Mi Vida en Sevilla continues, only this time in Madrid! You can read of my continued adventures in Spain and in Europe on my new blog: Oregonian Overseas: http://oregonianoverseas.com/
Well, with 10 months, 5 countries, 12 classes, 5,913 photos and 31 blog posts now behind me, I have to say goodbye to Sevilla for a little while. This has undoubtably been the best (not to mention the fastest) year of my life and it was worth every penny and the fact that I’ll graduate a semester later than the rest of my class.
Studying abroad has been a goal of mine ever since my parents gave me the travel bug at a young age and hearing stories of other students’ adventures outside the US. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity and know that any future advice I may give to potential study abroad students will be biased, since every situation here has been perfect from my host mom to my classes. It’s scary thinking I’ll be out of school soon, but just like Spain is entering a new chapter of their history with this morning’s newly crowned King Felipe VI, I will be starting a new chapter as well.
As a closing for this blog, that I almost never started, I’ll just list a few of the things I’ve learned and will miss once I’m back in my other home.
Things I’ve learned:
*You don’t need a lot to be happy.
*The best souvenirs are photos (and memories, of course).
*If you step outside your comfort zone, in any sense of the word, you will thank yourself later.
*The world needs to adopt the concept of tapas.
*Try new foods because you may end up loving them…except never eat huevas de atún. Seriously, don’t.
*With a positive attitude and an open mind, your experience will be that more special and unpredictable.
*If you are a student, take advantage of museum discounts/free entries.
*Tinto de verano con naranja is better than with limón.
*You don’t actually realize how big the US is until you’ve lived outside of it.
*You CAN survive a whole year with one suitcase of clothing.
A few of the innumerable things I’ll miss:
*Hearing people cheer in the street/from other apartments when Sevilla scores a goal
*Watching my host mom make mantones in the living room
*My long walk to class and the CIEE center
*Hearing random musical selections like Pirates of the Caribbean in the background of tv programs and news
*Being surrounded by history
*Seeing the Torre del Oro and Calle Betis while crossing the Guadalquivir
*Hearing my host mom ask me daily, “No quieres más??” at the end of meals and “Tranquilaaa”
*Drinking café con leche out of my chipped lemon coffee cup every morning
*Consistent warm sunshine
*The beautiful Plaza de España
*Sunsets from my window
*Seeing 80 year old women wheel their grocery bag/carts
*Saying “vale” instead of “okay”
-Cómo te llamas?- (What is your name?)
(this is the point where I give up)
-AH! Como HEElary Clinton!
Despite the difficulties saying goodbye and preparing myself for reverse culture shock, I’m really excited to see my family after 6 whole months and to show Javi part of my country! So with that, I will NOT say “adios” but simply “hasta luego!” With two Spanish “besitos” of course. 🙂
One of the many perks of being a CIEE student is having the opportunity to volunteer with the community. For me, volunteering was one of the biggest steps outside my comfort zone. At Elon, I briefly volunteered in ESL classes with native Spanish speakers from Burlington and helped babysit their children, but when you are in a Spanish-speaking country, volunteering can seem intimidating.
During my first semester, I helped out a couple times a week at El Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío with sick children. Our main job was to distract the kids from their current health issues by playing games, solving puzzles, painting and making rounds to different patient rooms distributing coloring pages and crayons if they were physically unable to walk to the kids’ room. At Christmas time, one of the other volunteers and I made a paper Christmas countdown chain like we used to do in elementary school. We also had an ornament/tree decorating day with the kids to make the room a little more festive (thank you to my friend Maria for these pictures).
Due to my class schedule second semester, I couldn’t continue at the hospital but I am now helping out with an organization called ALEF; my friend Laura and I go in three days a week to help elementary school kids with their homework, including English. One of the biggest challenges I’ve run into helping the kids is their British influenced studies. Just the other day I was helping a little boy study for his English test and one of his vocabulary words was ‘lorry’. Thank goodness there were photos in his workbook because I quickly learned it meant ‘truck’.
Another challenge working with kids is trying to understand their high, squeaky voices. Many kids tend to talk quickly as well, so those two factors can sometimes lead to moments of confusion. Fortunately, when learning Spanish, being around kids is a great way to learn the commands such as ‘¡damelo!’ and ‘¡mira!’ as well as basic vocabulary you thought you’d never forget.
Laura and I have introduced some of the kids to “Hangman” and other little games when the kids are finished with homework such as paper fortune tellers, “I spy” and origami. I would highly recommend volunteering to any future CIEE student! It’s a rewarding experience.
Just when I thought I had seen everything Sevilla had to offer as far as celebrations go, I’ve now experienced two more!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Canonical Coronation of La Virgen de la Esperanza Macarena. The previous one was held in 1964 and even attended by dictator Francisco Franco. In English, the famous Virgen de la Esperanza Macarena is The Virgen of Hope of Macarena and is incredibly important to many Sevillanos. La Virgen is a beautiful wooden statue complete with intricate cloth, a gold crown and glass teardrops running down her cheeks. Scattered on the top of her dress are five emerald brooches given to her by the legendary 20th century bullfighter José Gómez Ortega and has historically only worn black for his untimely death in 1920.
Another interesting fact is after a drunkard threw a bottle at her face during a Semana Santa procession, the resulting bruise-like mark on her right cheek is said to have continued to reappear after several restoration attempts. After the man realized his grave offense, he repented by wearing chains and carrying a cross in front of La Virgen. Supposedly his descendants continue to do this today.The coronation was held in my favorite place in Sevilla: La Plaza de España. I didn’t get to see the paso that was held in the Plaza during Semana Santa, so I was happy to have an opportunity to witness a similar ceremony. My friend Laura and I headed over in the morning to an absolutely packed Plaza. The central part was blocked off, I’m assuming to members of the Hermandad de la Macarena or simply after a certain number of people to try to maintain order. We squeezed through crowds of other locals and confused tourists until we got a few decent angles of the misa or mass with La Virgen as the focal point with a live choir. Television cameras lined the sides so people at home, like my host mom, could also enjoy the ceremony away from the intense sun.
Yesterday, Laura and I got up early to see El Rocio which is an annual pilgrimage to Rocio in the Huelva province to honor La Virgen del Rocio. Men, women (dressed in another style of trajes de flamenca different to that of La Feria) and children travel by covered wagons pulled by oxen and on horseback. As an Oregonian, all I could think about while seeing an authentic covered wagon was the Oregon Trail game we all played in elementary school. Luckily for the people here, their journey only lasts up to four days on a 150 km trail instead of a 3,400 km trek that took many months or longer. Along the journey people will stop to sing, dance, share meals and celebrate until they return next week. It was worth getting up early for this unique experience!
And still the excitement will continue! Even though my depressingly close departure date rapidly approaches, another historic event will take place as King Juan Carlos has declared he will abdicate his throne after 39 years. Prince Felipe will take over on the 18th.
After many years of anticipation, I have now experienced the famous La Feria de Sevilla. La Feria (the fair) is usually celebrated in April (aka La Feria de Abril) but this year for about the third time in Sevilla’s history, it landed in May. La Feria normally occurs two weeks after Semana Santa so this year it was late. Originally, La Feria was a livestock fair but over the years evolved into one of the world’s most popular celebrations. Many consider La Feria the epitome of the Sevillano image: an impressive mix of bright colors, loud music and singing, HOT sunshine and families coming together to dance, socialize and of course, drink.
La Feria takes place in the district of Los Remedios, right next to where I live in Triana. Fortunately, it was only about a 15 minute walk from my house. It’s a struggle to find parking spaces during La Feria, so metros, buses and taxis are consistently full for this 7 day, 24 hour party. This is the impressive portada, or official entrance to La Feria. There is a new design each year but my host mom told me this year’s was especially beautiful:
And a night view:
La Feria has two parts: the section with all the colorful casetas and the amusement park on Calle de Infierno (Hell Street). The casetas are temporary canvas tents and are either private or public. The private casetas can be owned by a family, an organization a club etc. and are very expensive considering the one week time period. It is 1,000 euros ($1,369) just to have a spot in La Feria and on top of that you have to consider the price of the waiters, electricity, food etc. Each has a kitchen, a bar and of course a means of playing the traditional music/dance, Sevillana. You wouldn’t think you were inside a tent looking into a lot of the casetas as they are ornately decorated.
Looking at Calle de Infierno
One of the public casetas
Each of the streets of La Feria are named after famous toreros. Bullfights also start up again during La Feria.
Street view, day vs night:
La Feria is a perfect excuse to go all out dressing up and everyone looks like a million bucks. The women wear trajes de flamenca and the men wear suits. The men on horseback or driving the carriages wear a traje corto with a wide-brimmed hat. If you don’t have a traje de flamenca, any nice dress will do and you will probably be a lot cooler as well. Las trajes surprisingly weigh A LOT with layers upon layers of cloth and are very expensive, ranging from 50-350 euros or more. I was really lucky to have a couple different options of trajes to use during La Feria. I wore a red one belonging to Javi’s mom’s friend’s daughter and everyone told me it fit perfectly even though I could hardly sit down and taking a deep breath was not an option as the bodice felt like a corset! The accessories with a traje de flamenca are just as important as the dress itself. The women wear a giant flower on their head (on top or behind the ear) along with pendientes (earrings), a necklace (collar), a comb (peine) and a bracelet (pulsera) depending on their preference. Most of the women also wear wedge heels which are more comfortable to walk in than traditional heels. Absolutely no two women look alike with their various choices and it was so exciting to admire all the different combinations.
Many of the dresses have little zippered pockets underneath the skirt for keys, phones, money etc. so the women don’t need to carry around a purse:
Another accessory women wear are colorful shawls or mantones. My host mom makes them by hand so for weeks prior to La Feria, the phone was ringing off the hook with new commissions. She has to sew each strand into the cloth and then knots the strands into different patterns called a dibujo. She is a perfectionist, so the quality of her mantones are top notch.
The first night of La Feria (monday) is when they first light the portada at midnight which is shown on local news channels. It is also known as La noche de pescaditos where people eat fried fish. My lovely cousins came to visit me from Amsterdam and we all watched the portada together. We went Tuesday and Wednesday night as well after exploring the city by day. Tuesday night we tried our first rebujito: the drink of La Feria. It is a mixture of sherry and 7-Up which is incredibly refreshing after a hot day. We watched some girls dance Sevillana and Lena and Emma tried some churros on Calle de Infierno.
The styles of the trajes de flamenca vary year to year. My host mom said they tried to make the shorter dresses popular, but with little success. I personally like the traditional long dresses, I think they are more elegant.
We went the second night with a group of Javi’s friends and learned how to dance Sevillanas! We had an absolute blast but our feet had had quite enough after that!
On Friday I walked around the grounds with my friend Laura to see what La Feria was like during the day. The daytime is more popular for families while young people arrive in the evening and stay out most of the night. Daytime Feria has los paseos de caballos and adorable little kids all dressed up. On Sunday Laura and I walked to the bridge to see the fireworks ending the exciting week!
Last weekend a large group of us woke up really early and drove to Sierra de Cádiz (a province of Cádiz) for a canyoning trip in Olvera. I had never heard of canyoning (barranquismo) before being invited, but it sounded adventurous so I definitely wanted to be counted in! Barranquismo is basically a mixture of hiking, climbing, jumping, rappelling (the best part), swimming and everything in-between. We did this through a program called Adventour.
We wore wetsuits, jackets and socks made of the same material along with helmets and harnesses. You were required to bring your own sneakers for the day and we had to hike about 40 minutes with our gear to get to the first jumping site. After we set off, the adventure lasted about 4 or 5 hours although it seemed like 1 because it was an absolute blast! My arms were sore the next day, but it was worth suffering the freezing cold water. Olvera is a beautiful area of Spain and I’m so excited that I got to try something new! (The pictures are a compilation from Adventour, my camera and some from my friends’)
All suited up!
Almost to the first jumping site. It was hotttt…
Natural rock slide in the background!
We had two opportunities to rappel. It was my favorite part.
The group at the end
Afterwards, we ate a much-needed lunch and returned to Sevilla exhausted but happy!
Two weeks ago I experienced the famous Sevillan Semana Santa or Holy Week. Bigger than Christmas, Semana Santa is one of the most important traditions for the majority of sevillanos. Although Holy Week is celebrated in other regions of Spain (mainly the southern part) and Europe, Sevilla’s Semana Santa is said to be the most famous in the world.
Since there was no school for students, most of the CIEE students utilized Semana Santa as a spring break to galavant around Europe. My already drained wallet kept me in the city, but I wouldn’t have traded my new experiences for anything. Not all sevillanos enjoy the craziness Semana Santa brings, so they may take advantage of the time visiting other nearby cities or soaking up some sun on the beach.
I knew Semana Santa was important to Sevilla back in high school and I had seen numerous pictures, but nothing of course can compare to the real thing. The city is totally transformed as major roads are blocked off and the population seems to triple overnight. Businesses, especially restaurants and bars have extended hours and higher rates and little kiosks with churros, nuts and cotton candy seem to pop out of nowhere.
During this week, church brotherhoods from all over the city celebrate by displaying a large paso (or float) through the streets. Each paso portrays a part of the Easter story as well as many versions of la Virgen weeping for her son. Some pictures will help me describe my experience! CIEE posted this cool video of excerpts from Semana Santa.
To help people find or be prepared for a particular paso, little guide books are available before the first day. I went into Más to buy some shampoo after school one day and the clerk threw one in my bag on my way out. The pasos are not hard to find during the week, but having a schedule turned out to be extremely useful. They show you which pasos will be displayed on that particular day as well as what time they start and what street they will be on every half hour. This was the very first paso I saw on a narrow street in the city center. We were uncomfortably packed together and I still remember police coming through to push people back (literally) out of the way of the paso. If you are claustrophobic, Semana Santa is something you probably don’t want to witness up close and personal.
Thanks to Javi and his family, the second day I had the privilege of seeing two pasos from the balcony of their family member’s apartment a couple streets away from my house in Triana. They had three different balconies on two different levels so I got some great shots! This was the street before the crowd:
Whenever a paso exits or enters its church, the National Anthem is played. Some pasos have music accompaniment but others are silent. When the paso is close, the whole crowd will “shhhh!” everyone as a sign of respect. Often times when you see the paso at the end of the street, it will still be about 30-40 minutes before it will actually pass in front of you.
Perhaps the strangest part of Semana Santa for me and I imagine other American students are the nazarenos. These members of the church, children or adults, wear tunics and capirotes (the large cone-shaped hats) which appear similar to the clothing members of the KKK wore. However, nazarenos have a completely opposite connotation as each of them symbolize Christ and the outfits are used to hide their identity. I can’t imagine walking around for 6, 7, 8+ hours in one of these hooded outfits as it traps in the heat of the day. I even saw one nazareno with foggy glasses as the sun beat down. I saw many of them holding the front of their hood to adjust their vision as they only have two small holes from which to see out. The colors of their clothes vary depending on the brotherhood and they usually walk in two or three rows holding cirios (candles). There can be anywhere from hundreds of nazarenos to over 3,000 in one brotherhood! The nazarenos also pass out candy which is a huge draw to child onlookers, as well as little cards with a pictures of Christ or their version of the Virgen. The paso itself is probably the most impressive part to me due to its size and how it is presented. The pasos are not transported on wheels like our floats for the 4th of July; they are carried by men called costaleros. Costaleros prepare for Semana Santa months in advance walking in unison carrying the structure. This group of men numbering anywhere from 20+ people are very strong and practice is essential as the paso can weigh as much as a car. They wear a faja wrapped tightly around their middle for back support and a costal which looks a bit like a turban. The costal is a strong piece of rolled-up cloth forming a small platform for the base of the neck where the bottom of the wooden structure rests. You can see how they prepare both in this video! Many costaleros will experience health problems due to the immense amount of weight bearing on their necks. I saw groups of costaleros practicing at night through the streets before Semana Santa but unfortunately I always saw them without my camera, so here is a Google image of how they look underneath the paso:
When the costaleros are actually participating in Semana Santa, they have a guide or a capataz directing them through the streets. When the paso stops for the costaleros to rest, they know to stand up again when the capataz uses a type of knocker called a llamador. After three knocks, the costaleros jump up in unison and the crowd claps. The figures on the paso always look like they are going to fall off after the costaleros jump up, but they are designed to endure this type of transportation.
You can only see the feet of the costaleros during the actual procession: There are also people carrying and distributing water to the costaleros while they are resting:A dramatic saeta is normally sung by someone on a balcony, but this particular paso had a woman singing in front. The costaleros get to rest during this and the crowd is silent.
A penitente looks similar to a nazareno but they do not wear capirotes. They repent their sins by carrying crosses unlike the nazarenos who carry cirios.
The epitome of Holy Week is Madrugá (the wee hours of Friday morning). We ate “early” around 9 and the next round of pasos began at midnight. Madrugá has a number of pasos including El Silencio, Gran Poder, Los Gitanos and two of the most famous, La Macarena and Esperanza de Triana. Madrugá is when the women wear all black and mantillas on their heads. I didn’t get a picture so here is an internet example:
As you can see by the lighting changes, we ran around all night watching pasos until 9am! Needless to say everyone’s feet were dying by the end. I don’t know what time Marta took the picture of me with the Roman soldier, but it was probably around 5:30? 6am? The last picture is an example of what Sevilla’s streets looked like for a couple of days with all the wax drippings on the asphalt. Semana Santa was definitely a highlight event in my experience here in Sevilla. La Feria is right around the corner!
On Friday, Javi and I drove to one of the most geographically interesting places I’ve ever visited: Ronda. Ronda is one of Spain’s largest pueblos blancos (white hill towns) with 40,000 inhabitants; located in the province of Málaga, about an hour and a half southeast of Sevilla. You can easily visit all of Ronda in a few hours, but the weather was perfect and we took our time wandering the streets and admiring the gorgeous views of the landscape from the top of the cliffs. Ronda is home to one of Spain’s most important and oldest bullrings. Modern bullfighting developed in Ronda with the help of Francisco Romero who developed the rules in the 1700s and introduced the famous scarlet cape to this bloody sport. His grandson, Pedro, became one of the original great matadors killing around 6,000 bulls in his career.
It is springtime in Spain, meaning flowers everywhere are blooming and giving off irresistible natural perfumes. The orange trees are blooming right now in Sevilla and in Ronda we came across many different flowers including beautiful cherry tree blossoms! If you Google-image Ronda, one of the most popular results is the Puente Nuevo, or the New Bridge. Tourist shops are full of postcards with this bridge which divides La Ciudad (the old Moorish town) and El Mercadillo (the new town). The bridge crosses over the ravine, El Tajo, and the drop is 360 ft! It has a very Lord of the Rings look to it for it seems to simply extend out of the cliffs. However, Peter Jackson did not in fact construct this bridge as it was built in 1485 after the Christian reconquest.
One of my favorite stops was the Casa del Rey Moro, even though a king never lived here. The garden was designed by a French landscape architect in 1912 and you had the option to walk down a series of slippery dark stairs equivalent to a 20-story building to the floor of a gorge. It was designed to access water when the Moors were under seige in the 14th century. The view was worth the exhausting climb back up the 280 stairs!
Other stops we made along the way were the Mondragón Palace (Palacio de Mondragón) with a neat museum of geology and prehistory exhibits and el Museo de Bandolero (bandit museum). We also entered one of Ronda’s churches to admire one of the intricate floats that will be used during Semana Santa (which starts this week!). Like Sevilla, Semana Santa is very important to the residents of Ronda.
It was a beautiful day!
This weekend I visited the stunning city of Palma de Mallorca! Each semester, CIEE students have what’s called an interest group varying in themes and activities with a specific trip at the end. Last semester, I traveled with my interest group to Morocco and this semester my interest group’s theme was “Paisajes del Mediterráneo” with a trip to Mallorca. Our flight was only about an hour and a half from Sevilla.
Palma de Mallorca (on the island of Mallorca or Majorca) is the capital of the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean. The city has a long history of rulers and conquests and today flourishes as a popular tourist destination. The people of Mallorca speak Spanish, but they also have their own dialect, Mallorquín. It was interesting to hear our guide and the locals speak Spanish without the thick Andalusian accent.
I’ve never seen a city like Palma before. It was as if multiple cities were all rolled into one as different areas of the city looked like Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla and Los Angeles. Palma has a lot of Catalan influence in a number of forms such as the language and the architecture. Many buildings looked like they were uprooted from Barcelona to add some visual flavor to various street corners. You can see in some of the pictures below how Gaudi-esque they look.
We had a walking tour of the city on Friday afternoon when we arrived to explore sites such as La Catedral, la Plaza mayor, el Ayuntamiento, la Lonja and la Plaza de Cort. A couple of my friends and I found a cute little restaurant during free time/dinner time which looked like the inside of someone’s house! The food was great and our waiter gave us free limoncello shots before getting lost on the way back to our hotel.
We woke up early Saturday morning for a very full day! Our first attraction was the Cuevas del Drach (caves) which are some of the most visited in Europe. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited two other caves in my adventures abroad and there really aren’t any two alike. Our guide explained that the stalagmites grow 1cm every 100 years from the slow ceiling drips. That fact alone proves how incredibly old and delicate the stalactites and stalagmites are; it was like walking through a beautiful underground palace. Towards the end of our cave exploration, we were all seated for a concert! They turned off all of the lights before three boats decorated with white lights quietly drifted around a corner playing live classical music. It was an unbelievable experience. Fortunately, we were allowed to take photos (without flash) inside the caves~normally this is prohibited. Photos or videos weren’t permitted during the concert, but I found a video on Youtube if anyone would like to see (the concert starts at 3:00): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fDKMpdeV4M After the concert, we had the option to cross el lago Martel (Lake Martel) in boats or walk back. Of course I took the boat!
Before lunch, our group visited el Parque Natural de Mondragó: one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. The park has a rich variety of plant life, canyons, beaches, oak forests and is home to 60 different species of birds. Part of the park used to be submerged in water which is why you can find fossils and shell formations in the rocks along the path. Many breathtaking moments occurred in this park!
Our last visit of the day was el Palacio de la Almudaina, located right next to the Cathedral. Photos were not permitted inside the palace, but the rooms had replicas of old furniture, wall tapestries, enormous fire places and paintings of past kings and queens. The palace was originally an Arab fortress, but in the 14th century became the official Majorcan residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Even today, King Juan Carlos I uses the Almudaina Palace as his official office for state functions and ceremonies during the royal family’s annual summer holiday. We had free time for the rest of the afternoon so my friends Beth, Alex and I went shopping around the city. Before venturing off towards the city center however, I as usual was intrigued by the local street artists and bought my name in colorful flora and fauna designs. Mallorca is famous for pearls and they were the one souvenir I wanted to purchase to remember our trip. Of course the pearls I bought were “perlas cultivadas” (farmed pearls), but I found a beautiful necklace, earring, bracelet set with unique blue tints that I hadn’t seen in any of the other stores. Each of us found exactly what we were looking for before the shops closed “early” around 8/8:30. We were dead tired after a day of walking, so we headed back to the hotel early after a tapas dinner of huevos rotos.
Last, but certainly not least we visited the Castillo de Bellver on Sunday morning. This particular 14th-century royal fortress is unique among Spanish castles as it has an entirely round formation. The moats of this castle also used to be home to crocodiles! The lower level has a museum and a courtyard while the upper level has an incredible view of the city, the mountains and the glittering ocean. It was a wonderful ending to one of my favorite Spanish excursions. We flew home in the afternoon to a bustling Sevilla as the improved temperature brought everyone out of the house compared to last week’s spring rain. More to come soon!
Our group leader made this video of our trip! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bghbblU1uKA&feature=youtu.be
To add some diversity in my blog topics, I’m going to write about my current favorite class and one of my favorite college classes to date. Last semester, I took all of my classes at the CIEE center (“El Palacio”) mainly to ensure that all of my credits would transfer back to Elon. This semester I will be earning a surplus of Spanish credits since I am a year-student, so I have room to take more classes that interest/challenge me in both El Palacio and in La Universidad de Sevilla.
My classes are as follows:
- Traducción: Teoría y Práctica (Translation at CIEE)
- Salud Pública: Teoría y Práctica (Public Health: Theory and Practice at CIEE)
- El Islam en la España Musulmana (Islamic Culture and Art in Muslim Spain at CIEE)
- Traducción: Inglés a Español (Direct Enroll class at La Universidad de Sevilla meaning I am in a class with Spaniards)
- Lenguajes Audiovisuales (A Cursos para extranjeros class meaning a class for any foreign student at La Universidad)
I was most excited for Lenguajes Audiovisuales because it is a class focused on the processes of subtitling and dubbing for movies and television shows…which is sort of ironic because I really dislike dubbed movies (mainly because you cannot experience the movie with the original voices of the actors). I’ve seen a few dubbed movies since my arrival in Sevilla including Prometheus, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks and now Monuments Men. My host mom almost always watches dubbed American movies in the evenings and sometimes I can figure out which movie she’s watching from the next room based on the background music or certain excerpts of distinct dialogue such as, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” from The Help.
Our professor was born in the U.S. but moved to Spain when he was very young. He attended the University of Granada is now a professional translator among other things. He’s worked on a number of subtitling projects such as the television shows, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, The West Wing, Bones and bonus features for Star Wars. The university wanted to discontinue our class after the first day due to lack of interest; but after hearing an introduction like this, the four of us would not accept a cancellation so we spent the next few days recruiting people and managed to save it!
Our first few classes included a short history of the film industry, Franco and subtitling/dubbing rules and techniques. Our professor also explained we would be learning a great deal of colloquial Spanish that we don’t learn in traditional classes (another big draw to save the class). Spain has a few reasons for dubbing nearly all of their foreign films. The first reason is illiteracy. When films were first developing in the early 1900s, a large percentage of Spaniards were illiterate. For example, between 1920 and 1930, 25.29% of men and 40.57% of women could not read. The second big reason was dictator Francisco Franco. Franco controlled Spain from 1939 to 1975 and enforced a number of strict laws including one specifically for dubbing in 1941: El Ley del Doblaje. Strong censorship was included in this law. For instance, in the famous 1947 American classic Miracle on 34th Street, the Spanish dubbing changed the original dialogue from “My father and mother were divorced when I was a baby” to “My father died when I was a baby.” Why? In this case, divorce was strictly forbidden in Spain so there would be no trace of it during the film, no matter the changes it made to the story. Many years later, Spain is already accustomed to dubbed films which is why subtitled movies aren’t as common here as other European countries.
Fun Facts: Dubbing/Subtitling
- Often times the same dubbing actors will voice the same movie stars such as Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
- Dubbing a movie is much more expensive than subtitling as more people are involved: a translator, actors, editors…
- Subtitlers are paid for their creativity and thinking, not merely translating.
- The movement of the original actors’ mouths are taken into consideration for the dubbed script to synchronize them as best as possible. A dubbed script and a subtitled script may be slightly different from each other.
- Often times accents are lost in subtitles to maintain the message.
- Onomatopoeias vary between languages. For example, “woof” = “gua” and “ribbit” = “crock”. However, sounds such as “Ahh!” or “Ohh!” stay the same.
- Titles of movies differentiate to attract viewers. For example, The Sound of Music = Sonrisas y Lagrimas (Smiles and Tears…don’t ask me why) and Young Love = Jovenes Calentitas instead of a literal translation: Amor Joven.
- Since the translator/subtitler has access to the film or television show before anyone else, the quality of the recording is rather poor for copyright reasons. Often the translator will watch the program 2-3 times before finalizing the subtitles.
One of our first class exercises was to watch the short Tex Avery cartoon, Symphony in Slang (1951) to discuss the challenges translators face with idioms and slang from one language to another. The challenge with audiovisual language is the visual aspect. For example, one of the first lines in Symphony in Slang is “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.” Spanish has a phrase exactly equivalent to this, “Nací en cuna de oro” (instead of a silver spoon, it’s a golden cradle) but since the original film literally shows a silver spoon in the baby’s mouth, the translation doesn’t match up with the visual. Sometimes, cases like this are unavoidable. Other phrases in the short-film are lost in translation simply because they don’t exist in Spanish such as “I was all thumbs.”
If you aren’t bored to tears yet with this lengthy explanation of my class, there is still more!
The technical aspect of subtitling is a lot more complicated than I expected. Our class is working on half an episode of Scooby Doo and it’s like a puzzle figuring out how to adjust the translation. There are a number of rules you have to work around. For instance, for each subtitle there is a minimum of 1 second and a maximum of 6 seconds, you cannot have more than 2 lines on the screen at one time and each line cannot have more than 38 characters (letters, spaces, punctuation, etc). Here is an example segment from the script:
15. 01:02:26.19 01:02:30:06 3.12 70
Yeah, that’s the International Dog Show.
It’s going on all weekend.
3.12 = time on the screen. 3 is the number of seconds and 12 is the number of frames. 70 = the number of characters allowed (again, in 1-2 lines) for this sentence. So, a proper translation for this sentence would be:
15. 01:02:26.19 01:02:30:06 3.12 70
Sí, es la expo internacional canina. (36 characters)
Dura todo el fin de semana. (27 characters)
36+27 is 63 characters total which is less than 70 so it’s in the clear! If a line is too long when translated, that is when the creativity of the translator must kick in to decide what information is important enough to properly convey the meaning of the dialogue. On Thursday we were randomly assigned different films for homework. We have to transcribe 25 lines of the English dialogue, the Spanish dubbing and the Spanish subtitles. I received Basic Instinct for my film: the 1992 thriller with Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone.
I have a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into this pocket of the film industry. I think many people (including myself up until now) don’t realize the effort and time it takes to translate or dub a film. Even though you can’t translate every detail from the original film or TV program, it is still the responsibility of the translator to do their absolute best to maintain the original emotions and message as best as possible.
So with that said, as well as a little more of my enthusiasm out of my system, I will need to take a short siesta after dinner because it’s OSCAR NIGHT! Buenas noches!