Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

¿Is that correct?

I've been doing a Spanish class recently. Not that I expect it to make me any more understood in the street. I just feel I have a responsibility to try to improve my Spanish somehow. I would have preferred an intercambio - the half an hour of Spanish for half an hour of English language exchange - but, despite a fair bit of effort, I couldn't find one. Well, actually, that's not true. Alvaró and I met a couple of times but then he went off to seek fame and fortune in Guildford.

So, unable to get  a bit of Spanish for free, I asked a local academy about paying for a weekly grammar class. It's not that exciting but it's structured practice, of a sort, with correction. My teacher is a pleasant and well organised young woman.

"Why not write something for me to correct?" she suggested. So I did. I've done something the last couple of weeks and I was working on this week's piece today. Writing the essay is pretty straightforward. With a biro I can write nearly as quickly in Spanish as in English but as I two finger type the clean copy I see tons of errors, wonder about lots of grammar and spend ages checking spelling and especially accent marks. Tidying up the text can take a long time. I did try writing direct to computer but the mechanics of my two fingered typing inhibit any spontaneity.

Today I was being a bit more playful with my writing than I have been the last couple of times. Well that is if you consider this sort of thing to be playful - The British Empire ran on tea, well tea and gin and tonic - oh, and quite a powerful navy. I included speech in the writing to liven it up a bit too. I started using inverted commas then I remembered, vaguely, that in Spanish the inverted commas are used to quote what someone notable said - Joan of Arc or Henry Kissinger sort of quotes. I asked Google and got a nice piece about how to deal with reporting speech in Spanish. In essence Spanish uses long hyphens, which join to the words and stick with them across line breaks and suchlike, to isolate the speech from normal narrative. There are different rules for how the hyphens are placed under different circumstances and also how to deal with other punctuation marks like full stops and question marks in and around the hyphens. I read it, it made sense and I instantly forgot it.

I was thinking about English punctuation. Do you know, I haven't a clue (probably if you read these blogs critically you do know.) I don't know about how to use parentheses - is the full stop correct and is it in the right place within that last set of brackets for instance? I don't know about single, as against double, inverted commas, I don't know where other marks go in amongst the brackets, quotes, hyphens and what not. My big ally is that I suspect that lots of other people don't know either. Whereas the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves may well have cheered up the sort of person who writes to the BBC about the pronunciation of envelope I'm certain that any ordinary person who slogged through it will no longer remember much, if any, of it.

So, I foresee a truly interesting conversation about how to correctly punctuate Spanish in one of the next classes. Life surely is a riot.


And here is the text, in Spanish, from a blog called Tinta al sol, about how to do it for anyone interested.

Según el Diccionario panhispánico de dudas de la RAE, lo primero que hay que aclarar es que los diálogos en un texto narrativo no van precedidos de guiones, sino de una raya, que es ligeramente más larga que un guión.

Esta raya antecede a los diálogos, tras una sangría, y sin dejar espacio entre la raya y el comienzo del parlamento.

La raya también enmarca las acotaciones del narrador, y debe cerrarse sólo si el diálogo continúa tras el comentario del narrador.

—Hola, ¿cómo estás? —dijo ella tras verle entrar—. ¿Vas a salir?

—No, no saldré —dijo él sin mirarla.

Cuando se utiliza un verbo de habla para el comentario del narrador (decir, exclamar, afirmar, responder, etc.), éste va en minúscula, aunque el diálogo haya terminado con un signo de puntuación del mismo valor que un punto, como un signo de exclamación o de interrogación.

—¿Eso es todo? —preguntó ella.

Si el diálogo del personaje continúa tras la acotación, y la primera parte termina con coma, punto, punto y coma o dos puntos, este signo de puntuación se coloca tras la raya del cierre.

—Todo —respondió él—. Y tanto que es todo.

Cuando el comentario del narrador no lleva un verbo de habla, la primera parte del diálogo se cierra con un punto, y la acotación comienza con mayúscula. Si el diálogo continúa después, se escribe un punto tras la raya de cierre.

—Estupendo. —Ella se volvió para que no viera su sonrisa—. Me llevo la llave.

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