What's Going to Happen Next?! - Talavera de la Reina, 1981

Talavera de la Reina, 1981

     I teach English privately to various groups of students in my apartment on the Calle del Prado. One student is a history teacher who, according to her, speaks the best Castilian Spanish.  Her Spanish is the real McCoy, absolutely. None of this Talaveran slang, and certainly no cutting off the ends of words as the Andalucians have a tendency to do. She's from Madrid, something she remarks upon every occasion she can get.
      "I'm not from Talavera, you know. I'm from Madrid."  She moves her shoulders back and forth as if to emphasize this important point. She wants help with her English as the group she's in is more advanced, so we decide on meeting an extra time each week to do an exchange. She'll coach me with my Spanish and I'll help her with her English.
       I quite like being told how to pronounce Castilian Spanish correctly. It's so much easier than reading rules and regulations from a textbook.
     "The letter 'd' is suave, soft, at the end of a word. Although it's soft, it's still there. Think of the word, 'verdad'."
     I say the word, 'verdad', and out comes just too strong of a 'd' at the end.
     "Do NOT pronounce the 'd' as in English!"  She actually does yell at me.
Oops. The pronunciation of the letter 'd' never has been high on my list of priorities up until this very second.
    "Verda...th."  She corrects me, emphasizing the 'th' as in 'this'.
     I curl up my tongue and pronounce the word as closely to the way she did as I possibly can     Such a fine point, but it makes all the difference to my pronunciation.
     Not only does she teach me the finer points of Spanish pronunciation, she tells me about her husband and some of the changes in Spanish society since Franco's death and the beginning of  new democracy.
     "My poor, poor husband works so very hard. His office is in Madrid, of course. Not here. So much does he have to put up with."
     "He has to deal with so many people." She lowers her head and stares at her stiletto heeled shoe as she moves her ankle round and round.  "Didn't you say you might be moving to Tarragona?"
     "Yes, possibly in a few months."
     "Then, you too will have to deal with the Catalans."
     "I don't know anything about them."
She snorts, and throws her hand up in the air as if swatting a fly.
      "Let me tell you a story about the Catalans. One day, my husband, who is a very important man, held a meeting in his office in Madrid. Guess what?"
      "This Catalan man turns up at the meeting. Well, the Catalan man begins talking in Catalan. To my husband, no less. Imagine! In Madrid, in my husband's office, this Catalan man speaks in Catalan to my husband. Well, I tell you."
       "Does your husband know Catalan?"
       "Of course not! What is the name of the country we're living in? What is the capital of Spain? What is the language of Spain?"
        Before I can answer, she slaps the table with her hand. Her forehead is perspiring as she gets more and more annoyed, and she grimaces, raising her eyes to the ceiling.
        "Let me tell you, Spanish is the language of the Spaniards. And Madrid is the capital of Spain. When you're at a meeting in Madrid, you speak in Spanish. Not Catalan."
        She fidgets, plays with her thick gold necklace,  crosses her legs, then folds her arms.
       "Now, my husband, who is a very noble man, a man who can enjoy conversation with anyone, decided to get the better of the Catalan. You know what he did?!"
       "No."  Gosh, maybe he punched him on the nose?
       "He answered the Catalan man in French!  Imagine! That shut the Catalan man up. My husband told him that if he could speak in Catalan, then maybe we should all speak in French, or German, or whatever language we wanted. But, that since they were in Madrid, the capital of Spain, where the language is Spanish, then isn't it the right thing for everyone to speak in Spanish?"
       "Why did the Catalan speak in Catalan? Maybe he doesn't know Spanish?"  What silly questions I ask.
       "If the Catalan people don't know Spanish, then what's wrong with them? I repeat, what is the name of this country? What is the name of the language?! Of course, they know Spanish!"
       "I think that under Franco they weren't allowed to speak their language?"
       "Oh, and that's an excuse? Just because we have a so-called democracy now, that's supposed to mean that they don't have to speak Spanish?!"  She waves her hand as if fanning herself and mutters, "What is happening to this country? What's going to happen next?  I ask you!"





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