Monday, July 02, 2007

If you’re looking to get your kid into one of the better state schools in Spain – especially a private one part-funded by the state – these are the ‘best tricks’ you’re encouraged to specialise in:-

- Present a false medical certificate [from a doctor friend, presumably], claiming congenital or ‘acquired’ incapacity

- Under-declare your income in your first declaration to the tax authorities, followed up by a complementary one. Give only the first one to the school.

- Rent a house or ‘borrow’ one from a friend so as to get town-hall registration in the relevant area

- Register as an employee of a local business, completing false social security forms

- Pretend that your child has a chronic illness of the digestive, endocrine or metabolic system, requiring a special diet.

- Claim to be divorced when you’re not

I’m obliged to an article in yesterday’s El Mundo for this information. Interestingly – and ironically - the paper refrained this week from promoting some fraudulent snake-oil product. Perhaps my regular expos√©s have got the Andalucian company on the run. . .

I must also thank El Mundo for this editorial comment on the legislation of a year ago which appears to have prevented a significant number of mortalities on Spanish roads:- It’s not a panacea, it’s unpopular and clearly improvable but what’s certain is there were 450 fewer deaths on our roads than in the previous 12 months. The paper goes on to regret the blossoming of companies which help you, when caught, to drive a horse and carriage through the legislation and to express the commendable hope this will soon be remedied. Vamos a ver.

But there was one comment in the paper which rather grated with me . . . Today sees the start of Portugal’s turn as President of the EU, during which the text of the reforms for a community of 27 will be finalised, always provided the ever-reluctant Poles and Brits don’t re-open wounds. Of course, it’s understandably hard to find any criticism of the EU in Spain but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the UK felt obliged to answer that, while it’s pass√© on the Continent to mention the EU’s democratic deficit or to want the EU to fulfil its original commitment to free trade and competition, there might also be room for complaint that Spain re-negotiated grants for 2007-13 which are not justified by its current wealth and its rank as the 8th economy in the world. But it wouldn’t be me, as I’m here in Spain. The real irony, of course, is that Poland’s stubborn refusal to accept revised voting rules benefited Spain as much as Poland. But I can't say I've seen any complaints about this in the Spanish media. The closest anyone got to this was the leader of the opposition criticising the Spanish PM for being 'passive'. Why not, for God's sake!

Finally, the question has been raised - not by me! - of why the Spanish are so poor at learning languages, especially English. I can’t give a definitive statement but I have often alluded to the 19th century emphasis on grammar here. As if to prove the point, a friend of mine has just achieved the highest level of English taught at our College of Languages, passing both the written and the oral tests. She was the only candidate to show an ability to actually speak English, born of her business in dealing with British clients. Everyone else failed the oral exam. And will go on doing so for the rest of their lives, never achieving a diploma. What a preposterous waste.

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3 comments:

moscow3 said...

A few thoughts about why Spaniards are poor foreign language learners:
1) Isolation. Until the tourist invasion began in the sixties in earnest Spain was one of Europe's most isolated countries. Only recently have Spaniards started to travel and do more business abroad.
3) An outdated imperial mindset, erroneously believing everybody should learn their language - and not the other way around.
4) Spanish is - phonetically - a very poor languages. In particular, Spaniards awkwardly twist their tongues around complex vocals for which the limited Castillian base provides too narrow a range. Apart from that, it was bound to be easier for Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians to learn English, as it is much closer to their languages.

moscow3 said...

A few thoughts about why Spaniards are poor foreign language learners:
1) Isolation. Until the tourist invasion began in the sixties in earnest Spain was one of Europe's most isolated countries. Only recently have Spaniards started to travel and do more business abroad.
3) An outdated imperial mindset, erroneously believing everybody should learn their language - and not the other way around.
4) Spanish is - phonetically - a very poor languages. In particular, Spaniards awkwardly twist their tongues around complex vocals for which the limited Castillian base provides too narrow a range. Apart from that, it was bound to be easier for Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians to learn English, as it is much closer to their languages.

Colin said...

My thanks to Moscow3.

I wonder why some languages are phonetically 'richer' than others. After all, Spanish gets by with only 5 or 6 vowel sounds. As against 11[?] in Portuguese, including several nasal versions. On the plus side, it's certainly one of the things that makes learning Spanish a bit easier.

The other question which springs to mind is - while I know the Spanish make virtually nil effort to pronounce foreign words 'properly' [whether in English, French or whatever] - is their 'imperial mindset' conscious or unconscious?

BTW - As an example, I think I've cited Juan By-nee in the past, that famous US cowboy.