I’ve got the recipe books out again! I’m trying to have a go at a Mexican pudding today, I’ll let you know how it goes, we’re in the oven for an hour at the moment. Thomasina Miers you probably will be the death of me, or at least my left arm until I can buy a decent mixer. Yes, did you know that? I’m a zurda, a gauchère, a left-hander. So there’s a lot of stuff flying round at the moment about less and less people being able to speak foreign languages, or people wishing they were better at them (8 Out Of 10 Cats last night). It made me wonder about how me and Daniel communicate, and while most of the time we do speak English, we must talk our own version of Spanglish.
We speak in English for things like the paying the bills, when we’re with friends, my family, organising things like shopping or tidying up, and when I can’t be arsed. Then Spanish for other things, like más íntimo, or taking the piss out of each other. We talk in Spanish in the street, or in the supermarket or on the train or to be a bit bitchy about something. I like speaking in Spanish, and I like how Daniel corrects me if I say something wrong : he just looks at me funny, and waits for me to work it out and correct myself. I prefer it that way that a straight correction. Then he’ll test me like “What’s the first-person present of caber” – I wrack my brains running through, traigo, caigo, no…! But it’s only a test so after about five minutes he can tell me it’s quepo.*
It’s like our own little language, mixing and switching the words and the phrases to fit what we’re talking about. I know that Spanglish should have a grammar, but what’s brilliant about Spanish is that you can play around with it so much. It’s difficult to think now what we say, because it just comes out naturally when we talk. We have our own verbs, like tidyupear, but I think mostly we translate. The bookmakers William Hill becomes Guillermo Colina, the TV show 8 Out Of 10 Cats becomes Ocho Sobre Diez Gatos, etc. I do wonder whether we do truly speak Spanslish, but I guess that’s the beauty of linguistics, can you mould it to fit your sentence, your situation and you can completely make things up as you go along if you both know both languages well enough. I’m not saying I’m fluent in Spanish, I’d love to be better. But then, what is fluency? To my family who speak no Spanish I’m well fluent, but comparing myself to native speakers like Daniel and his friends, I’m no where near! Ok, I just asked Daniel if he thinks I’m fluent – “Yeah, it doesn’t take ages to talk and you know what you’re saying”.
I love Spanish. I hate French. But I can speak French, my Spanish is more fluent but I have more vocabulary in French. I do love speaking both. Going to France, and going to Mexico or Spain, and coping. Being able to have that extra knowledge that I don’t have in Germany or Amsterdam, knowing just by glancing at the street sign or a poster what’s going on where. There are people here that think that everybody should speak English, but I’ve never understood that. Speaking three languages, you can find that common language. At work I spoke to Greeks and Romanians in French because they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak their native languages. And how boring would the world be – dystopian too, if you believe what you read in A Brave New World. How would you identify yourself? Language and Identity, especially in the Spanish-speaking world are so closely linked. Words have different meanings depending on where in Latin America are from, where in Spain even, it’s an Us and Them world. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Spain was having a bit of an identity crisis, politicians thought the way to fix that was to have everybody speak castellano, and be thrown in gaol if you happen to utter a word in català, euskadi or gallego. You identify with language within political borders too, one of my friends is Catalan. Catalonia is a region of Spain and her passport is Spanish but she’s not Spanish, she’s Catalan. I’m going to wrap this up now, for fear or reciting the whole of one of my essays from my Master’s degree. Let’s have a look at this cake…
* caber = to fit (into)