Saturday, 18 March 2017

A Second Language

Here in the multicultural town of Mojácar, where half the students in the local school - as today as it was twenty years ago - are both foreign and bilingual, there is practically no one in the Town Hall who can manage a second language. We wonder what happens to them. Even the material from the tourist department, with its photos of our pueblo and the beaches, as often or not has a mistake in the English rendition. They might as well use Google Translate and be done with it.
Outside, in the shops, bars and restaurants, domination of English is, of course, far higher.
Across Spain, around 40% of Spaniards are said to speak a second (foreign) language. Half of these claim to speak English (although only a fifth of these can carry on a 'reasonable' conversation in English says El Mundo in an article from 2014).
Spain doesn't use subtitles much in Hollywood films or TV thrillers, preferring to use dubbing instead (the joys of hearing Humphrey Bogart in his original voice, or Homer Simpson for that matter, are lost to Spanish viewers). Franco didn't like people speaking in foreign, since they might be saying something he wouldn't have liked. So he insisted on dubbing instead of using subtitles (he banned the sign-language of the deaf for the same reason).
The joke here is that waiters need to speak English, but politicians don't. The reality is that many party leaders do - Pablo Iglesias from Podemos, Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos and Pedro Sánchez who was (and may return to be) the leader of the PSOE, are all fluent in English, although Mariano Rajoy famously doesn't speak a word of this or any other language beside his own. Over at El Confidencial, an article this week says that Rajoy is not alone - a massive 81% of Spanish deputies (parliamentarians) don't speak a second language.

From a Reader: About politicians speaking a second language:
First of all, I think any foreigner who wants to take part in a local election should understand enough Spanish to know what is being discussed.  Secondly, I don't think that Spanish politicians (and English ones, for that matter) really need to speak a second language, but I do think that they should learn to use their ears -  none so deaf as will not hear.   Spanish politicians by and large develop "wilful deafness" when talking to their Spanish voters, and by not understanding any foreign language they don't even have to make an effort not to hear what foreigners say.

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