From El cuaderno de Maya:

Una mujer gruesa, de risa contagiosa, saludó a Manuel Arias con un beso en la mejilla y a mí me observó un poco desconcertada antes de decidirse a besarme también.

¿Americana? -le preguntó a Manuel.

¿No se nota? -dijo él.

¿Y qué le pasó en la cabeza? -agregó ella, señalando mi pelo teñido.

Nací así -le informé, picada.

¡La gringuita habla cristiano! -exclamó ella, encantada.

Every translation in context of the phrase is "speaks plain English." Was the language translated from Spanish to English by someone because even in translating to 3rd languages like French still gives "English"?

The phrase only makes sense as Spanish in the example above as they are in Chile, and Wikipedia's article on names given to the Spanish Language

During the presence of Moors in Hispania, Spanish was sometimes given the name cristiano ("Christian") to distinguish it from the Arabic and Hebrew languages...The expression Hábleme en cristiano "talk to me in Christian", uttered to people not speaking Spanish at the moment, is used in opposition of the other languages of Spain, which is felt as annoying by them[citation needed].

Later wikipedia seems to indicate it may mean whatever language is more clear to the speaker:

"Háblame en cristiano" is also a phrase used to ask for clarification in a conversation, when the topic of the discussion is not clear or is vaguely hinted at by one of the speakers.

  • 1
    I like the "can't you talk United States?" of the in context ones :)
    – Penguin9
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:54
  • 1
    Yes, as noted by in the quote from Wikipedia "háblame en cristiano" was widely used (and sometimes still) to people speaking languages other than Spanish in Spain.
    – fedorqui
    Apr 10, 2017 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


"Háblame en cristiano" simply means "Please use a simple language so I can understand"

When someone is using a very technical language you could say "En cristiano por favor" so the person switches to a simpler language you can understand.

Obviously if you only speak Spanish and someone is using any foreign language it will also apply.

So if you are translating from a text in Spanish that uses that expression you could translate that to "plain English"

Update The equivalent English expression is In layman’s terms, please

  • The answer is good, but touches on something far worse. Simple language rarely makes it easy enough to understand. :(
    – Joshua
    Apr 9, 2017 at 21:49
  • 1
    Given that the characters are in Chile and they are in fact speaking Spanish, in this case I wouldn't translate háblame en cristiano as speak plain English, but as speak my language or something similar. That way the translation does not relay on the other language. I would propose even translating it as speak Spanish (the language the characters are speaking in) if the novel makes it clear somehow that they have been talking in Spanish.
    – Charlie
    Apr 10, 2017 at 6:54
  • @Joshua Are you referring to the irony in not understanding the statement used to mean "say it so we can understand it"? Apr 10, 2017 at 8:47
  • It does not mean "Please use a simple language...". It is an imperative, an order, not a suggestion or a plea. So, unless you are talking with someone you have a lot of trust with, it is an expression to avoid as it can be considered as rude. Doubly so if the issue is that someone is talking to you in another language (the expression implying that their language is not as good as Spanish). To express it in English, someone people will understand "habla en cristiano" as "do not speak a barbaric language".
    – SJuan76
    Apr 10, 2017 at 9:21
  • 2
    My Catalan friends told me that the Guardia Civil often used this phrase during the Franco era if they spoke Catalan in the street. Apr 10, 2017 at 11:22

Many times in translating a phrase one needs to think how it would be expressed in your own language. In this case the original meaning carried very strongly the connotation that 'the christian language' was "our language". I think that is the term that applies here.

Also, the use of the condescending "gringuita" reinforces that interpretation.

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