@ElBloombito: B is for Bad Language Learner – A Response to Linguistic Bullying


B is for Bad language learner
Scott Thornbury | September 25, 2011 at 6:50 am | Tags: bad language URL: http://wp.me/pJw7u-Gp

Scott Thornbury gives us background info on the story:

As a precaution against the recent hurricane that threatened his city, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, “issued warnings and press statements, often in basic, un-accented [sic] Spanish”. This prompted a Spanish-speaking New York resident to launch a Twitter feed that caricatured the Mayor’s “broken Spanish”. “The feed soon went viral and has attracted a large online following” (according to the BBC’s website). The BBC article was titled, “Irene: @ElBloombito mimics Michael Bloomberg Spanish http://bbc.in/nus99P

Below are some examples of @ElBloombito humor:

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Cuidado! El watcho del tornado! #NYC #Irene

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Fill los bathtub con agua por preparando el no agua. Ahora! #NYC #Irene

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
No light los candels por que el starto el flamo! El flamo hazardo! Use una flashlighto! #NYC #Irene

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Mucho agua flood warning ahora until el tomorrow. Cuidado! Neccesita los water wings! #NYC #Irene

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
El hurricano is Categoryo 1 y still vamosing towards Nuevo Yorko. Cuidado!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Los windy estan mucho rapido. El tropical force. No standing el proxmio las windowos! Los branchos del tree!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Cuidado! Los harsh wind es still blowing rapido para Irene finito passing over nuevo yorko citydad.

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Cuidado! Stayo away para los downed linos de power. Que Electrocuto! El BUZZZ!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Buenos Sundaymingo Nuevo Yorkodors!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Todos los everybody loveador Nuevo Yorko! Even los gatos!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Gracias mis followadoros para todos los follow fridias! Eres los bestos persoños que ever!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Bonus Dias Nuevo Yorkitos! Enjoyamente el dia bonito! Ride un bikeador…en el lane de bikeador. No ride en el side de walk!

@ElBloombito Miguel Bloombito
Por favor no ride tu bicycleto en el sidewalk. Use los lanadoros de bike! Que almost ran me over!


Scott continues with a call to action – appealing to the reason, intellect and logic of decent people everywhere on the planet – (quote)

“As a second language user myself, and as a language teacher, teacher trainer and methodology writer, it offends me when anyone who attempts to communicate in a language that is not their own (whether they be mayor, football coach, actor, ex-pat, or student) is mocked in this way. However ‘bad’ his Spanish is, surely the mayor should be congratulated, not caricatured?” (End of quote)


I too, am offended when a second language speaker is mocked. Like Scott, I am a teacher who knows the debilitating effects it has on an individuals confidence, and willingness, to try to speak in a foreign language. It’s a painful experience.

I should know. Not only have I observed this in Chile, but elsewhere. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve also been the victim, on the receiving end of the mockery.

Trust me, it hurts, it’s psychologically and emotionally damaging, and it should rightfully be condemned, as Scott has done, and as I do also.

However, is being indignant enough? Is denouncing it enough? Is condemning it enough?

Maybe. Yes, I say, “maybe”.

You see, Michael Bloomberg is a politician. Michael Bloomberg is a very rich man, a millionaire who is also a mayor of a city with a wide diversity represented. He expects to be criticised and ridiculed, often, bu those who are critical of him. He’s a public figure, and that goes along with the territory.

Mayor Bloomberg (Reuters)

Michael is a big boy, and he can take it. As a politician, he routinely has to deal with a lot worse from his critics than simply having his Spanish mocked.

So, I won’t say, in Bloomberg’s case, that the mockery is out of place. I would suspect that by now, Mayor Bloomberg has found a way to turn the tables, and get some political advantage out of being mercilessly caricatured by @ElBloombito.

Think of it as political capital, that makes him more sympathetic to the Latino population of New York City. However right or wrong my speculation may be, as a minimum, @ElBloombito served Mayor Bloomberg well during Hurricane Irene. @ElBloombito’s messages were full of helpful tips on what to do, or not do, during the hurricane, where to go, or not to go, who to contact, or not to.

What offends me then?

I am offended when mockery is perpetrated on the innocent, the defenseless, the person who is trying to learn a foreign language. Bravely they open their mouths to speak, and then comes mockery.

Many a bad language learner shuts up for good under such circumstances. With little practice, their speaking ability can only get worse, making it even more noticeable when they do speak. Let’s give this a scientific name, the @ElBloombito Effect.

So, where are we at the end of the day?

Mockery of a language learner is bad, let there be no doubt about that. Let’s not tolerate it, and let’s condemn it. It’s wrong, it’s a form of linguistic bullying that should be eradicated.

Let’s follow Scott’s example.

Let’s speak out and speak up loudly when linguistic bullying happens in our presence, or when we learn of it. Come to think of it, even in the case of Mayor Bloomberg, let’s speak oput and speak up for him too. He’s just as human as everyone else, and he must be feeling some sense of shame or inadequacy at being unable to master Spanish…

While we’re at it, lets “todos everybody keep prayando para que @ElBloombito continuando Twitterando good information when there is a big windo blowando como #Irene in New York City!

What do you think?

Is mockery of a language learner, good or bad, is mockery acceptable to you?

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, EFL, Politics, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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