Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spanish is utile if you want to speak worse English

The other day at work I was composing an email and could not think of the word synonymous to helpful, advantageous, and serviceable.  The only word that finally came to my head was "utile", which I pronounced (you-tile) in my head.  It felt almost right, but not quite what I was looking for.  And then I thought to myself: This sounds a little strange.  Is it a normal word?  Utile, utile.  Must be.

But I googled the definition of utile just to make sure, and then I saw it: "An obsolete word for useful."


That's the word I'd been wanting from the start, it just didn't come to me.  So why the heck did "utile" pop into my brain first?  After thinking about it, I realized it must have been because "useful" in Spanish is útil (oo-till), so my mind just translated the Spanish útil into "utile" and voila!

Especially when I lived in Spain, things like this would happen more often than not: Speaking and thinking in Spanish all day actually made my English worse.

Like the day Hannah and I were trying to navigate somewhere walking through Madrid, and I asked "for here?" while pointing down a street, rather than asking "through here?" or "this way?".  What left my mouth was a poor, poor Spanish to English translation of "por aquí?"

I'm sure things like this must happen to others who live in a place where they speak a second language on a daily basis.  Feel free to share your own story in the comments!


  1. I just finished a blog post and I wrote "Foto credit...". Foto...instead of Photo...haha I left it as foto :-)

  2. On a somewhat related note, the word "utilize" should be eliminated from our dictionary, since we already have the word "use." It's just a way to sound fancier and add extra syllables to the sentence.