Bad Spanish: American tragedy edition

If you’ve been following the news, you know that the Trump administration has adopted a callous policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border, in an attempt to deter immigration. Nearly two thousand children have been separated from their parents over the last six weeks. The children are being held in detention centers or sent to foster homes. This raises the question of how parents can locate their missing children.

Yesterday I had a look at the bilingual flyer “Next Step for Families”, which the Department of Homeland Security is handing out to guide families through this process. To my horror, the Spanish portion of the flyer is full of mistakes such as:

  • not using the correct de possessive (“Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de los Estados Unidos (DHS) Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza (CBP)” instead of “la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de los Estados Unidos (DHS)”
  • entrar a instead of entrar en
  • missing de and plural s in Dentro las próxima 48 horas
  • admixture of informal  forms within this formal document that otherwise uses ustedvasinfórmaletienes
  • atreves de mandando u email should be a través de mandar un email
  • failure to use military time: 8am a 8pm should be de las 8:00 a las 20:00.

These errors add insult to injury to Spanish-speaking parents. They speak to the carelessness and thoughtlessness with which this policy has been conceived and implemented.

I apologize for bringing politics into my blog, but I care about Spanish-speaking people, not just their language, and also about my own country’s soul.

14 thoughts on “Bad Spanish: American tragedy edition

  1. Alice Beshoner

    Do not apologize. It’s far more than “politics “. It is one thread in this cloth of inhumanity covering our country.

  2. Ed Burke

    Very easy for you to critique in a simplistic way a complicated issue. Countries need borders, and countries need to follow laws. For years, under both Republicans and Democrats, our borders and immigration laws have been ignored. Obama’s DACA policy was not a good solution. Trump is at least trying to fix this, but the Democrats do not want to fix the immigration laws while Trump in office. They want the open borders immigration farce to continue. They can end the so-called “inhumanity” by agreeing to a reasonable fix, but they won’t do anything.

    I think iit is better to not bring complicated political issues into this blog.

    1. jhochberg Post author

      Hi Ed, thank you so much for writing and expressing your opinion. We live in a wonderful country where free speech rules. I’ll continue to express my ideas, and you likewise have the right to express yours.

      If you check my past blog posts you will see that politics is totally peripheral to what I talk about here, but in this case I felt obliged to speak up.

      Be well,


  3. Alice Gomez

    Perhaps your post about “el burlador de Sevilla” should have been about “el burlador de la casa blanca”.

    In a few days I leave for Spain for a month. This is an annual research trip, and never before have I been so embarrassed and “avergonzada” to be from the US.

    1. jhochberg Post author

      I was actually surprised that no Spaniards I spoke with brought up Trump. I remember that when I was studying in Barcelona during Bush II’s second term, one of the teachers asked me how he had possibly won re-election when not a single one of her American students shehad voted for him. Pretty funny.

  4. Franciscus

    I just returned from Madrid, and I can assure you that the Spanish media is not covering this issue. They have their own illegal immigration problems.

    1. Fred

      Yes. And when I was in Madrid last October there was a big sign on the Ayuntamiento that read ‘Refugees Welcome’.

    1. jhochberg Post author

      Sure, you could put a link to either the blog post or the flyer itself on your own Facebook page. Fine by me.

  5. Susan R

    Thank you Judy, for this post! I couldn’t agree with you more. Your blog is an amazing resource, I’ve been reading it for a couple of years, and I know you don’t typically venture into politics in the blog. This, however, is much more than just a political issue. This is an issue of human rights and basic decency, and to remain silent is inexcusable. As a Spanish teacher, I care not just about the linguistic aspects of the language, but also I am passionate about the people and cultures of the countries where Spanish is spoken. As a person who cares deeply about helping to make the world a better place, I will continue to speak out and to help in whatever way I can to reunite children with their families.

  6. Xiomarys Robles

    I definitely agree with your write-up; the errors are pretty bad. However, “entrar a” is the preferred way of writing “to enter (into)” in Latin America, and I don’t think this is directed at Spanish readers.

    (apologies if my English is bad, not my first language)


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