Thursday, June 30, 2005

The sound of Spanish

I was listening to a Paulina Rubio CD the other day. (Yes, yes. I know. Shame on me. Not only am I listening to pop music, but to Latin American pop music. So shoot me.) Her voice, husky, wonderfully and delightfully impudent, made me realize for the first time that the Spanish language can sound sexy as well. Until now I had a very low opinion on the sound of Spanish. Portuguese is pure delight for my ear; French is tolerable; but for Spanish and Italian I had nothing but disdain. Their vowels are too simple, ordinary, commonplace, hiding nothing and leaving nothing to the imagination. They make both languages sound like long strings of short syllables, rattled off in rapid succession, and their effect on the ear is not at all impressive. Well, I'm glad to say that Paulina's singing is making me change my opinion on Spanish somewhat. I now see that it can indeed sound good. But I still think that in the mouth of the average speaker, it has a deplorable tendency to sound ridiculous; it always gives me the feeling that the pronunciation must have acquired some kind of pomposity, probably some time back in their 16th-century golden age, and even after all these centuries it is still pronounced as if the speaker was taking himself much too seriously amd pompously.

Needless to say I haven't got the slightest knowledge of any of these languages, I'm just discussing the way they sound. (By the way, I've always been of the opinion that it is certainly both easier and more fun to issue pompous pronouncements on something that you don't know much about than on something you know well.)


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