Sunday, November 13, 2005

You may have missed it – even in the Sports reports – but yesterday was a big day for the city of Vigo, here in Galicia. For the first time in its history, the Volvo Ocean Race [or the ‘BolboOceanRace’ as it’s called by Spanish commentators] started from a non-British port. The event seemed to go off spectacularly well, which will hopefully give the desired boost to maritime activities along Spain’s magnificent NW coast. We can surely look forward now to a lot more people messing about in boats. I’m even contemplating it myself, though with an outboard motor, rather than a sail. And on a docile river, rather than the unpredictable sea.

You don’t have to be here very long to discover that, even though the teaching of English is considered a priority, very few people can actually speak it. One major reason is that, astonishingly, there’s no oral component in any school exams. Or even in the A level equivalents. Instead, there’s an unhealthy emphasis on English grammar. In this, I understand, Galicia is no different from any region in Spain other than Catalunia. Another factor is the dubbing of all foreign language films into Spanish, which contrasts with the situation in nearby Portugal, where subtitles are used both in the cinemas and on TV. So kids there get to listen to English every day and, consequently, are much more ready to try speaking it. But it’s not all bad news. Not before time, the regional government is considering adding a dictation test [called in Spain ‘un listening’] to the exam which determines which university course you can do. I guess from ‘un listening’ it’s not too big a step to ‘un speaking’, especially among people who must rank among the most accomplished speakers in the world.

In one of the numerous ads for loan companies on Sky TV, the sign-off line is ‘Subject to conditions and acceptance’. It reminded me of the airway bill for my dog being shipped from Tehran to the UK many years ago – ‘British Airways accepts no liability for mortality caused by death’.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

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