Let’s talk about the correct way to say I am American in Spanish. Well, I know we were all taught to say “Soy americano/a” in order to say “I am American.” But let me tell you about an incident that took place recently.
(By the way, the words used for nationalities aren’t capitalized in Spanish.)
Yesterday, I visited a Colombian friend’s house here in Medellin. While I was there, his “bisabuela” (great grandmother) was there visiting. She is not from Medellin. She is from a “pueblito” (little town) very far from Medellin. She doesn’t get to travel much and she has lived in the same “pueblito” all of her life. Many people in Medellin would probably refer to her as a “campesina” (a country person or even a farmer).
After my friend introduced me to his “bisabuela” (great grandmother) she asked me “¿de dónde es?” (where are you from?) And I responded, “soy americano.”
And when I said “soy americano,” she asked me “¿cómo?” (what?) And again, I responded “soy americano.” And again she asked, “¿cómo?” (what?)
Proudly, I asked myself “how is it possible that someone in this country, even a “campesina” (farmer), has never heard of the greatest country in the world?”
How To Say I am American In Spanish
That’s when my friend told me that I have to say “soy estadounidense.” Then he explained to me that for them the Americas consist of both South America and North America (which also consists of Central America).
As he explained to me, Spanish speakers who live in major cities all their life are accustomed to hearing Americans arrogantly say “Yo soy americano/a.” But for someone who has lived in a small town all their life it is rather confusing when someone says “soy americano/a.”
He even said that for some people in Latin America it is not only incorrect but also arrogant for an American to say “soy americano,” and to imply that South America is not part of the Americas.
My initial reaction was to argue with him that “todo el mundo” (everyone) knows that America is the United States and that South America is NOT America. But then I thought about something that happened to me 6 years ago when I first arrived to Medellin . . . .
I had volunteered at a local university to tutor Colombian students with their English.
Via email, I made an appointment to meet with a Colombian student in order to help her with her English. We were supposed to meet for the first time in front of the university’s “biblioteca” (library).
I didn’t know what she looked like because it was going to be our first meeting. I waited for her for at least 45 minutes. I was unable to call her to ask where was she or what was the cause for the delay. Her cell phone number was still in my email box in an email message that she had sent. After waiting for at least 45 minutes, I finally left – furious!
When I got home, I retrieved her number from my email box and called her up immediately to ask her why did she waste my time. But she insisted that she was there in front of the library. And I insisted that she was not there because I was there waiting for her for 45 minutes and I didn’t see her.
And she continued to insist that she was there. Finally, she told me that it was impossible that I was there waiting for her because she did not see any Americans in front of the library. She said that the only person she saw was a “negrito” (black guy) sitting on a bench in front of the library.
I remember thinking how could someone be so “bobo” (dumb) to think that American is a race and not know that there are Americans who are White, Black, Asian, Native American, Latino, Arab, Indian, etc. But I guess, my friend’s “bisabuelita” (great grandmother) looked at me and thought how could someone be so “bobo” (dumb) and not know that the Americas consist of both North America and South America.
By the way, if you think the word “estadounidense” is a hard word to remember, besides saying “soy estadounidense” you can also tell someone “soy de Los Estados Unidos” or “soy de Estados Unidos” in order to tell someone that you are an American or that you are from the United States.