Nick Clegg’s Spanish

Includes several therapeutic tongue-twisters.

Having recently won the heart of the outspokenly Germanophile foreign minister of Spain’s would-be national nemesis with his Tedescan, Clegg was here last week brokering that Cameron/Zapatero buddy-shot, with presumably some bank stress test business thrown in quid pro quo for the Brits. (Someone mutters that the notion of publishing the tests must have come from London or Ordóñez. It sure as hell wasn’t Zap, not in six lifetimes.)

I never watch telly, but his was the first extended interview in Spanish of a foreign, non-native-Spanish-speaking leader I can recall (I think Joe Biden speaks good Spanish, but afaik little was made of the fact during his recent visit):

RTVE, the state broadcaster, gives him an easy ride and he doesn’t stray beyond platitudes, but it’s still very professional and an invaluable antidote to the neo-Franquista racial theorising from the Zapatero bunker re scheming Anglo-Saxons dedicated to the destruction of God’s Own Country.

He struggles occasionally with gender and pronunciation, but I think the only problem worth highlighting is his difficulty with the letter R, which is often fluently dropped (poblema, poteger) or sometimes causes him to stumble quite severely. His wife is well-spoken and from Valladolid, where historical L/R issues due to Galician settlers have been long overcome, so it can’t be blamed on the in-laws. He does fine in Dutch, and it would be interesting to hear how he copes with the German R, which presents quite different challenges.

Rhotacism is pretty common in Spanish infants, who once they get to school may receive therapy to prevent them succumbing to embarrassment. That’s admittedly not a major professional risk for politicians, but for all I know Clegg jets around the world muttering “Tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal.”

Here‘s a property boom remix of another logopedist’s favourite:

El suelo está enladrillado,
quién lo desenladrillará.
El desenladrillador que lo desenladrille,
buen desenladrillador será.

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  1. – Someone mutters that the notion of publishing the tests must have come from London or Ordóñez. It sure as hell wasn’t Zap –

    Botín, sezme.

  2. What are you talking about? The R in “problema” is not supposed to be dropped in any non-rhotic accent, in fact I didn’t notice him dropping any R at all. He does appear to have some trouble with the /s/ /θ/ split, though.

  3. He does quite well, but has problems with the “r” in consonant clusters:
    “inf’astructura”, “con’t’uir”, “cont’ibuir”…

    But he gets the “r” mostly right at the start and end of words.

    Also a few errors of subjunctive and fossilized mistakes in words that are the same in French (a language he almost certainly learned first):

    “difiCIL”, “opsiones”…

    This is probably what Primo is noticing when he talks about mistakes in the /s/ /θ/ split.

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