When it comes to foreign languages, trying to work out what’s being said is a challenge – even when the lady at the shop is explaining how much the tomatoes cost.
When listening to conversations you can sometimes pick up the odd sentence and get the gist of what’s being said. Our earwigging will improve in time, if nothing else, to keep up with the local gossip (‘Ooh, Pepe’s going out with Maria is he?’…).
But understanding a Spanish radio discussion? Forget it. The recording below is from Canal Sur Radio (September 3).
It’s like a performance art award entry; a mad sound collage.
Maybe it just sounds muddled because we don’t know what’s being said, who knows. The recording hasn’t been fiddled with, there are no overdubs, just two clips joined in the middle.
Are there no producers on hand to say ‘one at a time’? Fans of the BBC’s Radio 4 station will be aware of the iron grip its presenters have on programmes like this – quick to nip in when things turn noisy. But it’s not as much fun, is it?
Actually we’re being a bit mean to Canal Sur Radio which we listen to and enjoy. There are some presenters who speak clearly and slowly – although it’s certainly not for the benefit of us extranjeros.
Everyone knows that the Spanish, Italians and so on, love to express themselves forcefully, brandishing a machine-gun like vocal delivery. But boy does it make listening to the radio hard at times.
As VS Pritchett wrote in The Spanish Temper (1954):
‘They are aware of nothing but their individual selves, and the very detail of their talk is a method of defeating any awareness of each other. They are lost in the sound of their own humming, monotonous egos and only a bullet could wake them out of it. Spanish prolixity, the passion for self-perpetuating detail, is noticeable even in some of their considerable writers.’
Ouch! We think Spanish people are lovely, whatever some of them write!
(By the way, Notes on a Spanish Valley review this wonderful book.)