Monday, November 11, 2013

Speaking English; Political lowlife; Tax attax; Ryanair; Diligent students; and Steel posts.

To no one's great surprise, I guess, Spain ranks some way down the list of countries ranked by the percentage of the population which speaks English competently. If that sounds arrogant, let me stress that Spanish ranks no. 2 for the number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese. However, it's edged out to no. 3 in terms of the number of speakers worldwide, by English of course.

If there's one certainty of Spanish life it's that, however low the public's opinion of its politicians might be right now, something's bound to come along to reduce it further. Which makes it all the more ironic that, as David Jackson reports, the political establishment is now Spain's largest employer.

Which reminds me . . . El País had this to say in an editorial yesterday - Manipulation of the news, croneyism, rubbish programs, sex scandals and the squandering of money - TV Valencia is closing its doors, a faithful mirror of a time and a place. The nice thing about this comment is that implies things will get better in the future. At least in Valencia.

The Spanish tax office doesn't seem awfully capable of tackling the big guys such as crooked politicos and businessmen but, like every tax authority in the world, it's damn good at persecuting the soft target of the small fry. So it is that it's treating all Spaniards returning home with a pension as crooks who are hiding something.

In a satirical piece about Ryanair's intention to change its poor image, David Mitchell cites, as an example of its poor customer orientation, the fact that it only accepts complaints via a premium rate phone line. That made be laugh; here is Spain you can't contact any company for even customer or technical service except via a premium number, never mind to complain. I've yet to deal with a company which competes by offering normal (or, God forbid, free) phone lines when you need help. Offhand, perhaps Línea Directa.

I had a sort of English-class-cum-intercambio on Saturday morning, with two young ladies who work in my favourite tapas bar. One of them had called on Friday evening to set this up, which was a bit of a surprise to me, as she'd said she'd do this the previous Friday and hadn't. But life in Spain is replete with surprises, some good, some bad. Anyway, I was impressed they'd both been to the nearest stationers and stocked up on relevant materials.


And they certainly dedicated themselves to the lesson, taking copious notes of my meanderings. Which afforded me the opportunity to see how they transcribed English sounds into Spanish, my favourite being gveik for 'wake'.

Talking of Spanish . . . The very un-Hispanic word kermesse seems to be now just a synonym for 'fiesta', having reached us from Holland via South America.

Finally, I think I've mentioned that these steel posts have been installed around Pontevedra city, essentially where drivers might consider parking on - or driving over - the pavement. And even where this isn't possible. Ferrolano suggested Pontevedrans might demolish them but, so far, the only bent one I've seen is the one in this picture.


These €100-a-time posts are now so ubiquitous I'm tempted to conclude somebody's relative owns the company which makes them. But that's how you get here, after a while.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...


Sorry Colin for using your blog as a conduit, but a few days back Perry made the alliterative remark "Tmesis tomorrow."

Well Perry, listening to BBC Radio 4's Today this morning I was reminded of you.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24898151

Apart from the highly relevant contents, it's entitled "From Dickens to Perry". Now how much of a coincidence is that?

Best regards, Q1-10

Colin Davies said...

No problem. I still haven't worked out the significance/meaning of Perry's Tmesis Tomorrow.

Will now check your link.

Cheers.

Perry said...

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore ***king art thou Romeo. Tmesis today

Colin Davies said...

Yes, but Tomorrow???

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