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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Basqueness of Jon Rahm; on "Foreign" Accents
Created by John Eipper on 06/25/21 3:20 AM

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Basqueness of Jon Rahm; on "Foreign" Accents (Enrique Torner, USA, 06/25/21 3:20 am)

With this post I would like to respond to John Eipper's question about whether golfer Jon Rahm speaks Basque or not, as well as address the subject of speaking a second language with an accent.

Let's start with Jon Rahm's question: I have not found any website regarding Jon speaking Basque or not, though my research was not vast by any means. However, I venture to guess that he was schooled in Basque because of his age. If the Basque country acted as Catalonia did after Franco's death and the arrival of the democracy, children who were schooled in the bilingual autonomies at this period and afterwards learned all the subject matters (except for Castilian) in the language of their respective autonomies (Catalan, Galician, and Basque or Euskera). This was the case of all of my nephews and niece, who, raised in Catalonia during the post-Franco democracy, learned all subjects but Castilian (and English) in Catalan, being the first in our family to overcome illiteracy in Catalan, the language we all spoke at home but could not write properly. I still remember the first letter in Catalan I received from one of my nephews! Whenever we wrote to each other, we did it in Castilian because we can't write properly in Catalan. I remember having a class on Catalan at the end of high school, a couple of years after Franco's death: that was the only class on Catalan I had in high school, not enough to learn how to write it properly at all.

In contrast, I started learning English when I was 7 years old. I had English classes ever since, so my written English was always better than my written Catalan, though that was the language I spoke with family and friends. This leads me to the topic brought up by Leo Goldberger: speaking a second language with an accent. Being a philologist and a language lover, this comes very close to home.

As John Eipper said, the age at one learns the second language plays a big role, and puberty is said to be the critical cutting age for learning a second language best. Accent is especially what suffers the most if one does not learn the second language before puberty (some say it's age 10). I have been in this country for over 30 years, and most people say I have a slight Spanish accent. I think that living in a country where they speak the target language helps diminish the "foreign" accent, more or less depending on one's ability to learn the language.

To be honest, I think speaking another language with an accent is no big deal at all unless it interferes with communication. As a matter of fact, I love accents, some more than others. I think that accentuates people's identities. I hate it when people discriminate somebody because of an accent: that should never happen! So, unless understanding becomes an issue, I advocate for keeping your native accent when speaking another language.

P.S. While I was writing this, I noticed David Duggan's post on my previous post on Rahm. He corrected me on one mistake I had made: Jon Rahm won by only one stroke. I had realized my mistake before his post, but then forgot about it! Thank you, David, for correcting me, and for your great commentary on the US Open! As I said, I was not able to watch it on television, so I had to go by website sources alone, so I couldn't offer the commentary you so well provided.

JE comments:  Enrique, from one educator to another:  your English prose gets a solid "A"!  Congratulations to your teachers back in Barcelona. 

You make an offhanded remark above that you love some accents more than others.  We WAISers are enlightened and worldly, but I'd venture to say this observation applies to us all.  Why do some "foreign" accents sound sophisticated and/or seductively exotic, while others are just, well, irritating?  Note that I do not identify any of these accents by name, as that wouldn't be nice.  I will say, however, that the local Great Lakes dialect (not exactly "foreign," but definitely distinctive) grates on this listener's ears.  This young YouTuber explains:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqhy2ejuGLU


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  • Famous Accents: Victor Borge, Henry Kissinger...and a Mercedes (Leo Goldberger, USA 06/25/21 1:30 PM)
    I'd hasten to say that I by no means feel critical of anyone with any sort of accent.  It is just that I am curious about its persistence--despite the age--in many people. For example, I myself, eager to assimilate as quickly as possible, have none. Of course then there are those, like my old friend Victor Borge, who deliberately kept his accent to enhance his show business appeal--though quite able to drop the accent as well.  I am likewise able to adopt a pronounced Danish one--while dropping any hint of English when visiting my home country.

    But as to some embarrassing errors in my recent posting. I was wrong about the Porsche; it was actually a 1938 Mercedes that Kissinger confiscated from a Nazi. My source was Kissinger:  a Biography by Marvin and Bernard Kalb (Little Brown & Co., 1974). While their book was a Book of the Month selection, it was cited as too fawning--yet in my view it is superior in providing all sorts of details about Kissinger's earliest personality and early years and educational progress in the USA (in the initial chapter, "The Greening of a Greenhorn"). In rereading that chapter I was refreshed on a variety of facts I had forgotten, such as his encounter with Fritz Kraemer (then himself only a Private) and his own eventual promotion to Sergeant and then Captain--while he even served some months in the Bergrasse district, Hitler's famous turf.


    JE comments:  The Mercedes fits the chronology--and it was a fancier ride than an early Porsche, which was very spartan.  I wonder about the logistics and legality of a GI "confiscating" a vehicle in Occupied Germany.


    Another random reflection:  the Kalb Kissinger bio was published forty-seven years ago.  Ol' Henry has lived another half of his life since then.

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