Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Free stuff, words and such.

Last night a curious thing happened in one of the bars we frequent. This is a place that is generous in the tapas they provide for free along with your drink. Cake with your coffee or tea. But a whole range of stuff with your beer: slices of cheese and ham with bread, olives and pickles, mini-toasties, bowls of crisps and whatever other savoury bits and pieces it occurs to them to serve up.

And then last night, along with all the savoury stuff, a small bowl of sweets - those jelly sweets amusingly shaped like dummies and false teeth and the like, all coated in sugar! Just what exactly was that about? Who eats sweets with a glass of beer? Just conceivably with a Cocacola or a Fanta, maybe, if you have a really sweet tooth. Or possibly with an alcopop of some kind. But with beer or wine? I don't think so! We hope this is not a trend!

Here's another Spanish word which might, or then again might not, be a corruption of something English: "postín". I came across it while reading Ruiz Zafón's latest book in the Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados series. A character talked about the type of clothes that you see in "los escparates de postín", which context suggested meant "classy shop windows". So I finally got around to checking it. "De postín" = "posh". I couldn't find any etymological information however. It would be interesting to find lut where the expression comes from.

In yesterday's paper a language expert from Vigo university, Fernando Ramallo, was complaining that too much money goes on grants to allow young people to improve their English. There is a programme called "Vigo en Inglés" which has a budget of €1.6 million for 2017. This will make it possible for 650+ secondary school pupils to go and spend three weeks in England improving their know.edge of and proficiency in the language. Mr Ramallo says this is not a "programa educacional" but "vacacional". In other words, these youngsters will be getting free holidays!

His major gripe is that this money could, in his opinion shpuld, be spent promoting Gallego, the regional version of Spanish, which he says is losing ground. Older people in the city speak it but young people are not really interested on the whole. Now, there's a surprise! If you were looking towards the future and thinking about possible employment, I suspect that knowledge of English might offer more possibilities than knowledge of gallego. It's a hard one.

The time is probably bad for all the minority languages. I bet speakers of Walloon in Belgium feel equally under threat. And Welsh speakers, although their education programme seems to work quite well at creating a bunch of bilingual kids. But the argument still holds; what real use is it to speak Welsh, Gallego, Catalan, Walloon or Lanky Twang unless you plan on living and working all your life in Wales, Galicia, Catalonia, Belgium or deepest Lancashire?

And I say all that as a dedicated linguist, as a person who has always enjoyed learning, and teaching, different languages. I am all in favour of everyone learning as many languages as possible and of keeping minority languages going but not at the cost of reducing the employment opportunities of young people.

Meanwhile, everyone will have been busy practising their English in the shops of Vigo today. The tourist industry keeps itself nicely afloat. A cruise boat the size of a small town was in the harbour when I woke this morning, dwarfing all around it. They even had to move the Rumanian navy training ship, a much smaller, and considerably more elegant, three master vessel, out of the way. This latter vessel has been in the port for a few days, manned apparently by trainee Rumanian sailors and a few additional cadets from places like Bulgaria.

Presumably such training programmes, with visits to other countries, are part and parcel of the advantages being a member of the European Union.

1 comment:

  1. Here you can read about the origin of the expression 'de postín'.