Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prices in the best segments of the Spanish property market are said to be now on the rise. In contrast, those in the worst segments are still falling. Especially if they’ve been taken onto the books of banks in lieu of loan repayments. It’s also reported that construction has virtually ground to a halt. Well, all I can say is that I can take you to at least ten sites in Pontevedra city where work is proceeding on large blocks of flats. Indeed, on one or two of these, work is only just beginning. My guess is that – Spanish lead times being as long as they are - these are the smarter developers with access to cash who plan to bring properties onto the market in 3+ years’ time, when it has picked up. But maybe I’m being too charitable.

When you’re learning Spanish, the advice on suffixes (illo and ito in Spanish and iño in Gallego) is generally Don’t experiment with them; wait to learn over time which words take them and which don’t. I’ve thought of this every time I’ve ordered a clara (shandy) or a caña (beer) and the response has been “Una clarita?” or “Una cañita?” And also when I’ve ordered a clarita or a cañita and the reply has been “Una clara?” or “Una caña”. I’ve often wondered whether the waiter or waitress was just taking the piss. But confusion has now reached maximum levels since I started to order a fresh orange juice instead of a second coffee in the wi-fi café of a morning. Thinking I would shortcut the conversation “Me pones un zumo de naranja natural, por favor”. . .“Vale. ¿Pequeño o grande?” . . . “Pequeño”, I took to saying “Me pones un zumito de naranja natural, por favor.” But I was still asked whether I wanted it small or large. Talking to a Spanish friend about this today, she explained it was merely fashionable to add the suffix these days and so it was not a reliable indicator of small size. But I’d be interested in non-Pontevedra views on this. Prior to which I’ll just add that I heard “Un descafeinadito” yesterday. I think.

I asked the same lady friend whether it was true, as claimed in a letter to one of the local papers this week, that there’d been oral tests for many years in the region’s Schools of Languages. Apparently, someone had suggested it would be a good idea to introduce them. Presumably because – like me – they’d seen little evidence the pupils were actually taught to speak English, for example. My Galician friends at dinner on Friday night had confirmed that the emphasis was still primarily on grammar and my lady friend duly put the seal on this by adding that, yes, there was indeed an oral test at the end of her course but she’d been the only one to pass it.

And still on the subject of languages . . . I came across a new Spanish word today – cibertonto. Which is probably best translated as ‘net-nut’, though with only half the number of syllables. It seems like a useful word to keep in reserve, as you never know when you’ll need it. On the other hand . . .

Finally . . . Can anyone tell me why it takes so long to download the documentary podcasts from Radio Spain? Is it because of constant – and, to my mind, unnecessary – dramatic sounds and music that always accompany the speech?

And does anyone know how to solve the problem of a misbehaving labelling function in Gmail?


Alex said...

Regarding the suffixes, I guess your lady friend is influenced by Galician.
Adding the suffix is only fashionable in Galicia, because in Galician the suffix doesn't refer to size only.
On the other hand, in the rest of Spain, the suffix refers to size.

For example: in Galician you can refer to your "neniño", even if he's 6ft tall. In proper Spanish "niñito" can only be used to talk about a little kid. But many people in Galicia use the suffix in Spanish as if they were speaking Galician.

Colin said...

Thanks, Alex. Exactly what I wanted to know.

Victor B. said...

I'm sorry to contribute to your confusion Colin, but I don’t agree with Alex when he says that in the rest of Spain the suffix refers to size only. I’ve found a paper about the use of diminutives in Spanish you might want to read:
It might help you or it might get you even more confused, but my advice is to use diminutives carefully since people tend to sound a bit corny when using them, specially if they say “un descafeinadito”. I can think of me ordering “una cañita” only after having a few too many.

Anonymous said...

I'm affraid I don't agree. Suffixes (diminutives) do not refer only to size. Neither in Galicia, nor in the rest of Spain.

Suffixes can denote affection, familiarity, tenderness, intimacy, irony...

I don't dare to translate the definition from the RAE:

Alex said...

Sorry. I wrote "proper Spanish" but I meant "Castilian Spanish" (I didn't mean that other variants are not "proper"). The article you post is interesting, but is from Mexico. Never in my life I've heard the word "mamacita" (one of the examples in the article) said by a Castilian.

Same applies to the examples in the DRAE: this dictionary catters for all the variants, and not only the Castilian. One of the examples it gives, "ahorita", is very common in America, but much more rare in Castilian Spanish.

I think a good example of the difference in use of the diminutive in both languages could be this poem:

You can see that even if the translator chose to ommit a few diminutives when writting the Spanish version (igresiña, amoriñas, terriña, queridiña, were translated as iglesia, bayas, tierra and amor mío). But when you read it in Spanish it still sounds as if the poet were retarded (or at least very "corny"). Nevertheless, in Galician sounds perfect, and the poet was not retarded at all: when she wrote in Spanish she didn't use the diminutive in the same way.

Victor B. said...

I know the author belongs to a Mexican university, but only because it says so in the title. I would have never guessed where she was from just by reading her article, as the Spanish she uses is as “proper” as Spanish can get. The examples shown in the article are from several Spanish speaking countries, including Spain -check the bibliography-; If you don’t find the examples to be suitable here, then take those of Spanish authors only and omit the rest.
I can’t recall having ever heard a Castilian saying “mamacita” either, just as I think I’ve never heard a Galician saying “vou á igresiña”, “vou ara-la terriña” or “vou coller amoriñas”

Anonymous said...

Alex, I see the different use of diminutives between Galician and Spanish, but still, in Castilian Spanish we use diminutives to express more than just the reduced size of something. If you say: ha sido una noche movidita, or vaya mañanita llevo or if you offer a friend un cafecito (descafeinadito sounds too difficult to say) you aren't using diminutives meaning something little.
And maybe it's not common to hear ahorita, but ahora mismito is usual in a colloquial/familiar context.
Besides, I don't use diminutives in the same way Mexicans do or people from Navarra or Aragón, for example, that use constantly the diminutive -ico/a, but I understand the way they use them and it has nothing to do with size.
I agree with you when you say that in Castilian Spanish the use of diminutives can sound corny. I think that's because people use them to talk to children so if you talk to an adult in the same tone you'll look ridiculous. That's why I understand the piece of advice given to Spanish learners

ANA said...

There are loads in Aragon. Bonico for bonito is supposed to be from Zaragoza but I don't know if this is said outside of this city. People have started to say it here in Huesca.I'm not sure if cervecita is from this region either. I never use them as I have just managed to say 'Ponme' y 'Digame' with confidence.There is another word for kids or the 'little ones' I think it is peques or pequenicos or both but again I don't know if this is just here.

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