Book review: Talk Dirty Spanish

May 26, 2008

There are three books that I regularly recommend (in no particular order) to those who wish to sell to or communicate with Hispanics, and Mexicans specifically: Distant Neighbors by Alan Riding, The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, and The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis.  But I now have an addition to the list: Talk Dirty Spanish by Laura Martinez and Alexis Murnier.

Talk Dirty Spanish offers a non-official guide to the slang, lingo and dirty words of the Spanish language. Through sixteen chapters, each one addressing different social and individual situations, the book presents words and phrases with literal and contextual explanations as well as examples of use within the context of a conversation.  For example, the chapter devoted to drinking alcohol includes the phrase “estar hasta las manitas,” which, according to the authors, means to be drunk while the literal translation is “to be up to the little hands.”  The authors then provide the following use of the phrase:  “El portero de la escuela siempre esta hasta las manitas,” with the accompanying translation:  “The doorman of the school is always very drunk.”

Although Talk Dirty Spanish encompasses slang and lingo from most Latin American countries and Spain, the book has a clear Mexican emphasis, and even among the Mexican slang contained in the book, the majority of words and expressions are more common in the Mexico City region.  This is understandable since one of the authors, Laura Martinez, was born and raised in Mexico’s capital.

Talk Dirty Spanish provides a valuable source of information (and entertainment) to both English-language and Spanish-language readers.  For the former, the book provides a guide beyond the textbook to understand not only Latinos’ way of speaking but also idiosyncrasies, and the book can be a couch-side reference book while watching Univision or Telemundo.  For the latter, it gives Latinos pause to appreciate the way we communicate and think.

Regarding my other recommendations, Octavio Paz’s Labyrinth of Solitude is a collection of essays that deconstruct the essence of Mexican society; Distant Neighbors is the view of modern Mexico by a longtime New York Times correspondent based in Mexico City; and The Children of Sanchez is a novel that resulted from a study in which anthropologist Oscar Lewis spent several months living with a low-income family in the Barrio de Tepito, one of Mexico City’s poorest neighborhoods. These three books provide a better understanding of the way Mexicans live and think; Talk Dirty Spanish addresses how they talk.

Adapting messages: Correct usage of Spanish Language (Part I)

March 3, 2008

Gonzalo Salvador (aka González), a PR colleague, just shared with me a presentation with great advice and insights that should be consider when adapting any English document or message into Spanish.

I. Assumptions to Avoid

A.-Not every person who speaks Spanish is an expert in the Spanish language.

B.-Not all Hispanics are equal. Usage of the Spanish language among U.S. Hispanics depend on different factors such as country of origin, generation, region of residence. Each group has its own vocabulary and its own colloquialisms.

If you are thinking about asking…

Q: What are the differences between Hispanics and Latinos and what is the right word to use?
A: This question could create a long discussion. Just as a reference in the East Coast is more widely used “Hispanics” while in the West Coast is “Latinos.”

Q: Is there a standard Spanish I can use?
A: No. But you can use neutral words and you can use the Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy) dictionary as a reference. Remember to always use language appropriate to you target audience.

II. Common Grammatical Mistakes

A.-Try avoid the use of gerunds (-ando, -endo).
Example: Use “salta” (to jump) instead of “saltando” (jumping).

B.-Use active verbs when possible: Try to avoid the translation of the have + verb form into Spanish. Example: He has jumped (el ha saltado), might sound better as (el salta or el saltó)

C.-Avoid commonly misused words.

Quiz: Are the following translations correct?:

Protester: Protestante
A: Incorrect. It should be “manifestante.” Protestante means protestant (religious denomination)

Facilities: Facilidades
A: Incorrect. It should be “instalaciones.” Facilidades is related to easy.

Aplication: Aplicación
A: Incorrect. It sould be “solicitud.” Aplicación means “to apply towards…” such as to apply force.

Act: Ley
A: Correct. “Acta” in Spanish is a document.

D.-Always try to use alternatives to gender.
i.e. Avoid using she/he (ella, él)

E.-Check for the order of words in a sentence. (Nuevo Carro, Carro Nuevo)

F.-Avoid using too many articles (la, el). (leísmo)
Example: Women’s Health Center as Centro de la Salud de las Mujeres. It is better to use: Centro Médico para Mujeres.
By the way, the comas (,) are always located outside marks. (i.e. “”, not “,”)

To be continued…