Habla Carla, or why learning to roll your rs is important

Warning: some NSFW language below!

I was walking down the street today, thinking to myself that I am very lucky to live near the beach. Here, it can be a good 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than where my parents live in the San Gabriel Valley. Jorge Rivas tweeted a picture of a car thermometer showing a temperature of 102°F (39°C) in Monterey Park. I should be grateful for 85°F (30°C) and breezy.

The thought of the beach reminded me of one of my favorite funny Asian Latin American videos on YouTube, a trailer for HBO Latino’s HBO Habla series. Carla, a self-described “china por fuera, brasileña por dentro” (“Chinese* on the outside, Brazilian on the inside”) talks in a mix of Spanish and Portuguese about her time working in Mexico and the difficulties she had with the Spanish language, particularly rolling her rs.

To understand what’s going on in this video, you have to know that rr is a trilled or rolled r in Spanish, but in Portuguese sounds like the ch in loch or Bach. In Spanish, that sound is sometimes written with a g. Thus, Portuguese correr (to run) sounds like coger, which means “to fuck” in many Latin American Spanish dialects.

Here’s a translated transcript of the video:

I’m Chinese* on the outside, and Brazilian on the inside, but I can drink tequila like the Mexicans.

I was working in Mexico, where I learned to rrrroll the rrrrs. You see, in Portuguese, we have cachorro, not cachorro; carro, not carro. But I had to learn to roll my rs because when I went to work in Mexico, my coworker asked me, “So, what do you do after work?”

I said, “after work, vou correr.” (“I go running” in Portuguese, but sounds like “I go fucking” in Mexican Spanish.)

“What? You go fucking?”

“Yeah, I go running. I run every day.”

“You go fucking every day?!”

“Yes, every day.”

“Where?”

“On the beach. I go running every day on the beach.”

“You go fucking every day on the beach?”

“Yes, every day.”

“Ah, can I go with you tomorrow?”

“Of course!”

And the next day came, and he had his hair all back, and he looked very handsome, with cologne, and a tie. After work, he came up close to me and said, “So, let’s go.”

“Where?”

“To fuck.”

“To run? Did you bring your tennis shoes and shorts and everything?”

“My love, I can fuck with my shoes on, however you want me.”

[Something in Portuguese--can someone help?]

“I go RUNNING. Understood? Run-ning. Like this.” [She demonstrates running.]

“Ah! RUNNING! This is a very big error! You have to learn! Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rápido corren los carros del ferrocarril. Right? I learned!”

* Chino is often used to refer to all Asians, regardless of country of origin. Statistically, she is more likely to be a Brazilian of Japanese descent.



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