Saturday, January 01, 2005

¡Bienvenidos a La Tertulia!

Bienvenidos a La Tertulia -- welcome to a celebration of Spanish language and culture!

I'm a Spanish teacher, and have been in love with the language and culture of the Spanish-speaking world probably since a past life. I think my love of Spanish has much to do with the person I become when I am speaking Spanish. In Spanish, I have conversations about the soul. I experience life through poetry and music. I am animated, happy and fun. And I am fascinated by every aspect of this amazingly rich language, as well as the many cultures that speak it.

The linguistic and cultural diversity of Spanish and the Spanish-speaking world is incredible and, in my mind, unmatched. Spanish is the official language in 21 countries -- including Equatorial Guinea in Africa -- as well as a major language in the United States. Despite sharing a common language, each country has its own set of accents, its own special vocabulary, and its own cultural traditions reflecting its history and its people. As fascinating and rich a subject as this is, it also happens to be one of the things that makes Spanish so hard to teach, even at the simplest of levels -- in K-5, for example, which of the many words for the color "brown" should we teach? Café? Marrón? Pardo? Carmelita? (The latter is specific to Cuba, I believe, and is supposedly a reflection of the color of habit that the Carmelite nuns used to wear.) Is purple violeta, morado or púrpura? Is a bedroom una alcoba, un dormitorio, un cuarto, una recámara, o una habitación? And forget about how many translations there are for the word "pig."

Spanish-speakers love to discuss these differences, often in heated arguments in which one accent or phrase is challenged as being "incorrect" by a speaker from another country. One of my favorites was a one-hour discussion among a group of native speakers -- all Spanish teachers, by the way -- on whether it was acceptable to use the word "closet" in Spanish; our Salvadoran and Dominican companions routinely used "closet", whereas our Spanish friend insisted that only gente inculta y sin vocabulario could ever utter such a word.

For me, there is no right or wrong in this case. It is all part of the amazingly intricate fabric of Spanish language and culture, which we are celebrating here in La Tertulia.

1 comment:

Nayeli said...

What a great idea! I was going to do a post on Mexican sayings on my blog at some point...I think dedicating a whole blog to the subtleties of the Spanish language is awesome. I have a lot of family in Spain, and am constantly amazed at the differences in the terms and sayings we use. Here's an example that my mother says perfectly expresses the difference in character between Spaniards and Mexicans:
Mexican saying: "El que quiera azul celeste, que le cueste." (If you want royal blue, it's going to cost you.)
Spanish saying: "El que quiera peces, que se moje el culo." (If you want fish, you gotta get your ass wet.)