lunes, 10 de agosto de 2020

Teaching the Spanish articles

Barcelona Pass: a cost-effective & easy way to tour the city– Viva ...
Chloe, my eldest granddaughter, is set on improving her Spanish and thinks I can help her. She has a genetic knack for the language and yet la mano, el pie, el dedo, la muñeca, baffle her. And rightly so! I have decided not to mention genders, masculine, femenine or neuter. And certainly I will never tell her that Spanish has "masculino, femenino, neutro, común, epiceno y ambiguo."
I have simplified this business by pointing out that certain words use "el": el alma, el casco, el hampa, and others use "la": la alberca, la desgracia, la taxista. And I add that some other words use "lo": lo bueno, lo cortés, lo rico." And that is the way the cookie crumbles, I may add. 
What we read is "el libro." What we buy with in England is "la libra."
I never explain rules or what-have you. Neither rhyme nor reason governs the idiom of a people, as Pearsall-Smith, the Quaker, put it. What I do with Chloe, at this stage, is correct her and correct her again, and again, and remind her to remember.  
Knowing her, I know that soon she will be bilingual, like many of us in the family. 

miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2020

Refranes y el Butterfly Effect Theory

The Butterfly Effect of Coronavirus
Por clavo se pierde una herradura - For want of a nail the shoe was lost. 
For want of a nail the shoe was lost / Por un clavo se pierde una herradura.
Pero la cosa no acaba así, porque tiene más: 
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
and for want of a horse, the man was lost. 
Por un clavo se pierde una herradura,
por una herradura, un caballo,
por un caballo, un caballero,
por un caballero, un campo,
por un campo, un reino

Benjamin Franklin (el del pararrayos) nos dio esta versión del refrán:
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost
For the want of a horse the rider was lost
For the want of a rider the battle was lost
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horse-shoe nail.

¿Será este refrán el origen del famoso Butterfly Effect Theory? Yo creo que sí.

lunes, 3 de agosto de 2020

Literatura y traducción

Berkana, Librería gay y lesbiana - Libro : La muerte en Venecia ...
Por ignorancia lingüística tengo que leer en traducción a Strindberg, Tolstoi, Pirandello, Sienkiewicz, Ibsen, Seifert y muchos otros grandes de la literatura universal. De los 6.500 idiomas manejo, de mala manera, tres, lo que me condena a leer traducciones. "Muerte en Venecia", 1912, de Thomas Mann, es una novelita que he leído tanto en inglés como en castellano, ya que el alemán que manejo da para poco.   
Haciendo poda en mi biblioteca, he encontrado dos versiones al castellano. Sólo transcribo un ejemplo y, esta vez, el lector sacará sus conclusiones. Ya en Venecia, Adolf von Aschenbach, instalado en el Hotel Excelsior, baja a cenar:

"Había allí un ambiente mucho más abierto y de mayor amplitud y tolerancia. En los coloquios a media voz se notaban los acentos de los grandes idiomas. El traje de etiqueta, uniforme de la cortesía, reunía en armoniosa unidad aparente todas las variedades de gentes allí congregadas. Veíanse los secos y largos semblantes de los americanos, familias rusas, señoras inglesas, niños alemanes con institutrices francesas. La raza eslava parecía dominar. Cerca de él hablaban en polaco." (Traducción de Raúl Schiaffino.)

"Ante él se desplegaron amplios horizontes que abarcaban, tolerantes, una gran diversidad. Los sonidos de los principales idiomas se confundían en un murmullo apagado. El traje de noche internacional, especie de uniforme de la decencia, sintetizaba exteriormente la heterogeneidad de lo humano en una convencional unidad. Podía verse en semblante enjuto y alargado del americano, la típica familia numerosa rusa, damas inglesas y niños alemanes con ayas francesas. El elemento eslavo parecía predominante. Muy cerca de él se oía hablar polaco." (Traducción de Juan del Solar.)

Comparando las dos traducciones, e incapaz de leer el original, transcribo una traducción al inglés:

"A wide and all-encompassing horizon opened itself out. Muffled sounds from many different languages were mixing. The omnipresent dinner jacket, the uniform of the civilized world, gatahered all facets of human variety into one orderly whole.  One saw the dry and elongated face of the American, the large Russian family, English ladies, German children with French nannies. The Slavic component appeared to predominate. Polish was spoken right next to him." (Traducción de Martin C. Doege.)

Está claro que cuando conocemos a un autor por traducciones, jamás podremos hablar ni de su estilo, ni de su elección de vocabulario, ni de su sintaxis... 

sábado, 1 de agosto de 2020

Parkinson´s Law and Language learning

Parkinson's Law (on Steroids): The Single Principle for ...
Professor Parkinson wrote in 1955 that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." We may replace "work" with "study" and get: "Study expands so as to fill the time available for its mastery." Yes, I am referring to procrastination, applied to the study of languages. And that is why setting goals, realistic goals is so crucial to acquiring a second language. Say to yourself: "By July 2021, I will have mastered Hindi well enough to read, write and hold a conversation in it." Then you set yourself, on a daily regular basis, to accomplish that promise.
"I will read Stoker´s Dracula in English by next Monday." "I will watch the series Dead to me, recommended by Lux_Lucy, before next Wednesday." "During August I will keep a diary in English." "I will learn 15 common proverbs in English and Spanish by the 21st of this month." 
We must set a time limit. This is essential, or else time will expand for ever... and ever, and Professor Parkinson´s Law will haunt us for the rest of our lives.     

jueves, 30 de julio de 2020

Language at its worst.

LinkedIn shows language at its worst, and no one is doing anything about it. With no Manual of Style in either English or Spanish, it has become a language cesspool. Recently I wrote the following which immediately had 170 views but only 3 "likes."
"My remarks may often picture me as a naysayer or faultfinder, but I am simply trying to make people realize that grammar, punctuation, word order and clarity matter. These are relaxed times, I know, but the way we wrap up our thoughts says a lot about ourselves, and I notice that plenty who “publish” in LinkedIn do not seem to care. Please, have a heart and respect readers. And those working at LinkedIn are the worst, the real culprits. I am chagrined to have to write this."

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2020

Eats, shoots & Leaves -

Eats , Shoots And Hojas : The Zero Tolerance Approach To Signos de Puntuación
In the absence of intonation, speed, pitch, pauses, body language, writing employs punctuation, which is a wonderful aid to helpt carry our maneaning to readers, untainted.When used properly, of course. But few do, and writers have become scofflaws who love to ignore commas, periods, semicolons, colons as if they were straighjackets to their writings.
Lynne Truss wrote a clever book in 2003, Eats, shoots & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, where she copies the definition for panda she had seen in a book: "A panda eats, shoots & leaves." That comma would change a translation into Spanish from: "Come brotes y hojas." a "Come, dispara y se va."  Just a comma.
The book was a success in the English-speaking world, with over 700,000 copies sold.
This business is not better in the Sànish-speaking world; perhaps it is worse. Amphiboly, ambiguity, must be avoided lest our readers misunderstand the message. And here´s when punctuation comes in.
In Spanish we have: "Y gritando que no la mató, se puso el sombrero y se fue." Witht a comma we end up with: "Y gritando que no, la mató, se puso el sombrero y se fue." Please, do be careful with your punctuation, in the two languages. 

lunes, 27 de julio de 2020

The best Grammar

Two ways of looking at Grammar:
How it is used - when we observe the passing grammar, the marching language
How it should be used - commenting on what is right or wrong in language

To me, the best grammar is the one that puts forth one´s thought clearly and simply. The rest is applesauce.