Jun 242011

Over on the east coast (where I’m based) it’s easy to forget that Spanish is the second most used language in the United States. According to Wikipedia it’s spoken at home by more than 35.5 million people aged 5 or older.

So I was tickled by this video of Tom Hanks delivering the weather forecast on a Spanish TV channel. Lots of ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) features are evident here:

  • if you don’t understand, keep smiling and hope you’ll catch on later ( ‘letting it pass’ is the term coined by Alan Firth – see more on that here)
  • people will speak slowly to accommodate (It’s just good manners. Ettiquette may vary in all sorts of ways across cultures but it’s the human condition to want to help)
  • on a similar point – look at all the code switching that’s going on here. Hey Tom, we don’t care if you answer us in whatever language you can cope with and think is going to be most comprehensible and express your thoughts best. We’ll adapt.
  • a lot of shared understanding transcends language and derives from modern culture (e.g. we all know that newscasters performing in front of a greenscreen can’t actually see what region on a map they are pointing to)

Hope you enjoyed it too. If so, let me know with a thumbs up or comment. I’d love to know what mainland Spanish speakers might think of this too.


 Posted by at 4:43 am

  4 Responses to “Tom Hanks and ELF”

  1. Well, it depends on what part of the east coast, of course. About 70% of the people in my neighborhood of New York City speak Spanish.

    Also, I think the total number is more than thirty-five and a half!

  2. I am so lucky to have you checking this stuff, John.

    Folks I originally wrote 35.5 people when I should have written meant to say 35.5 MILLION wrote . I’m going to change the text now so I don’t confuse.

    Thanks John!

  3. Actually, weathermen are able to see where they are pointing by watching themselves on screens to the side and on the teleprompter. Even when they point at the map behind them, they are actually looking off to the side.

  4. Having been born and raised in a part of the US that is a former Spanish colony (the Southwest), I grew up well versed in Spanglish. We constantly code switch between English and Spanish- and use whatever word comes to mind first. This interaction seemed fairly normal to me.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.