I am sitting in on my colleague’s class, Comparative Latin American Economics and Politics.  I have newfound sympathies for how difficult such a class is to teach because a lot of opinion and ideology can filter its way in.  In my classes, I can tell you what we know and how we know it as well as what we don’t know but suspect.  There is, of course, all the stuff we don’t know, but the wise science professor doesn’t bring this up unless out of desperation.  In his class, if someone contests something, it isn’t nearly as easy to push back because there is often some truth to what they’re saying.  Of course, he has a Ph.D. and years of experience in dialogue so he usually comes out on top.  But there is no experiment that has been run.  There are no exact comparisons between even very similar countries or eras.

In any case.  He has the students do introductions to each class by summarizing the reading for the day.  Each class has two pieces of reading, one of which is a rebuttal to the other.  Again, can’t see doing that in a lower level science class.  The two ladies presenting today were both Chilean.  They had far superior English compared to most of our Spanish and were easy to understand.  However, they had to write dates and they consistently did it in a Spanish style.  So, while the words were English they would write them out as if it was Spanish.

How would you write the date for Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon?  Think about it.







Tuesday, September 11 is how I would do it.

A Spanish speaker would write it thusly:    martes, 11 septiembre or 11 de septiembre.

It’s a very minor difference but I find myself, when writing dates or days in Spanish, capitalizing them and putting them in the order I would use in the United States.  The students presenting this morning did the same thing.  They used English words, so “september” rather than “septiembre” but left it uncapitalized.  And they put the number first, which is much more common outside the United States than in.  Days of the week were also uncapitalized.

Again, a minor, subtle thing, but one that betrays how we think.  We probably learn to write dates before anything other than our names and the names of people in our family.  It seems that when translating that the way a date is written is so ingrained that we – or at least me and these two students – don’t even think to include the style in translation.

Or maybe I’m taking three data points and extrapolating far too much.  But it feels right.


Also, it was weird as hell to see so much emotion, intensity and analysis for a different September 11.  At one point, one student noted that the view of her author was that “11 september did not involve CIA” and I thought, “Well, I hope not,” before realizing that, no, there is some reason to suspect it did.  Just that it was Chile’s September 11 and not ours.


So, interesting class from multiple perspectives.  Off to collate grades from the weekend.


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