The Spanish Language Blog

The work of a true scholar of the Royal Academy of Spanish should be thankless and misunderstood. News about the inclusion of a controversial word in the dictionary comes out every year, or news about criticism of some definition of it... or about the repeated fight against the misuse of our language, or about the use of foreign words as if they were a plague.

And when it comes to this last case the latest moves made by the ancient institution have been quite innovative. A little warning before we tell you what they did: you're going to feel like we're telling you a joke you already know the punchline to.

The Royal Academy of Spanish disguised as a fashion company, created ads to sell a fragrance and sun glasses. The people who saw the ads could order the newly launched products, free of charge. The ad announced that the sun glasses were treated with a special material that gave them a "blind effect" (“blind effect” was left in English in the ad) and the perfume was called "Swine" (also in English). 

This is why we told you it was like telling a joke you already knew the end to...

The innocent “client" received sun glasses that made it impossible to see anything and a pretty bad smelling fragrance. Think about how the situation would have changed if the people "buying" the products had understood what "blind effect" and "swine" really meant.

After the campaign's initial impact (you know how viral campaigns can be) we should put the impact aside and allow ourselves a little time for reflection. We agree that the abuse of foreign words, and more so when there are equivalent terms in Spanish, can be detrimental to a language. But it is also true that many foreign words have been adopted by our language in an "academic" way without adaptation (golf, ranking, club...) or in their adapted forms (fútbol, ginebra...); some of which are perfect fodder for continuous mockery (“güisqui” for “whiskey,” “bluyín” for “blue jeans,” “pirsin” for “piercing”) and are considered ridiculous. Could the massive unloading of these words be stopped? Currently Spaniards take English as a mandatory subject in school and now there are more and more people who can enjoy TV and movies without dubbing all the time.

On the other side of the argument, and by the "other side" we mean on the other side of the pond, Americans increasingly use words of Spanish origin. It is striking to see how many times characters in TV shows use an expression in Spanish, even if it is something like "Vamonos!"  or “Este hombre ha cometido un delito” (this man has committed a crime). Will there be an institution that tries to defend the language of Shakespeare and denounces this type of "contamination" of the English language?

The Royal Academy of Spanish's campaign goes beyond all of this and criticizes snobbery. It denounces empty words in another language being used only to get your attention or to sell you something and it warns Spanish readers/users that the best way to avoid disappointment is by recognizing all of the possibilities that the Spanish language offers them. Perhaps the sour part of this unique campaign is that it seems the only way to convince Spaniards of the value of their language is to tell them to use it as an anti-fraud tool, but maybe that's just the way of the world. Maybe it's something as simple as telling us that we better know what people are talking about so that they don't laugh at us. The Royal Academy of Spanish really knows those who were born speaking their language very well.

So you see, amigos, knowing a language is essential for progress, to learn about a new culture and to avoid mishaps. Need more reasons to learn with us?

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