My name is Mary Smith Notengo

On 25th March, 2018, I read an article on El Pais about the problems that foreigners have in Spain because here we use two surnames. I thought that this was the kind of interesting cultural facts that bilingualism should deal with. I considered it quite appropriate to write about in our school’s bilingual section.

We all have heard about culture shock, that feeling of alienation that people may have when encountering a different environment and culture. Among other determining factors, this is connected with the different languages and customs.

There are many unexpected daily situations that can make it appear and one of the most curious ones is as simple as the use of two surnames in Spain.

We tend to assume that the way we Spaniards address each other is universal, but did you know that most countries use just one surname? Did you know that after getting married women can choose the surname that they want to use by choosing their husband’s one or their own one? Did you know that even siblings can have different surnames in many countries?

When foreigners come to Spain they may find Kafkaesque situations just because of their lack of a second surname. When they have to fill in a form, specially online, if they don’t provide all the information required and fill in all the boxes and gaps, they are not allowed to continue or they are shown an error message.

I admit that when reading about this issue I smiled due to the ways people solve this problem and websites, officials and other workers allow it to happen. Lets have a look at some examples.

Some people use their second name as their first surname. So someone whose name is Daniel John Welsch has John as his first surname, or Mary Elizabeth Cooperman, that has Elizabeth.

Others prefer using their only surname but when filling in forms they write No Tengo or Ninguno in the box for their second surname. However, the system does not assume that they have no second surname. Instead of that, it assumes that their second surname is Notengo or Ninguno, and that is what has happened to many foreigners in Spain who have ended up assuming that weird surname. There are real names such as Simone Fóccoli Notengo (Italian) or Chiho Notengo Murata (Japanese), names that even sound like one of those bad jokes about languages.

But how long have we Spaniards been using two surnames? It is known that until the 19th century there was just one surname and the father’s one was kept by the eldest child and the rest could choose among the other family surnames without a established criterion. It was not until 1871 that the addition of the mother’s surname as the second surname was established.

Today’s situation is that since 30th June, 2017 Spanish parents can choose the order of their children’s surnames by reaching an agreement. However, when people are 18 years old, they can freely register the surname order which they want to have in the civil registry.

To end with this topic, just let me propose thinking about your own surnames. Do you like them? Have you ever consider changing their order or making any other possible change such as hyphenating your two first surnames so as to keep your mother’s surname?

Now that we are much more concerned about gender equality it is time to think of those cultural and social aspects that are still based on men’s predominance as a norm inherited from the past. We must vehemently remark  that men and women must relate in equal terms. 

The Man Of The Future

I guess all of the students of our IES, teachers and visitors have noticed the wall in the hall covered with several posters and a central huge human figure with the words The Man Of The Future.

Well, that is the final product of a project we have been developing in the different subjects included in our bilingual program. We chose The Man of the Future as a unifying topic to imagine how the future would be. As this topic is so ample and we have only six subjects we restricted it to invent new technological devices in Technology, to create a sport for the future in PE and to think about the form of government that might exist in History. Our PAVAE teacher drew the central figure. (PAVAE stands for Plastic, Audiovisual and  Visual Arts Education).

I just hope you have a look at it not just because you have taken part in its creation but because you find it interesting.

Garden Diary

Some months ago, we planted lettuces, endives, and onions. The first day we went to the garden with Teacher Agata, and everyone was helping to prepare the soil, and after that, we planted the lettuces, endives and onions that our teacher gave to us. Everything was perfect and our work was worth it. Every break we had to go to the garden. We watered the plants, and a lot of things.
Time passed and our lettuces, endives and onions grew up, and they were so beautiful. Everyone helped and after three or four months, we could collect all the lettuces and endives.
We got 16 lettuces Then. we sold them for 2€ each and we gave the money to the ”Asociación de Niños Contra el Cáncer”. We created the garden because this high-school wants to help the enviroment and ecologic products.
George-Emanuel Cristodorescu Dumitru (1º ESO A)
José Miguel Marcos Luque (1º ESO A)

Languages die too. Second Part

During these Christmas holidays I found this article in the online edition of the New York Times. As it develops and expands what I mentioned about the tashuiro language and Amedeo García García, I felt I had to post it in our school’s website for those who might be interested in the topic. I must warn all of you that it is a bit long but it is worth reading and listening.  Here you have the link to the full document which even includes a six-minute video. Hope you enjoy it.

To finish, just let me give you a piece of advice: KEEP YOUR ENGLISH ALIVE.

Languages die too.

Languages die too.

We teachers tell our students that languages are alive. The obvious implication of this assertion is that languages die too. When the last speaker of a language dies, that language dies too. It does not matter if there are graphic documents that evidence its existence and somehow preserves it.

When we hear about the death of a language, we normally think of a weird language spoken in a remote area in India or by an uncivilized tribe in the Amazon basin.

From time to time we find information about this sad news in the newspapers. I have recently heard about Amedeo García who is the last speaker of the tashuiro, a language spoken in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

More and more people move from remote rural areas to cities, where they must get integrated to survive. In this context, with a compulsory education in the dominant language and the mass media using it, the local languages disappear. And the disappearance of a language implies the disappearance of the culture which shaped that language .

Globalization has its pros and cons. This is one of its most obvious negative consequences together with the loss of the world cultural richness.

That’s why the news of the death of the Cromarty fisherfolk dialect’s last speaker attracted my attention.

His name was Bobby Hogg and he died in 2012. He was the last fluent living speaker in the dialect of English used in some parts of the Black Isle, mainly in Cromarty, near Inverness, in Scotland.

Although it only occupied some few pages in the news that day, it was not only a sad loss for his family but for all the world.

Cromarty Fisherfolk’s Dialect

Cromarty, which counts just over 700 people, is at the very end of a sparsely populated peninsula of forest and farmland. It’s separated from Inverness, the closest city, by the Beauly Firth, a wide body of cold water where salmon run and dolphins frolic. That unique landscape shaped its people, its culture and the language that expressed it.

The Cromarty dialect included a wealth of seafaring vocabulary since this people earned their living in the sea. Another distinctive feature was the use of the archaic “thees” and “thous”, pronouns now lost from the spoken English.

The aspirate “h” was often added or subtracted, so that “house” would be pronounced “oos” and “apple” would be pronounced “haypel.” The “wh” sound was often dropped entirely.

A lexicon of Cromarty words, relying in large part on Hogg’s speech, gave “Oo thee keepan?” as Cromarty’s version of “How are you?” and “Hiv thoo a roosky sazpence i thi pooch?” for “Can you lend me some money?”

A good dictionary to work with.

Hello to all the visitors of this website!

To start with, I want here to give the answer to a question that my students quite often make me.

For me, a very useful online dictionary is Word Reference. You can also download the app in your smartphone. It provides information and examples, as well as translations of those examples, that all students can find interesting and useful.