Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Cute Cultural Comparison

I've been working quite a lot on my Spanish...translating kids' picture books, reading La Noticia with the help of a dictionary and watching one of the Spanish-speaking channels, Univision. Usually, it's in the background as I work. I need to improve my language skills and to do that, I need to actively use it instead of passively studying grammar points.

Spanish TV reminds me a lot of Italian TV. The majority of the day's programming seems to be soap operas (talk about melodramatic and over the top. US soaps could learn a thing or two...), talk shows, and variety shows. This morning, I watched ¡Despierta America! (Wake up, America!). I guess it's their equivalent of The Today Show, but the Today Show was never this wacky. I couldn't imagine Matt Lauer cavorting around with a plastic swordfish stuck to the back of his suspenders, or Al Roker giving someone a foot massage. There's a lot more interaction between the hosts, the crew, and the reporter at the news desk. Not to mention, they're loud, rowdy and obnoxious, but totally uninhibited and completely hilarious. It makes American TV seem puritanical.

In the afternoons, I sometimes watch a talk show named "El Gordo y la Flaca", which literally translates into "The Fat Man and the Skinny Woman". Imagine an American show with that title! You'd be sued by the Civil Liberties Union for violating someone's personal rights or you'd be hit with a defamation suit!) It's not a health show, but the title is somewhat appropriate because the two hosts are...well, a fat guy and a skinny woman. They look cute together, actually. The format is part Ellen deGeneres and part Today Show. Fashion, news, entertainment...nothing's sacred. Right after it is "Primero Impacto" (First Impact), which is their version of "Hard Copy" or "Inside Edition".

Spanish commercials are funny too. A lot of them are either a) translated from the English or b) attempts at advertising music CDs or soap operas. There's a definite dose of culture shock when I first started watching Univision. My first thought was, "This is so corny! How can they do that?!" But they are themselves, talking a mile a minute, cheerful, enthusiastic, emotional, expressive (I haven't seen them not use their hands in conversation), and (brutally) honest. Throw in outgoing, uninhibited (who cares if you have a plastic swordfish stuck to your bum) and willing to have any excuse for a party, or at least a few drinks.

It's almost childlike in a way, before you grow up. The women are all glamorous and the men are all macho.

Definitely different. I envy them in a way.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010


  1. Funny! Reminds me of my grandma, who always used to watch Sabado Gigante on Saturday night. She was from New Mexico and used to baby sit me when I was little and I was always really close to her. To this day (I am 40) I can understand Spanish when people are speaking it but can't speak it myself. Weird huh?!

  2. Hola, amiga! Como estas!

    Thanks for commenting. And you know, it's funny...my parents are from the Philippines and they spoke Tagalog while I was growing up, but now I can understand it more than I can speak it!


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