Etiquette 101: Being bilingual, when and where to speak slang.

Etiquette: is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

You are bilingual and you don’t even know it. I’m not saying you’re good at it yet, but you are bilingual.  When adults correct you telling you to say, “Yes” instead of “yea” when speaking, they are teaching you how to be bilingual. When someone answers the phone in that formal tone, much different from how they were just talking to you, that’s bilingual.

My mother use to yell at us from downstairs, the phone would ring, she would clear her voice, pick up the phone, then pleasantly say, “Hello”. For a while we didn’t understand what she was doing, but later in life I figured out why.

Tell you how I learned the hard way…I received a phone call one day, long time ago, when the Budweiser commercial was really popular. The commercial where the guys would pick up the phone and say, “Waaass  Uuuuaaaap” with their mouths wide open. Well, I received a phone call on Saturday about 1pm, I remember because the swing shift started at 2pm. It was a Saturday so I felt comfortable and assumed that it was a friend. Well, I answered the phone…just like the commercial, forgetting that I told my boss to call me if he wanted me to come in on Saturday.

ME:   “Waaasss  Uuuuuaaaaaap”

Mr. Geiger(MY BOSS):   “Robert?! Is Robert there?”

In a split second I went bilingual…”Good afternoon Mr. Geiger, you need me to come in?”

He paused, and said, “Oh, uuh yeah, can you come in?”

I said, “Yes, I can be there in an hour.”  

I had a good relationship with my boss, he was cool but not that cool. You must understand where to draw the line. He never mentioned it and neither did I. It was slightly embarrassing and I never did it again.

Anyway, when your friends accuse you of “sounding white” it’s evidence that you are speaking correctly.  Now, I really detest when people say you’re “sounding white” because that’s just dumb. It’s not “sounding white” it’s speaking correctly. As if people of color don’t know how to speak proper english or only white people are allowed to speak intelligently. To assume that white people or any skin color is smarter than any other skin color is just asinine.

You need to be comfortable speaking properly.

When you’re at the drive thru what kind of greeting do you usually hear?

Do you hear, “What’s up, what you want to eat?” or do you hear “Good morning, can I take your order?”

My point is, there’s a time and place to use your slang or street language and there’s a time to speak professionally. The trick at being bilingual is understanding when to adjust to your environment and act and speak appropriately. There’s artistic navigation between speaking in slang or speaking correctly, you can do both but you must know the time and place. I’m not saying “dumb down” your words to fit in but know it takes courage to be different. The quicker you face this small challenge, the more prepared you’ll be for the bigger challenges.

Consider your words.

What’s up                              vs           Good morning or Hello

Na, Mm mmph                    vs             No Thank you

Yea                                           vs             Yes, Please

Holla atcha boy                  vs             I’ll talk to you later

Shorty                                    vs             Excuse me, you have a minute or Please let me introduce myself

Another true story from another point of view. Me and my friends were going to a meeting when we arrived, it was crowded. I said something like, man it’s packed in here. Another friend said, they got us in here like runaway slaves…my bestfriend Dell said, “It’s congested in here.” (record scratch) All of us looked at him like, “What?!…you couldn’t just say crowded or packed or tight, you had to go all encyclopedia brown on us with “congested”. It was funny but we knew how he was, he’s a physician now so it makes sense. I think you get my point and that point is there’s a time and place because you never know who’s listening to you speak.

I began with, “You are bilingual and you don’t even know it. I’m not saying you’re good at it yet, but you are bilingual.” I want you to feel comfortable and get better at speaking properly.


To have another language is to possess a second soul.


Filed under Etiquette, Life Skills

2 responses to “Etiquette 101: Being bilingual, when and where to speak slang.

  1. Hey there, You have done an excellent job.
    I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this web site.


  2. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing on your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.