I’m back!


I’m back! At least, I think I am. Or, rather, I want to be. I have such a guilty conscience since I stopped writing blog posts. I could list hundreds of excuses for not writing, such as too busy, not enough time, I teach too many classes, I correct too many compositions and/or homework, etc, but I won’t list any!

I really have missed writing this blog, so now that the semester is almost over, I’m beginning to think about writing again.

Rompiendo Malo


Rompiendo Malo. Lost in translation. If translation is the correct word to use when describing what the writers for the hit show Breaking Bad do when they write dialogue in Spanish. I feel as though whoever wrote the Spanish dialogue in Breaking Bad only studied Spanish in high school, or perhaps even the minimum required college Spanish.

Breaking Bad has a lot of characters speaking Spanish, but as a Spanish instructor, I couldn’t help but analyze their use of Spanish. When Skylar of Walter White speak in Spanish poorly, it’s understandable because they’re not native Spanish speakers. However, how can you live in the state of New Mexico with so many Spanish speakers and not know at least a little Spanish?

In general, the script writer literally translated English dialogue into Spanish and did so very poorly. In one meeting with members of the Mexican cartel, Gustavo Fring tells his guests to take a seat by saying in Spanish, “Tomen un asiento.” That is a literal translation of, “Take a seat.” If you offer someone a seat in Spanish, you should say, “Siéntense.” This bad translation is totally unacceptable because the character of Gustavo Fring is from Chile so he is a native Spanish speaker. However, the actor Giancarlo Esposito, however, does not speak Spanish and his pronunciation in Spanish is lacking. It is even more noticeable because of his otherwise good acting. Perhaps Esposito needed to rehearse his lines in Spanish a little more.

In another scene, Tío Héctor says to to Gustavo and Max while at a meeting with Don Eladio, “Quédete.” This is poor grammar and no native Spanish speaker would ever say this. “Quede” is a formal command, but the actor Mark Margolis uses the familiar reflexive pronoun “te” instead of the required formal pronoun “se.” He could have used either a formal or familiar command, but Spanish does not allow for a little of both. He needed to say, “Quédese” or “Quédate”, but never “Quédete”.

However, not all the Spanish spoken in Breaking Bad is terrible. When the actors who are native Spanish speakers speak Spanish, they speak much better Spanish. They probably read the script and said, “Wait. No one would ever say this in Spanish!” because they then say their lines in a more natural Spanish and not a literal translation into English where one word after the other is translated into English. I could tell by the subtitles in English when Spanish is spoken. In other scenes not with native Spanish speakers, the Spanish words follow the same order as the words in the English subtitle.

When Jesse Pinkman is at his new girlfriend Andrea’s house, her mother mother immediately disapproves of Andrea’s choice of a new boyfriend. The mother immediately begins speaking in Spanish, good Spanish, what she thinks of her daughter and Pinkman, none of it very good. Interestingly enough, there are no English subtitles for this dialogue. My theory is that there was no dialogue written for this scene and the actress Virginia Montero merely ad libbed her dialogue in a Spanish language that was very natural to her. I could picture my mother or grandmother speaking like this. Of course, no one from the show was able to translate this into English subtitles.

What does Breaking Bad actually mean? Well, one meaning of “breaking” is changing directions, such as breaking to the right or to the left. Or, one can be breaking good or breaking bad, separating from path to another. In this show, everyone is breaking bad. Everyone was more or less good at the start, but then they started breaking bad, especially Walter White.

For the title of this post, I merely literally translated Breaking Bad into Rompiendo Malo. Breaking = Rompiendo and Bad = Malo. I looked up “breaking” and “bad” on wordreference.com and I found “rompiendo” and “malo” for the translations. However, Rompiendo Malo doesn’t mean anything in Spanish. I admit that this is a very poor way to translate one language into another, but I feel that the writers of Breaking Bad did this for many of the speeches in Spanish.

I suppose I wouldn’t have noticed the Spanish dialogue if I wasn’t a Spanish instructor. But I am and I did. I’m breaking good.

Miles, not calories


I count miles, not calories. I’m into running, not dieting. Many people are obsessed by the number of calories they eat when they should be exercising more. Now I’m not one to preach about the benefits of any form of exercise, but people always seem to know the exact number of calories I’m about to consume when I raise a soft drink to my mouth or get ready to order junk food.

Lately, people have been asking me how I lost so much weight. I dropped about thirty pounds and went from a 36-inch waist to a 32-inch waist. They’re disappointed when I tell them that I run about nine miles almost every day. They either don’t have time to run or they have a back injury or bad knees that prevent them from running. I don’t have time to run, either, but I make time to run because I enjoy the physical exercise and the time for ruminating about my daily activities. I work out some of my daily problems and plan my day while running. When I don’t run, I feel as if I’m missing out on something vital. Yes, eat, breathe, sleep, run. They’re all very important. And just as important, reading, writing, running.

And in order to keep running, I eat fruits and vegetables everyday. Every morning, I eat a banana, an apple, and an orange. I also enjoy eating a granola bar and a yogurt in the morning. I’m not happy unless I eat three pieces of fruit everyday. I also eat peanuts and/or pistachios everyday. I love eating peanuts and pistachios! I used to work in a peanut butter factory and I could eat all the peanuts I wanted. And I enjoy drinking orange juice, the pulpy kind. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I like going without meat on some days. I once tried being a vegetarian, but I only lasted about a month before I began craving meat, any kind of meat. I guess deep down inside, I’m a carnivore!

My daily goals are to run as much as possible each day, or at least walk a mile or two, and eat some healthy food before I eat all the other junk food and sweets that I crave and can’t seem to live without. Overall, I feel good, but people I shocked that I run so much and by some of the things I eat. Well, I’m not here to please others. I want to enjoy my life. I can only please others or please myself. I choose me!

Blogging


Blogging is my way of getting my say in a world that doesn’t seem to listen to me. Since I was little, I’ve always had a difficult time to get people to listen to me. Perhaps, I was never assertive enough. I know I was always shy and I was so very self-conscious of my English–and Spanish when I was in México. So, when I spoke, and very softly, no one ever noticed or people would speak right over me. I became accustomed to not participating in conversations, but I did become a very good listener.

I started blogging because I enjoy writing, whether or not anyone actually reads what I write. The writing is the most important part for me. Occasionally, people have told me that they had read my blog and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. However, not many people have read my blog the entire time it’s been in existence.

I can write about whatever I want. And even change topics in the middle of a post. I’ve been blogging for about nine years now, including a few lapses in posting. I believe that writing a blog is very therapeutic because it allows me to vent and jump from topic to topic according to what I’m feeling. Some blog posts were easier to write than others, but once I start a post, I finish it. Amazingly, the shorter posts take longer to write; the long posts just flow out all by themselves.

Today, this post is dragging along. It must be the weather. Cloudy and rainy with the temperature in the forties. I’m hoping the rain will stop and the temperature rises a little so I can run in shorts and a t-shirt. But I will run today. In fact, I’m going out the door now.

Juan Goytisolo


Juan Calduch, Juan Goytisolo, and Dr. D. in 1999.

There are famous people and then there are famous people you never heard of.

As a graduate student in Hispanic Studies, I had to read a novel, La saga de los Marx, by Juan Goytisolo for a seminar on Modern Spanish (as in, from Spain) Literature. I had never even heard of Juan Goytisolo. Then the professor who assigned the novel assured the graduate seminar that he was world-famous. I just took her word for it. But I was suspicious of just how famous he was.

Well, regardless of his claim to fame, I began reading La saga de los Marx. I was captivated by Goytisolo’s writing. I couldn’t identify a protagonist or a setting. He inserted foreign languages sans translations. There was no storyline to speak of. Or standard punctuation, for that matter. He seemed to have studied grammar and stylistic rules only so he could break as many rules as possible. However, the writing piqued my curiosity and I read the novel in a mere two sittings.

When the class met to discuss the novel, only one other student said she had read the entire novel. But she wasn’t sure if she really liked the novel. I, on the other hand loved it! I immediately decided that I would write my seminar paper on this novel. I was intrigued by the postmodernist style.

As I was writing my paper, I decided to reread the novel to find supporting citations for my paper. Curiously enough, I enjoyed the novel even more upon reading it a second time. I loved it so much that I decided to write a letter to Juan Goytisolo, c/o of the publisher. Imagine my surprise when he wrote back! Usually when I like a writer that much, he or she has already been dead for a long time. Sometimes dying even before I was born. How rude!

Well, this paper inspired me to further my studies and become a doctoral candidate. I showed Juan Goytisolo’s letter to the seminar professor and she asked me to invite him to speak at UIC. He accepted the invitation and spoke at our university, with me as the guest of honor because he came on account of my letter and I was writing my doctoral dissertation on his novels. I was truly honored. I was also surprised at how many people came from miles around to hear Juan Goytisolo speak and plug his latest novel. He was a fascinating man, as I discovered while giving him a tour of the Chicagoland area.

Well, Juan Goytisolo truly is world-famous. Every year he gets nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of these days, he may actually win it. But to think I had never heard of him before that graduate seminar!

La composición


Diego Rivera's typewriter, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico

If you take enough Spanish classes, you will have to write a composition in Spanish. By that time, you will know enough Spanish vocabulary and grammar to write a good composition. Here are a few rules you should keep in mind while writing la composición.

Think in Spanish! The worst thing you can do is write out the composition in English and then translate it into Spanish. You are doing double the work! Brainstorm for your composition using the Spanish vocabulary that you already know. Begin writing your composition in Spanish, without looking up words in your dictionary. Insert words in English to look up later. The main goal is to write out most of the ideas for your composition in Spanish. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar until after your finish the first draft, el borrador in Spanish.

Give your composition a good descriptive title. Only the first letter of the title is capitalized: La fiesta que le dimos a mi abuelita para su cumpleaños. If you use a proper noun in the title, it must be capitalized: Las vacaciones de primavera en Puerto Rico.

Pronouns are used less often in Spanish than in English. Once the subject is established, the pronoun is no longer necessary: María era buena estudiante. Siempre llegaba a clase a tiempo. Participaba en todas las discusiones de clase. Siempre sacaba buenas notas. In all of the preceding sentences, we know that María is the subject even though we do not use the pronoun ella. Do not use another noun or pronoun for the subject until the subject changes Un día su mamá no la levantó a tiempo. La maestra se preocupaba por María.

When listing a series of items, do not use a comma before the last item: Compré pan, queso y huevos.

There are two abbreviations in Spanish and you must use them: a + el = al, de + el = del

In general, commas are used less often than in English.

Do not translate everything into Spanish. If you live in River Oaks, do NOT translate it into Río Robles. Julio Iglesias is NOT July Churches!

Adjectives of proper nouns are not capitalized. Frida Kahlo es mexicana. Shakira es colombiana, Penélope Cruz es española.

Days and months are NOT captialized: los días – domingo, lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado; los meses – enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre.

“With me” and “with you” are written as one word: conmigo, contigo.