What Should They Know of England…

…Who Only England Know (my first post in Spanish!)

El tema del monolingüalismo en los paises anglosajones está ya muy trillado. Los números son escalofriantes y se matizan con el argumento que el inglés es lengua mundial, que todo el mundo lo habla y entonces ¿Por qué complicarse la vida? Una posición logica pero un pelín arriesgada, no hay niguna garantía que la situación siga igual. Pero estos cambios ocurren poco a poco. Qué aprendan las generaciones que sigan, si es que les haga falta.

Y en la bloguería mundial (que consume, sueña, piensa en inglés) la cruenta realidad: que las lenguas ya no se aprenden o enseñan de forma generalizada, que el aprendizaje es ya un proceso tan etéreo que nadie tiene idea de la dificultad o el trabajo necesario que se necesita para aprenderlas, que se toma anuncios como “learn Spanish in six days” en serio. Y lo cierto es que con tal ignorancia, es difícil construir un debate racional.

 

Primer punto en ése debate: No todo el mundo habla inglés. Y hace falta decirlo. Hay billones que no lo hablan, o lo han aprendido a medias, o les vá fatal, o lo hablan de forma pésima (el caso de muchos españoles). Sin un lenguaje en común, la comunicación se cierra. Y sin esa comunicacion, el 90% de lo que ocurre a tu alrededor te pasa de largo.

En las numerosos casos en que he tenido el deber de hacer de guía para parientes monolingües, donde he tenido que ayudarles a comprar cerveza en un pub o boletos de tren o muchas otras cosas, se han perdido casi todo; la charla con el camarero o la senora de la ventanilla. Cuando vemos la tele les tengo que explicar los chistes (y además me pierdo los que siguen). Puede que no sea el mejor guia del año, pero sin mi intervención no se hubieran enterado de nada.

 

Segundo punto: Acceso a la cultura. La mitad de mis libros, discos, películas, cederones, revistas, tebeos y sitios de la web usan el inglés. El resto se divide entre el castellano (la mayoría), el catalán y otras lenguas, como el francés, que puedo interpretar (a duras penas). Muchos de estos productos culturales se pueden traducir, subtitular o doblar. Pero en esos procesos se pierde algo. Ademas el bilingualismo te lleva a lugares donde puedes apreciar y degustar nuevos placeres; las traducciones de Gabriel García Marquéz por Gregory Rabassa por ejemplo. Con el español puedes apreciar poesía que pide ser declamada, con el francés la bande dessinee, el inglés a la mejor musica pop, yé-yé y de rock del planeta. De veras quieres perderte cualquiera de esas experiencias? Si se me permite la indulgencia, diría que el bilingualismo (un estado que la mayoría de la población humana disfruta) es como la vista en colores. El monolingüalismo es oir el mundo en blanco y negro.

Tercer punto: Tu lengua materna mejora con el contacto de otras. Aprendiendo otro idioma tambien aprendes sobre la tuya: como funcionan los principios de la gramatica, la filologia, la derivacion de frases, dichos, palabras, refranes y costumbres habladas. Entraras en el mundo de la metafora y la alegoria internacional. Tu vocabulario y tu modo de expresion se enriquecen con ese contacto. Don’t leave home without it – como aconsejaba Severiano Ballesteros.

Open your mouth and let the culture out

Cuarto punto: Es casi imposible tachar de ignorante a un individuo que sepa varios idiomas. Además son conocimientos que abren puertas. Al estudiante británico con dos ó tres lenguas extranjeras, la vida resultará mucho mas fácil de ahora en adelante. ¿Quieres ir a la universidad? Por una fracción del coste en Inglaterra, puedes inscribirte en una universidad en Francia, Alemania, España u Holanda. Encontrarás que los cursos son mejores (mas intensivos) y podrás volver con un curriculum mucho más interesante (conocimiento de lenguas extranjeras, una licenciatura superior a las inglesas y claro, prueba de que tienes la calidad como persona para triunfar en el extranjero). También se te abre el mundo. Si no quieres volver, puedes trabajar en el extranjero con facilidad ¿no?

Saludos.

Daniel

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About floppybootstomp

Lecturer, teacher, writer and traveller all perfectly good nouns aren't they? Do they have anything to do with me? Ask the taxman.

Posted on August 3, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Did a babel fish translation of this…

    … Who Only England Know (my first post in Spanish) The subject of the monolingüalismo in the Anglo-Saxon countries is already very well-worn. The numbers are chilling and they are clarified with the argument that the English is world-wide language, that speaks everybody it and then Why to be complicated the life? A logical position but pelín dangerous, guarantee is no niguna that the situation follows equal. But these changes happen little by little. What learn the generations that follow, if it needs to them. And in bloguería world-wide (that consumes, it dreams, thinks about English) the bloody reality: that the languages no longer are learned or taught in a generalized manner, that the learning is or a so etéreo process that nobody has idea of the difficulty or the necessary work that is needed to learn them, that takes announcements like “ learn Spanish in six days ” in serious. And the certain thing is that with such ignorance, it is difficult to construct a rational debate.   First point in that one debate: Not everybody English speech. And it is necessary to say it. There are trillions that do not speak it, or they have learned it, or them vá by halves fatal, they speak or it of terrible form (the case of many Spaniards). Without a language common, the communication is closed. And without that communication, 90% than happen to your around happens to you of length. In the numerous cases in that I have had to have to make of guide for monolingual relatives, where everything has had to help them to buy beer in a pub or tickets of train or many other things, are had almost lost; char it with the waiter or the lady of the window. When we see tele I must to them explain the jokes (and in addition I lose those that follow). Perhaps she is not the best guide of the year, but without my intervention they would not have found out don’t mention it.   Secondly point: Access to the culture. Half of my books, discs, films, cederones, magazines, tebeos and sites of the Web uses the English. The rest is divided between the Castilian (the majority), Catalan and the other languages, like the French, that I can interpret (with great difficulty). Many of these cultural products can be translated, be calld or be doubled. But in those processes something is lost. Furthermore the bilingualismo takes to places where you can appreciate and taste new pleasures; the translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gregory Rabassa for example. With the Spanish you can appreciate poetry that asks to be declaimed, with the French bande dessinee, the English to best music MGP, yé-yé and of rock of the planet. Truely you want perderte anyone of those experiences? If the indulgence is allowed me, it would say that the bilingualismo (a state that the majority of the human population enjoys) is like the view in colors. The monolingüalismo is to hear the world in black and white. Third point: Your maternal language improvement with the contact of others. Learning another language also you learn on yours: as the principles of the grammar, philology, the derivation of phrases work, sayings, words, proverbs and spoken customs. You would enter the world of the metaphor and the international allegory. Your vocabulary and your way of expression become rich with that contact. Don ’ t leave home without it – as it advised to Severiano Crossbowmen. Open your mouth and let the culture out Fourth point: It is almost impossible to erase of ignorant an individual that knows several languages. In addition they are knowledge that abren doors. To the British student with two or three foreign languages, the life will be much more easy from now on. You want to go to the university? By a fraction of the cost in England, you can inscribirte in a university in France, Germany, Spain or Holland. You will find that the courses are better (but intensive) and will be able to return with a much more interesting curriculum (knowledge of foreign languages, an English degree superior to and the clear one, test that you have the quality like person to prevail abroad). Also the world is abre to you. If you do not want to return, you can work abroad with facility no? Greetings. Daniel

    • The problem with translation programmes is amply demonstrated here: Severiano Ballesteros does NOT translate as Severiano Crossbowmen! Its a proprer name ffs. Only the human brain can translate language adecuately (and even then it’s tricky).

  2. Yes i agree with you on the culture thing, i have noticed that with french films it’s not just about translating them into English, you have to understand the culture too. French films are ‘about’ different things that we don’t have, you have to understand the whole culture not just “what the words mean”, leaving aside the fact that they are almost always incorrectly translated.

    Language is just one way a culture expresses it’s ideas, but its not the only way. Perhaps if you aren’t from that culture you can never understand totally what it means to its native speakers.

  3. Not speaking Spanish, I ran this through Google’s translator. I get the gist and agree with your points, but I did pause at the bit Google claimed said:

    ‘There are billions who do not speak, or have learned to mean, or fatal to them, or speak in a bad’ – I’ve always said meaning can be fatal… written stories about it, even.

    And apparently you buy tickets from the ‘mistress of the window’. Amsterdam eat your heart out…

    So automatic translation evidently has some way to go. But I take the general point. I was very aware, as a masters student, of my linguistic ‘disability’ when the professor who took the seminars could cite works in around nine languages. He was originally Romanian, had learned Latin and Greek, German and Italian at school, Russian when he’d been a member of the Romanian Communist party (he’d been a member of the party secretariat post-1945), French when he managed to defect a few hours ahead of a purge of those not loyal enough to Caucescu, English when he moved to the UK and Portuguese when he started doing some teaching in Brazil.

    Oh, and I was very pissed off when I’d brushed up my French to go to some lectures by Derrida at the Ecole Normale Superiure, only to find he was actually lecturing in German (because, he claimed, key concepts of Heideggerian philosophy, which he was discussing, couldn’t be translated).

    I envy people who have this kind of facility. I do know native English speakers who pick up languages like this, but there aren’t many of them.

    • Machine translators are getting better all the time, but will never reach the point of replacing the human mind. Language has so much to do with context and is much, much more than the rules that guide it. And translation is fun. I also think you improve immensly as a writer if you have the ability to ‘shift realities’ into another linguistic culture.

      I sympathise with you about the Derrida thing. You should have steered the conversation to John Locke or David Hume to carry the conversation on on English!

  4. On the plus side, I also went to Foucault’s lectures at the College de France (at that time he was speaking from his manuscript of the History of Sexuality) and followed what he was on about. I’m not sure I could do that now.

    One thing that does occur to me, though, about English – and I’m sure the same applies in at least some other languages – is that many cultures and subcultures are divided by an allegedly common language. English English vs American English is one obvious example, but Nigerian English has developed a vocabulary and style that fits a social environment quite different to the UK. And I haven’t even mentioned how politicians use their English to obscure what they mean rather than explain it…

    • I think that linguistic differences must be common to all languages that have expanded wildly. Chinese copes with it by having the written mandarin serve as a ‘unifying’ element, German has low and high forms (Swiss German is a widely quoted variant), French and Spanish have Academies that fix the ‘correct’ form even as locally they are very different. Mexican Spanish is influenced by Nahuatl, Mayan, proximity to the US etc. French in Africa, Canada and the Pacific are different subsets. Makes life for translators very interesting!

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