Spain launches campaign to stop English ‘invasion’

The Royal Spanish Academy is fighting against the anglicization of Spanish with a new campaign.

Spain launches campaign to stop English 'invasion'
The Royal Spanish Academy has launched a campaign against the use of English in advertising. Screen grab: Grey Spain/YouTube

The Spanish language has, over the past few years, been soaking up more and more anglicisms – from slang words to business vocabulary – these days many sentences in Spanish are peppered with a good dose of English… much to the distaste of the academy responsible for overseeing the Spanish language.

READ MORE: Top ten 'English' words adopted and adapted into Spanish

The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) is so disgruntled by the wave of English words being used in Spanish that it has launched a campaign to fight against this so-called “invasion”.

The campaign, called 'There’s only one mother tongue', features two fake adverts, full of anglicisms, which plays on the fact that many Spaniards do not actually understand the real meaning of the English words “invading” the Spanish language.

The video promoting the campaign begins with with the line “English is invading advertising from within” before some common anglicisms flash across the screen, including the words brainstorming, toolkit, anti-age, light, eco-friendly and wireless.

One advert is for the perfume “Swine”; the sultry voiceover calls it “a touch of magic by Rebecca Robinson”. The advert is shown once in its original English and then a second time with the Spanish voiceover revealing that spritzing yourself with swine “means you smell of pig”.

The model in the advert is shown scrunching up her nose at the realization, while the tagline of the perfume is: “It sounds very good but smells very bad”.

The second advert is for a pair of sunglasses “with blind effect”. The advert reveals that the cool-sounding “with blind-effect” actually means the wearer cannot see out of the sunglasses.

The RAE has decided to “fight against anglicisms in an original and cheeky way” the academy writes in the video promoting the campaign.

“Advertising is one of the main sectors affected, and the excessive use of anglicisms in adverts shown in Spain not only affects the brands but also directly affects the public in general and how they perceive commercial messages,” Enric Nel-lo, creative director of Grey Spain, which made the ad, told Spanish daily El País.

It is not the first time the RAE has criticized the invasion of English into everyday Spanish language. It was vehemently against sending a song sung entirely in English as Spain’s entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The director of the RAE classed Spain’s choice of song – Barei’s Say Yay! as “inferior and idiotic”. 

Watch the entire campaign video below:

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Meet the Brit behind the app that is changing the way Spaniards learn English

Madrid-based English teacher Simon Sternberg hit upon a revolutionary idea to improve Spaniards’ grasp of English.

Meet the Brit behind the app that is changing the way Spaniards learn English
Simon Sternberg is the Brit behind Wannalisn. Photo by Zoe Sternberg

After more than a decade teaching English to Spanish students in the capital, Sternberg came up with an idea to help them understand the fast English of native speakers that so often proves to be an obstacle for listening comprehension.

“I realised that there were certain combinations of English words that were just very hard for non-native English people to grasp,” he told The Local.

“I looked at different studies and identified that there are around 50 words that represent about 50 percent of spoken English, and that are very difficult to break down and understand when said quickly”, he explained.

“These so-called clusters represent the difference between the spoken and written forms of the language, and without mastering them it’s very difficult to understand first language English speakers,” he said.

Phrases such as “but it was” and “and I didn’t want to” sound like “badih woz” and “ana din’ wanna” in everyday informal speech.

Sternberg teamed up with entrepreneur Luis Morgado and lead developer Ramiro Blazquez to come up with “Wannalisn”, an app that offers free interactive listening and vocabulary exercises using short clips from movies and television series in a game format they call “edutainment”.


“It’s designed to help you train your ear to understand English as it is spoken in the real world ,” and is proving hugely popular.

“It encourages people to become comfortable and familiar with the fast natural English of native speakers that we hear in movies, TV series, and, of course, in real life.”

The app was launched in May, and is now operational in over 100 countries with 80.000 users worldwide.

And it is already a tool that English teachers in Spain are recommending to their students.

Its popularity comes at a time when Spanish learners of the English language seemingly need all the help that they can get. 

A new ranking places the Spanish as the worst in the EU at speaking English, below even the notoriously bad-at-English French and Italians. 

Unlike their neighbours in Portugal who rank among the best, thanks in part to the custom there of not dubbing over all foreign television and film productions.  

“Watching films and TV can be a very valuable way to learn a language and especially hone listening skills, but watching with subtitles does almost nothing to help that skill,” argues Sternberg. “However, watching the short clips and then engaging with the interactive exercises is hugely helpful and also lots of fun.”

For more about Wannalisn and to try out the app for free CLICK HERE.