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.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

History evenings

I went to a little bilingual talk last night about the history of the nearby village of La Romana. It wasn't at all bad. The local expert, Francesc Gallardo, did his stuff and answered, knowledgeably, the questions he was asked. He was ably assisted by a woman, Anabel, who handled the translation. She was the same woman who did the talk back in December.

I had no real trouble understanding nearly all of the Spanish part of the talk and my English was up to the English part though that didn't seem to be everyone's case. I'm not talking about the Spanish; I'm talking about the English. I thought we had some most amusing culture and translation problems.

In the Q&A session someone asked in English about a building that had a "big flat stone" inside, "probably" for processing grapes. The translator turned the English into Spanish and talked about grapes and wine to the Francesc, the speaker. He said he didn't know of any bodegas (wineries) but, in his answer, he mentioned almazaras, oil mills, places to press olives. The translator, missing the cultural confusion of what was being processed, didn't mention the oil mill reference at first. It was all sorted out in the end of course. The big flat stone was for crushing olives - oil not wine. Back in Elland we Britons didn't process a lot of wine or oil either.

Someone else asked about the history of some cave houses. They asked if it were true that the houses had originally been dug in Roman times so that people with leprosy had somewhere to live away from the village. As we'd just been told that basically there wasn't a village of la Romana until the turn of the 20th century and that no Roman artefacts had been found in the area the answer was going to be disappointing for the questioners. I could imagine the number of times that story had been told to visitors.

I don't know about you but I don't really have any trouble with American English. If someone talks about fawcets and car trunks I am not confused.  And if neither pronounced one way and neither pronounced the other are American and British English then I have no idea which is which. Although I may be dissimulating I think I remember being taken to see South Pacific and, if I do, I would have been four at the time. So I have been watching Hollywood movies (films) for a long time. I would suppose the true is same for almost any English speaker worldwide.

So, last night, there is a second question about cave houses in nearby Algueña. There is some initial confusion about which cave houses and where. There is a secondary question, in English, in the air, from an audience member, about whether these may be the cave houses behind the petrol station. The translator picks up this question and relays it to the speaker. The Spanish word gasolinera for petrol station, service station, comes back in the translator's American English. "Are these the caves behind ther gas station? The original question asker says she doesn't know anything about a gas station in Algueña and the whole question just sort of evaporates. I don't know Algueña well but the petrol station on the main road through the village is obvious. I'm sure the original questioner knows it too. So this time I think we have a linguistic problem related to gas, as in cookers, as against gas, as in gasoline.

The group that made me aware of this event - Spanish International Alicante - says that its aim is to promote friendship, integration and interchange of languages through social evenings, events and cultural activities. That was certainly going on last night.

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