The Democrats' Terrible Spanish, Ranked

[Judging in Spanish]

Millions of Americans watched as Beto O’Rourke lived out his fever dream in the first round of the Democratic debate Wednesday night. You know, the one where almost everyone shows up wearing navy, none of the moderators ask about skateboarding or punk bands, and the former Texas congressman can’t stop nervously speaking Spanish.

At first, Sen. Cory Booker, who also speaks Spanish, threw Beto some shade. But then, the New Jersey senator joined in. And Julián Castro upstaged them both, despite not being the best at Spanish (as he’s admitted). He signed off with an “adiós” to Trump.


Despite their best efforts, some of the candidates pulled off their attempts at Spanish better than others — and some didn’t pull them off at all. We ranked them below. [Judging in Spanish]

Castro: Best Accent

But the Spanish we’re judging him on is very basic. He introduced himself properly, but the second part of that same sentence “postulando por presidente” should have been “postulándome para presidente.”

O’Rourke: Best Gringo Accent

O’Rourke took first place, for a non-Latino, although he dodged some questions. We also took off some points for poor conjugation. At the beginning of the debate, he used the Spanish verb for “to vote” before correcting himself and using the Spanish word for voter: “votante.”

Booker: Honorable Mention

Booker put in the effort, but he said some words in Español that aren’t actually words, like when he translated demonized into “dimonazado” as opposed to “demonizado.” He also has the worst accent.

The youth might call the candidates’ bilingualism cringe, or perhaps a weird flex. But others could consider the pivot a welcome change, considering nearly 40 million Americans speak Spanish and one of the debates’ key issues, immigration, affects many native Spanish speakers.

Plus, the whole night was broadcast on Telemundo, a Spanish-language news network.

Even candidates and politicians who weren’t at last night’s debate couldn’t resist weighing in.

Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks at a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)