Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Leccion de Español Tres o Spanish Lesson 3

The Yards (1999, directed by James Gray) with Joaquin Phoenix (as Willie Gutierrez) and Robert Montano (as Hector), where they are speaking in Spanish. Mark Wahlberg is silent onlooker.
Notice how Robert's character code-switches, i.e., changes the language he is using, from English to Spanish. In this context, Joaquin's character, who was conversing in the more familiar Spanish, reverts to English, to distance himself emotionally from the person who he was addressing. We later find out why, as Willie Gutierrez and his crew are, and have been, intentionally sabotaging the trains operated by Hector's company, in order to secure lucrative city contracts.

Hey, Gutierrez, quiero hablar contigo.
Yo tengo nada que decir, Hector.
Oye, yo soy tu amigo, chico. Yo se, uh, lo que tu estas haciendo.
<Willie reverts from Spanish to English>
Hey, nunca vas a ser tan blanco como ellos.

Back in February of last year, I was listening to talk radio, and had a chance to hear an interview with Audrey Nelson, author of Code Switching. I took some notes:
Code switching came out of linguistics, and it refers to someone who is good at and has knowledge of two cultures. Good communicators know how to switch gears. When speaking to audiences predominantly of one typical gender role, Audrey will use different styles; with men: statistics, research, be much more direct. With women: stories, relationship talk, very high level of disclosure within a couple of minutes, i.e., talking about your insecurities, fears and doubts. Women are in the business of social maintenance, to take care of people and relationships. Chit chat initiated by women before a meeting serves a purpose: to relax, make people feel freer, less on-edge, feel connected and bonded, be more civil to each other. When men chit chat, they talk about safe topics like work, sports. You spend more time at work than any other organization. If the verbal and nonverbal contradict, human nature is to base decisions on the observation of non-verbal behavior. Women are much better readers of nonverbal cues than men; excellence in social maintenance means excellence in observing people's feelings, relationships, emotions.
Although her book is mainly about how to communicate effectively in the workplace to a mostly male (or female) audience, the take-away message is to know the needs of your audience (which is what I was referring to in Why You Should Learn Black English). Ms. Nelson went on to state that we make 6 to 8 stereotype conclusions in the first 6 to 8 seconds that we meet each other. Assuming you are fluent enough to pull it off convincingly (one of the biggest hurdles of code-switching), once you demonstrate that you can speak their language, your audience will feel connected and bonded, and be more civil to each other, and more comfortable with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment