Prof. Jaime Meilán del Río

Faculty Specialist of World Languages & Cultures

I have spent my life discovering that very few things are as simple as they seem; the outcome of learning a language is no exception. For example, during my years as a lawyer in Spain, one of the lessons I ascertained was that one could successfully sue oneself and one’s kids in order to prevent a bank from foreclosing on a home. As a foreign news correspondent based in New York I eventually realized that the turnover rate in the US Congress rivaled that of the former Soviet Union Politburo. As a Google quality rater, I found that too many web pages that appear to be legitimate are actually fake frames or the result of a “sneaky redirect”. And as a translator, I have come to understand that there are very few situations in which words may be taken literally. When it comes to learning a language, if one scratches  beyond the subjunctive, one will realize that there is a reality much more complex than its grammatical appearance: There is a whole culture-or a number of them-that also manifests itself in the peculiarity of, for example, its verbal modes, and vice versa.

So, scratch a little and you may find that the typical US Thanksgiving Turkey will never fit in a “Euro-size oven," that the average Spaniard not only loves soccer but also has turned swearing into an Olympic sport, that every March there is a city that for days becomes what could be a paradise for pyromaniacs and firecracker junkies,-, or that there are places where the midday lunch does not happen at midday and people begin to socialize in bars and streets when the rest of the western world is already sleeping. Many Americans have dug deep enough to have these cultural realizations themselves, as you can see in the previous links [all of them from the series "Así nos ven" in the Spanish newspaper Elhecho], and made learning a language a platform with which to dip themselves in those waters where things are never as simple –but much more interesting– as they seem.

Jaime Meilán del Río
321 O'Hara Hall

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