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Friday, May 22, 2015

As teachers of Spanish as a Foreign Language we love “authentic materials” and we are always on the lookout for a television or radio advert which fits in perfectly with the topic of a class or we make use of the daily newspaper to learn about current affairs and to become civilized while we are at it. I think that we have mentioned the following website, which we treasure as teachers, in a previous blog post: It includes links to many international newspapers including, of course, some Spanish and Latin American ones.

Right now in Spain we are in the middle of the municipal and regional elections, and the daily newspapers are full of words and expressions which increase in usage especially during the election campaigns, like mushrooms which grow after a few days of rain.

All of a sudden we can read articles, which include expressions used more often than normal, about how a mass rally took place in such and such a place, and about how the party led by such and such a politician is hoping to obtain enough of a majority in a parliament which I have never heard of.

The most curious thing about our students is that they come out with some adjectives which are usually used in connection with soccer.  I am talking about terms such as andalucista, valencianista or catalanista among others. Wide-eyed, our students ask us: What is the difference between these words and andaluz, valenciano and catalán? And we then have to explain that normally, well at least in the world of soccer that is, an adjective which starts with the name of a city and ends with the suffix –ista is used to refer to the supporters of the local soccer team or anything related to this squad of eleven.

That is why, when we talk about the granadistas we are not referring to the granadinos (people from Granada), but the supporters of Granada's Football Club. The same goes for the words sevillistas, malaguistas, madridistas, barcelonistas, valencianistas. All these words are related to this sport.

Well now, words with the suffix –ista have become part of political jargon being used to refer to the regional, national or separatist parties (how curious and what a coincidence, that it is all the adjectives ending in –ista which have taken on this new meaning) of specific Autonomous Communities. For example, a Catalan team is clearly not the same as a Catalan party. Something else which is worth mentioning is that the Basque Country, or Euskadi in Basque, has succeeded, with the help of the media, in adding a selection of words from their vocabulary to the Spanish language which are used to talk about political activity in this Community: We do not talk about “el Presidente del Gobierno Vasco” (the President of the Basque Government) but Lehendakari; we do not refer to “la Policía Autónoma Vasca” (the Basque Autonomous Police Force) , but the Ertzaintza and the most radical, national, political parties are known as abertzales. This is a prime example of multilingualism and multiculturalism if ever there was one.

This period of political excitement provides us with a great opportunity to revise Spain's current, institutional situation with our students and while we are at it we can also enrich their vocabulary with the aforementioned words which native Spanish speakers do not think about because they use them so often.

And if we talk about Latin America, we can show our students that, although there are some small lexical differences which are somewhat curious or which some people have stories about (and we are all thinking about the verb which is always cited in this case), 90% of the time Spanish speakers can communicate with each other without any problems arising. And this is more than can be said for other languages which, like Spanish, are spoken in very different geographical areas.

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