor 1
Bueno, checa tu agenda. Te llamo para ponernos de acuerdo.
(Alright, check your schedule. I’ll call you to coordinate. )

Actor 2
Sí, sí, lo checo.
(Yes, yes, I’ll check it.)

Has this happened to you? We Mexicans can be very peculiar, check out this video were I teach you more about the quirkiness of Mexican culture.

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