Speaking “Cash English”

March 24th, 2010

Come Ski With Me

Come Ski With Me


My children are all adventurers, who love to travel.  It seems like one or more of them is always off traveling, or even living somewhere besides near me.  I don’t think they’re trying to escape from me.  I think they’re just full of wanderlust, and want to see and experience everything there is to see in the world.

Sometimes this bothers me.  Like right now.  I have no children living within shouting range, or even driving range.  After having 4 children at home for so many years, it is often very strange to not have even a single one of them around.

Yet, I know this is pretty much all my fault (well, my husband’s fault as well).  When they were young we made every effort to take them to new places, new countries, to experience new and interesting things.  So, it’s no wonder now that they love to go, and have left me behind.

In fact, right now my oldest daughter is on vacation in Mexico, and my oldest son seems to have moved to Medellin, Colombia, at least for the time being.  Something my son said to me the other day (via SKYPE, a wonderful, wonderful invention), is actually the subject of this post.

“Street English”

My son, Cole, speaks quite a bit of Spanish.  We lived in Puerto Rico when he was 13, then he was an exchange student in Paraguay when he was 18, and then spent another year in Costa Rica when he was at the university.  He also has a degree in Spanish from the University of Nevada.  He’s always felt very confident in his ability to speak Spanish to anyone, anywhere.  He’s a very casual guy, though, and his Spanish is that of a young person, and is full of slang and street expressions.  He speaks in Spanish the same way he would speak to his friends in English.

Years ago, when I taught English to teenagers, I used to explain the difference between “street English“, or the English they would use with their friends, and what I call “cash English“, or the English they need to learn and speak to be successful in the world of work.  This is, of course, a more formal language, with a different vocabulary, and a different set of social rules for usage.

At the time, I recall that the students didn’t have any great understanding of why they had to use different types of English for different situations.  I hope that over the years they have remembered the lessons, and now know when to use which English.

“Cash English”

The point of this is that my son is now living in Medellin, Colombia.  He just purchased a house, and is looking for a job there.  He just told me that he didn’t realize how little Spanish he knows.

Trying to buy a house or actually doing work in another language requires a whole different kind of vocabulary than he has ever learned.  Remember, he has a university degree in Spanish, but he still doesn’t have the proper vocabulary for what he is doing now.

Cole didn’t learn the language he now needs in years of school, or even years of living in Spanish speaking countries, because what he was learning and using all that time was “street Spanish”.  Now he needs a crash course in “cash Spanish”.  Fortunately, he is mature enough to realize what he needs, and he is intent on learning it.

When Kim and I first started the Lake Tahoe Institute of English we were very surprised by the seemingly high level of English our clients already had when they came to study with us.  What we have found, though, is that we spend a great deal of our time working on “cash English” with our clients.

We have had clients from all over the world, and in all different businesses, but nearly all come to us to learn for a very specific purpose.  They can easily carry on a very general conversation with us from the very beginning, but most need help to learn the language of their particular business, or they need to know how to formulate questions, and how to answer specific questions related to their disciplines.  They need help learning the language of negotiation, of problem solving, of team building, of management.

Here at the Lake Tahoe Institute of English, we focus on “cash English“, the language professionals need to learn.  In order to earn the respect and cooperation of other professionals around the world, there needs to be not only a common language, but a common vocabulary and a common usage of the language. Wish our son luck in learning the nuances of “cash Spanish” really quickly.  He needs a program like ours!

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