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A wise-guy, huh?

14 July 2010

A little learning can be a dangerous thing.

MexConnect had one of those “people should post in English, because I read English” threads you find on ex-pat message boards all over the planet. This wasn’t a variant on the legitimate complaint of minority-language speakers that they are denied access to information by the majority, but based on the idea that “we foreigners” who can’t read Spanish are being slighted. Or somehow insulted by persons who post in Spanish.

Working for a English-language publisher in Mexico, I’m aware that many of us don’t speak the majority language here (and it’s what keeps me employed). I write in English (of a sort). It’s the language in which I’m most comfortable thinking and the language I write.

I have never heard any of my non-English speaking readers think I’m “rude” to do so (although I have received comments from appreciative readers who though it was a shame my site was in English… and said so in Spanish).  Really, the only negative comment I ever received about the language in which I write was verbal… someone complaining that a Polish writer’s comment (merely mentioning that my site was linked to his site) was in Polish and I didn’t translate it. I took it as a compliment, that someone not speaking English found something I wrote useful enough to bring to the attention of his own Polish readers. Besides, I don’t read Polish. Or Hebrew or Russian, which are also languages that shown up in my comments now and again (along with Spanish and Portuguese and Italian… which I can usually figure out).

I have no problem with people thinking, and writing, in their own language. If the ideas are at all useful, those of us not handicapped by U.S. language education are usually better able than I am to at least figure out what is going on. They don’t do so out of rudeness, but because it’s the best way for the writer to say something. Or — and this is probably more the case on an “ex-pat” website, because there are bureaucratic rules and regulations under discussion and those rules and regulations are in Spanish. And need to be followed exactly.

Anyway, being a “minority language” speaker, I certainly do support the right to receive information in my own language… as do other minority language speakers. And, being a wise-guy, I posted my response, from Article 27 of the Universal Charter of Human Rights — the Nahuatl version:

¡Nochi tojuantij tijpiaj manoj ma tiyejyektlalikaj tochinanko o topilaltepej ika kuali tlamachtilistli!

(Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community…)

Of course, that was a cut-n-paste job, but elicited the following personal response

Nochi tlajtoli kipia kampa peua uan kipia kampa tlami, axueli se akajya san tlauel mokajkalakis ika se tleueli tlamantli, yeka onkaj tekiuaj para ya ma tlakualtlali. Ijkinoj nesis para melauak titlatepanitaj uan melauak nojkia titetlasojtlaj.

A rather witty rejoiner … at least I think it was.   I’m  stuck trying to figure out is how to say “hoisted on my own petard” — quiminaznequitli doesn’t look right to me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Josr Guadalupe Garcia Cavazos permalink
    14 July 2010 6:53 pm

    As an expat, I was offended a few times when people (Mexicans)on the internet tell me to not comment on Mexico’s issues if I don’t live there, or they think that to make a comment in the English language means that I a “gringo” and therefore, am misinformed on the numerous issues that are plauging my native country.
    Well, first of all; I was born there….Second it is my right to comment on any issue I want in any language that I want. Also, you don’t have to live in Nuevo Laredo or Monterrey to know that those places are fucked up.

  2. JC Brown permalink
    15 July 2010 3:07 pm

    Born in New Mexico, and having lived the past several decades in Arizona, I consider myself a ” Child of the Southwest”, (my own terminology). From a very early age, I have visited Mexican border towns from Juarez to Nogales and San Luis. I’ve lived areas where many of my neighbors spoke Spanish. My father, at one time, had a ranch in Chihuahua state so was fairly conversant in Spanish and he started my learning in it. All this is to say that I like things Mexican. Food, language, music, and the culture in general. I joined this forum to try to expand my knowledge in this field. Postings in Spanish help a lot except for the ones that contain foul language. As a guero rubio, I know I’m not supposed to understand these things. That does not excuse some of the postings that seems to contain at least half in foul language.

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