When learning a language who isn’t eager and excited to learn what will make you sound cool, fun, and friendly, so that you can make new friends & enjoy communicating with others in your new language? Well, nothing makes a person cooler than great manners, & so today that’s what we will be learning about. Today’s lesson specifically talks about one little word: “Qué.” While it might be common knowledge that “what” in Spanish = “Qué”(pronounced Keh). The meaning & usage of this word as it pertains to Spanish is sometimes ,not entirely understood. In Spanish missuse of the word can mean sounding very rude. Many times I’ve seen on TV the depiction of various characters who speak Spanish(Mexican more often than not), upon listening to another language, umm…say English he/she will automatically respond in a stereotypical voice “Qué??!”
It truly is a most disturbing sound to hear. It’s a method used for the purpose of augmenting inanity, boorishness when it comes to the portrayal of that character. The reality of it is that, ““Qué” would not really the first thing someone would say in Spanish. Why? Well, because manners are held in very high regard & are treated with utmost importance in Hispanic culture, regardless of social position or the amount of education received. When you are told something & did not hear or understand, the polite way to respond is by using the phrase “Mande usted” (mah-deh-oo-steh-ehd) the formal version or “Mande”(shortened version). The word “mande” literally means= “You may request/ instruct.” In essence it means excuse me. Only it has more of a : beg your pardon, excuse me what was that, say that again please, I’m sorry I couldn’t hear, but if you’d be so kinds a to repeat you have my attention”…etc kind of connotation to it.
Another time when “Mande” is used is, when being addressed or called over. Say your boss has decided to give you an assignment & so he addresses you “Mrs. X come over for a minute” You would respond by saying “Mande usted Señor/Señora” = Yes boss(sir/ mam). At a store if a shopper would adress a clerk , the shopper would also receive a “mande usted.” Another example, Say your mom calls you into the kitchen . You go to the kitchen and say “What?”, because you’re used to the “what” in the English expressions: “what is it/what’s the matter?” It’s quite likely that you’ll receive the following scolding : “What do you mean Qué? Don’t be so rude/disrespectful, you don’t say “Qué, you say Mande usted”. “Mande” in This sense= yes mom, you called, Yes ma’m. “Qué?” does have it’s place in Spanish however, “Qué?” alone is used as more of an interjection than a question, and it’s used to express: surprise/shock /or confusion in a direct, and explicit manner, thus using it alone sounds rude at times. The moral of the story? One little word can mean the difference between sounding abrasive & disrespectful, or friendly, and well mannered.