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The Silent "The"

By Mr Grumpy - Wed 13th Jun 2012

It is only after staying with my Mum in the UK for these past few weeks that I have realised just how difficult we as Expats have it when it comes to actually conversing with the native Spanish.

Of course, it is human nature that the vast majority of the general public - of all nationalities - will slip into speaking in regional slang or dialect when conversing with somebody from the same neighbourhood they grew up in.

Assuming of course, that the neighbourhood in question doesn't have a totally separate language of its own like many areas of Spain have.

It was my daughter - 5 years old, and only really taught English formally as a foreign language - that first pointed out that she really hadn't got a clue what Grandma was going on about. Nor, for that matter did the Mrs (a Southerner), and even I had to pretend that I was aware of the subject matter for many a conversation.

(Then again, I always think that at least anyone taught English as a foreign language at least is taught how to speak the language correctly. I still recall with embarrassment, how my Spanish teacher asked a group of us Brits an example of a point of grammar in our own native language, and only the Dutch guy could do it correctly...)

Looking back, complaining that I couldn't really understand everything that was being said to me in Castillian / Valencian is hardly surprising when it is highly likely that a good old fashioned dollop of slang and dialect was chucked in aswell. If I struggled to understand my Mother's broad Yorkshire slang in my own native tongue (I think), what chance have I of understanding a group of native Valencian farmers ?

But equally so, this also got me thinking just how difficult the Spanish must have it when attempting to converse with an English speaker who insists on using regional slang, or a dialect. I for one have to confess that if 2 Geordies or Cocknies are having a conversation infront of me that I generally haven't a clue what is going on.

But perhaps one of the most annoying things that my native Yorkshire dialect possesses is that of losing the "The" when using the definite article.

Over the years what was a relatively simple question : "Are you coming to the Pub" gradually evolved into "Are you coming to t' Pub", until at last (when speaking colloquially) the subject can be addressed (and understood perfectly) with just 2 words " 'Coming 'Pub".

Laziness has taken over the English language to the extent that four of the six words in the above sentence have been deemed to be surplus to all requirements.

Growing up and being educated in Yorkshire until I moved to Spain, I am of course well practiced in this tradition, my Mrs kind of understands it, but of course my daughter simply hasn't got a clue and can't understand why most of my family talk in disjointed gibberish.

So perhaps I should be a little more patient and understanding when so many of the Spanish do pretty much the same thing.

Comment on this Blog

Just yesterday afternoon my Mother confused the bejesus out of my daughter by telling her that the packet of biscuits that she was looking for " t'in't in't tin ", meaning (I assume) that it would not be located within the tin. Madness !
Mr Grumpy - Sun, 8th Jul 2012
...Born within the sound of Bow Legs, and they all love their Mums, eh Adrian ?
Mr Grumpy - Wed, 13th Jun 2012
Good post Dan, especially as we´re cockney´s not cocknies:)
Adrian Harvey - Wed, 13th Jun 2012

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