New Year’s Countdown, Monday

T Minus 2

Okay, it can be hard to continue a theme like «Navidad española» after Christmas is over, since that means “Spanish Christmas,” although in a lot of the Hispanic world, the Christmas season runs up until January 6, known as Epiphany in English but as El día de los Reyes Magos in Spanish — the day of the Three Wise Kings.

And yes, in no tradition do they actually visit Bethlehem (or Belén) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They may have even seen the sign about eight months before they set off on their journey. That’s right — Jesus was hardly a newborn infant when they showed up around the Winter Solstice and was probably actually born in the Spring, maybe in April. Well, relatively speaking. Since Passover (Last Supper, anyone?) also tended to be in April around the third decade of the second millennium, Jesus pulled the Shakespeare trick of being born and dying in the same month, although Shakespeare may have even managed to die on his birthday — no one knows that one for sure.

But that’s the long way ‘round of getting to the connection for this video. First, it’s in Spanish, although it’s not a Christmas carol. Second, it refers to another Hispanic tradition that was the day before yesterday anteayer, December 28th, which is El día de los inocentes. This commemorates the day that Herod had all of the newborn males in Bethlehem killed, just to make sure that the new King of the Jews wouldn’t make it to adulthood and cause any trouble. In a lot of the Spanish-speaking world, though, the day is celebrated with pranks and jokes, a lot like April Fool’s in the English-speaking world.

This song is called El día de los inocentes and it’s by the band Discordia, a now-defunct band from Brazil, although here they sing in Spanish. Either that, or I suddenly understand Portuguese! There are no subtitles, so enjoy song for its melody if you don’t understand. If you do understand, then you’ll see why the title of the song is totally apt, and how even though the band split up almost a decade ago, what they sing about is still relevant, as much in Brazil as in the U.S.

See the previous post or read the next.

Christmas Countdown, Monday #3

Day 18

It’s Monday, so time for Spanish Christmas carols; los villancicos navideños españoles. This one is very special to me, but first a little back story.

Like a lot of kids in Southern California, I took four years of language between middle and high school. Well, in my case, five, but the last year was German because I’d topped out with the AP (advanced placement) class in the other one.

The first four years… well, four levels over five years, I was lucky enough to get Spanish. (It was luck of the draw between Spanish, French, and German.) I loved the language and loved learning it — I’ve had a thing for other languages since about first grade — but when we got to that last class, our teacher did us a great disservice.

She let us vote on whether we wanted to focus on language or literature, and the vast majority of us voted for the former. She overruled it — so why did we vote, again? — saying that we would learn the language by reading the literature. The only problem was that we weren’t ready for it, especially since we started with Cervantes, who wasn’t even writing modern Spanish. Imagine giving a bunch of fourth-year ESL students Shakespeare and you’ll get the idea.

So it turned out to be a non-productive year, and most of us would drive over the Cal State University Northridge library on weekends, since it was open to LA Unified School District students, although we couldn’t check anything out. What we could do, though, was find and copy the English translations of our reading assignments. (Hey, not quite everything was on the Internet yet.)

This defeated the entire purpose of that year. We would have learned so much more focusing on grammar and conversation. And that was where my Spanish learning ended, although the basics were always in the back of my mind. Still, I forgot quite a lot of it, and couldn’t have carried on a conversation anyway after I graduated.

Flash forward to about seven years ago, and for reasons I won’t get too much into, I found a reason and a need to refresh my Spanish skills. (TL;DR: Doing rewrites on a play of mine being produced that had scenes set in Mexico City and wanted to get it right.) So I started studying again via various methods, like Duolingo, along with reading, joining Spanish language Facebook groups, watching videos on YouTube, and changing my car radio to only Spanish language stations.

And that brings us to this. Every December, the local station KLVE plays a lot of villancicos, and this one was one of the first I ever heard and learned the words to. I also have become a big fan of the performer, Juanes. His stage name, while it looks like the plural of Juan, is actually a portmanteau of the performer’s first two names: Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez.

It’s a simple song about a man riding his little donkey from the savannah (burrito sabanero) to Bethlehem (a Belén.) Belén is also the Spanish name for what English speakers call a nativity scene. ¡Disfrútalo! Enjoy the video!

Check out the previous post, see the next, or start at the beginning.

Christmas Countdown, Monday #2

Day 11

Another Monday, another navidad española, or Spanish Christmas. Today is a song by el grupo Banda Horizonte que se llama «Venid fieles todos». Los angloparlantes quizás sería más familiar con el título «Come All Ye Faithful». Anyway, it’s a very well-known English Christmas carol sung in Spanish, in keeping with the theme of the day.

Check out the previous post or watch the next.

Un momentito de estando un gran empollón bilingüe – sin me culpas

Por demanda popular, una publicación corta en español… y en días subsecuentes, quizás trataré hacer más ejemplos. Pero, por ahora, ¡disfruta, por favor! Y, por siempre, corrígeme, p.f.

Me pregunto dos cosas sobre C3P0 de La Guerra Galáctica. Primer: Él se habla en alta voz a su mismo frecuentemente, pero ¿por qué sería necesario para un robot? ¿No existen ningunos métodos internos para comunicar, especialmente con un cerebro computarizado? Y también me pregunto por qué habla a su mismo en inglés, pero Anakin construyó C3P0 y en el mundo de las películas, los habitantes de Tatooine hablan inglés (en el universo, Aurebesh, pero es igual de la lengua franca del cualquier país en lo que la peli estrena), pero les doy esto cosa por gratis.

Segundo… en la precuela trilogía, C3P0 usa la frase “Es una pesadilla. ¡Una pesadilla!” Pues me pregunto, ¿por qué entiende o sabe un androide la idea de una pesadilla? No es ningún parte necesario de la programación, ni de sus habilidades. ¿Sueñan los androides? Creo que no. O, si sueñan, sería sólo sobre ovejas eléctricas. Pero es para tocar en otra franquicia.

Ups… les muestra la verdad… soy un empollón grande, ¡pero lo me da orgullo!

La versión inglesa… the English version

Due to popular demand, here’s a post in Spanish, and in upcoming days, I might try to do this more often. But, for now, please enjoy! And, as always, correct me, please.

I have two questions about C3P0 in Star Wars. The first is that he talks out loud to himself often, but why would he need to, since he’s a robot? Are there no internal methods of commicating, especially because he has a computer brain? And I also wonder why he talks to himself in English, although in-universe he was created by Anakin on Tatooine, where they speak English, which is the stand-in for Aurebesh, also used as the common language in whatever place the films premiered.

Second, in the prequel trilogy, C3P0 used the phrase, “It’s a nightmare! A nightmare!” But I wonder, how would an android understand or know about the idea of a nightmare. It’s not a necessary part of their programming, nor part of their abilities. Do androids dream? I think not, or, if they do dream, it would only be about electric sheep. But that is to touch on another franchise.

Oops… did I show you the truth? I am a gigantic nerd, but proud of it.

The importance of being multilingual

If your first language is English, congratulations — you learned one of the more difficult languages as a kid. What’s stopping you from learning another as an adult?

One of the things I strive for in my dramatic writing is verisimilitude, and this often involves writing dialogue in other languages in order to be authentic. Now, in the process of developing my works, I do a lot of readings in order to hear the pieces and get feedback, so there’s one thing that I’ve learned about a lot of Americans.

Y’all totally suck when it comes to anything that isn’t English, and, as a total languaphile, this absolutely mystifies me — and yet I’ve watched actors’ eyes glaze over and their tongues tangle into knots at the merest hint of words not in the language Shakespeare created.

You want to know a secret? If you grew up with English as your first language, you’re kind of blessed, because it is harder than hell to learn as a second language. For one thing, our spelling and pronunciations make absolutely no sense at all.

Now, from what I’ve gleaned as a lover of languages, Asian, Semitic, and Cyrillic languages might be harder to learn than English, but not by much. But if you want to go from English to any Romance language or any Scandinavian language or any Germanic language, come on — you’re playing with the same family.

Para casi cinco años, he sido aprendido español de nuevo, y ahora soy bastante fluido. Si me dejas en un país hispanohablante, podría sobrevivir sin problema. Todavía no puedo escribir en un nivel profesional, sino puedo comunicar y también tengo amigos en todos partes del mundo por mi conocimiento de un idioma extraño. ¿Quién supo?

Translation: For about five years, I have been learning Spanish again, and now I am fairly fluent. If you left me in a Spanish speaking country, I would be able to survive with no problems. I’m still not able to write on a professional level, but rather I can communicate and also have friends all over the world because of my knowledge of a foreign language. Who knew?

Anyway, here’s my challenge. Pick a language you think you might like. Maybe it’s a country you’ve always wanted to go to, or you have a favorite director who’s from there, or you have ancestry there, whatever. Now, go learn it. There are places like Duolingo that can help you, and a simple google search will also give you tons of resources no matter what language it is. Don’t be afraid, because remember this: You learned one of the harder languages in the world when you were a little kid. Surely you can learn something easier as an adult, right?

Bonus points: You will set yourself apart, you will be able to impress people of the gender you prefer, and you will make your fellow Americans look less cultured.

I love this irony: Out of all of the world’s languages, English is probably the one that has borrowed the most from others, and yet English speakers are notoriously monolingual. Well, let’s change that, okay? Broaden your horizons, improve yourself, and remember: ¡Sí, tú puedes!

Yes, you can!