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Much of the time when I read newspapers in Spanish I see very long sentences and the correct meaning seems beyond my ability to understand / interpret them. How would an expert translate the following for example? Because I can't. Gracias.

No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

  • Posted Jul 23, 2009
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Much of the time when I read newspapers in Spanish I see very long sentences and the correct meaning seems beyond my ability to understand / interpret them. How would an expert translate the following for example? Because I can't. Gracias.

No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

Ian, many Spanish newspapers are written in a very deliberately complex style, using long sentences, many subordinates, and unusual word choices whenever possible. It is a very artificial language, if you ask me.

Your paragraph is particularly twisted, hard to read, and in my opinion, badly written from a literary point of view (that's how I see it, of course). I had to read it several times to see its internal structure and logic, and I still haven't found it. It is either a mess, the punctuation is wrong and confusing, or I can't read properly. I think I understand the main idea, but I can't even connect the phrases in a coherent way. If I had to teach syntax, I'd give this "sentence" as challenge for students to analyse.

1 Vote

No es posible comulgar, en lo más mínimo, con una izquierda neofascista, retrógrada, pero, tampoco un mínimo de aceptación, frente al accionar de una derecha, si es que todavía puede llamarse así, a los movimientos cívicos y extremistas, amarrados a la lógica del latifundio, como ocurre en algunas regiones del país.

I think the length of the sentence is only part of the problem. Without a good understanding of Latin American culture and politics the meaning of some words may elude you. In particular:

comulgar = literally it means to take communion in the Catholic mass, but it is often used to mean "to share ideals" or sharing something of a philosophical nature.

izquierda = left-wing politicians; in Latin America this usually means "communists".

retrógrada = backward-thinking; attached to political ideas that are out of fashion.

derecha = right-wing politicians; in Latin America this always means the rich and powerful who fight hard to preserve the status quo from which they are the only beneficiaries.

latifundio = literally this word means "a huge amount of land owned by a single family". It represents one of the basic problems in Latin America: the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a very small minority.

See if you can make sense of the sentence now. If not, here is a loose translation:

It is not possible to agree in the least with neofascist, backward-thinking leftists. However, neither is it possible to partially accept them, even considering the attacks, if they can be so called, against the civic and extremist movements by the Conservatives, who are tied to the logic of the concentration of land in the hands of a few. These attacks by the Conservatives have occurred in some regions of the country.

I have no problem with the sentence at all, this is the common writing style in the more "sophisticated" newspapers and magazines in Brazil. (even though we don't speak Spanish, we share the same flair for sophisticated language; very much like the British, I suppose)

1 Vote

Thank you Lazarus and Heitor for responding - much appreciated.
I often see these very long sentences here in Bolivia. Even if a native speaker of English tried to do something similar in English the sentence would become unintelligible or at least ambiguous.
Heitor, it is interesting to see that your English interpretation is in 3 sentences and even then the middle one is unusually long. I did get the general idea of the original Spanish but could never have written or said it even with all the time in the world. I have checked what I wrote and it is exactly as written in the newspaper.

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I often see these very long sentences here in Bolivia. Even if a native speaker of English tried to do something similar in English the sentence would become unintelligible or at least ambiguous.

So what do you think of this sentence, from Pride and Prejudice:

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week"

It does take more concentration to get the full meaning, but to me it's clear, unambiguous, and a perfect example of how English is not intrinsically limited as a language.

Heitor, it is interesting to see that your English interpretation is in 3 sentences and even then the middle one is unusually long.

Well, English is a lot more "simplistic" than Spanish or Portuguese. Most writing is done in a piecemeal manner so that it is easy to digest. I don't particularly like the obsession with practicality that is a hallmark of Anglo-Saxon culture, but I recognize that is just a matter of taste (and, possibly, upbringing).

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So what do you think of this sentence, from Pride and Prejudice:

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week"

I think it is a lot more simple, clear, and logically constructed than the Spanish sentence. I didn't have any problem following it at all. To me, it is not the length of the sentence that makes it hard to follow, but the construction and the path of logic.

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Pride and Prejudice was written some while ago and it was written by one of our most respected authors, in a novel that was intended to be read at a leisurely pace and not in a newspaper.

I was just trying to show that long sentences are perfectly possible in English, and that whether they should be used or avoided is a matter of personal preference rather than some limitation of the language.

It is not impossible to write long sentences in English. For me however, a learner of Spanish, it seems that Spanish writers take a delight in writing long sentences

For me, as a foreign speaker of English, it seems that English writers do not take delight in their language at all. Which, from my cultural background, I find rather strange.

I believe that our most famous writer, Shakespeare, used as few words as possible in most cases, resulting in elegance rather than practicality, but that was also a long time ago.

Well, that is sort of the point I was trying to make, although I was not explicit. I don't know about Spain and Portugal, but to me it is a fact that Latin American culture is between one and two hundred years behind the modern world. We still believe that things like beauty and elegance are more important than efficiency, speed, sometimes even accuracy.

Are we Anglo-Saxons now so practical (unromantic)?

That question begets an entire new discussion, but in any case as far as language is concerned, I would say that contemporary English writing is strangely devoid of beauty, imagination, flourish, things that add flavour to writing. Any newspaper, magazine, or book originally written in English appears to have been written with the specific purpose of making money, and that requires targeting the largest possible audience.

Contrast that with the greatest writer of our time, who happens to be Colombian. I recently watched an interview with Gabriel García Márquez in which he talks about the huge success of "Cien años de soledad", and how he felt intimidated to write another book because he knew his audience was expecting more of the same. He didn't think it honest to do that and wrote his next book in a completely different style. ("El otoño del patriarca")

Had García Márquez been born somewhere else, he would have followed up with "Doscientos años de soledad", then "Trescientos ...", and only stop until he couldn't make any more money out of it.

(for anyone interested, here is the link to García Márquez's interview, in Spanish:
http://video.globo.com/Videos/Player/Noticias/0,,GIM1065737-7823-GABRIEL+GARCIA+MARQUEZ+COMENTA+CEM+ANOS+DE+SOLIDAO,00.html)

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Heitor - you wrote
Any newspaper, magazine, or book originally written in English appears to have been written with the specific purpose of making money, and that requires targeting the largest possible audience.

For newspapers and many magazines "targeting the largest possible audience" is their prime objective. Plus being easily read and conveying information. Of course that could be done with style as well but often is not. For books I think you have some more reading to do.
However I think you are generalising too much about writers of English and your observations are more valid when one thinks about what happens in the USA and not in England / Britain / Ireland. Someone said that the citizens of the USA know the price of everything and the value of nothing - I don't think that is true of my countrymen but the "success" of Harry Potter might indicate something else.
I have read the book you refer too (in English because I would never be able to "tune into it" in Spanish). I bought the book three times because I lost the first two before I had finished reading it. I learned a lot about South America from it. I guess the author, having won the Nobel Prize for literature, could afford to try something else. I have a friend here in Bolivia who has met that author and talked with him. Her opinion of him as a person is less than complimentary. That does not of course make him any less a great writer but maybe arrogant enough to think he could write another great book in a completely different way. Did he succeed? Or did he make money from it just because of the success of the first book? Did he know that would happen? Was he more altruistic than any writer of English literature?
I am not trying to provoke or annoy you but maybe your tag "simplistic" annoys me a little.

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Here in Canada all we get is American junk, so please forgive my prejudices when I speak of "things in English" (as opposed to "things English")

Heitor, you are certainly entitled to your opinion/classification of "things American," and when it comes to modern literature and entertainment, I must, for the most part, agree with you.

However, I should hope that you would qualify what you are referring to by "American junk," for most Canadians I know welcome things American in general, including, unfortunately, pop culture and entertainment (that is not to say that Canadians don't have a culture of their own, or that they are not proud of it; quite the contrary). They certainly don't have a problem accepting the stuff we print on green paper with presidential pictures, or the jobs provided by American companies that locate factories/facilities in Canada. Where would Canadian TV and radio be without the American influence? Where are the Canadian authors and producers in this conversation?

Don't get me wrong. I am fond and appreciative of Canada, the country and the people. I am not firing shots. I would just like a clarification of your reference to "American junk."

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You see, there is a whole industry behind the production and sale of low-quality culture. It's not a particularly American phenomenon, it's just that Americans are better at it than any other country. But I mentioned, in this very thread, that I have a very low opinion of the popular Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

Maybe the internet will save us from the dumb cultural industry?
Well stated, Heitor. I must say that I agree with you. You may not be any Fred Reed, but you don't do so badly yourself. You're right, it is sad. This "dumbing down" and pitching to the lowest common denominator is destroying us little by little, and it has been for a long time. I stay pretty well disconnected from the modern pop culture, so I must admit, I don't recognize some of the names you mentioned (best-sellers). And your point is the motive behind this; they would be a waste of my time and a degradation to the fiber of my being.

I really enjoyed Fred Reed's essay, as well. Of course, I disagree with his blanket characterization of "religion" as "an embittered, brainless thing," and "religious people" as "making up stories to relieve [their] unease." I think he makes the extreme error that many others do today; when they see a fallacy or an inconsistency in whatever pillar or institution (or human representative of it), they reject it on the wholesale level.

Aside from that, I think he is right on target; and he does have a gift of expression. Besides that, I like to read someone who makes me look up a word or two.

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Fred Reed wrote (the last sentence)

I do not see how a Vivaldi or Corot or Milne can exist under such conditions. And they don't.

How does he know they don't exist?
May I say that maybe they do exist today but that they are rarely seen or heard because of the "noise" of commercialism that surrounds us constantly? In the past many great artists were not seen or appreciated in their own time either.

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If you read his other columns, you will see that he's actually a religious person in disguise. I don't live in the US so I don't understand the phenomenon well enough, but it seems to me that religion is a source of embarassment to many Americans, even if they happen to believe in God and otherworldly things.

Through the first 3/4 of the essay (with the exclusion of his comment on Jerry Falwell--not one of my favorite characters either, but nonetheless an icon with which theological conservatives have been branded), I thought he might be religious, or at least neutral on the subject. It was this comment, left to stand without further clarification or affirmation, that got me to thinking otherwise:

Thus the religious person thinks we come into this strange world (from where'), reside briefly, and leave for somewhere else (where'). Death seems to him a fact of some interest. It is a leaving. Often it is frightening. He makes up stories to relieve his unease. He may believe that a loving god put us here and awaits us, despite an immense lack of evidence.

I noted also his "uncapitalization" of "God"; while that in itself does not make a person non-religious or atheist, it is usually a mark of such people.

I, too, have great difficulty with/embarrassment from "religion" in my country. I don't have a problem at all with people crying out against the shallowness, hypocrisy, blind sectarianism, etc., of the religion of our day. I cry out against it myself. However, one must afterward affirm that some true form of "Christianity", "religion", "spirituality" exists, if he expects not to be labeled an atheist/a-religious skeptic. I will have to read more of this man's material before I form a judgment. Thanks for pointing that out.

Fred Reed wrote (the last sentence)

I do not see how a Vivaldi or Corot or Milne can exist under such conditions. And they don't.

How does he know they don't exist?

Because he hasn't seen any?

Great artists are not products of biology, they are products of society. A society that despises melodies longer than four bars will never have a Vivaldi, regardless of how many gifted musicians are born every year.

May I say that maybe they do exist today but that they are rarely seen or heard because of the "noise" of commercialism that surrounds us constantly? In the past many great artists were not seen or appreciated in their own time either.

This is a worthy discussion. I am surprised to find that two people with whom I thought I would greatly differ philosophically are articulating what I have felt and believed for a long time. Thanks, Heitor and Ian, for taking the time, and in this setting, to call attention to these things.

Why is it that people are willing to pay millions for garbage like this: http://www.nga.gov/feature/rothko/late1.shtm

Simple answer ... because they are fools. They are searching for some kind of value and meaning in life outside of the only true value and meaning in life--a relationship with the true and living God.

Admittedly, art is definitely not one of my fortes, but this is just two brown/black squares inside of a maroon rectangle. What in the world do people see in this'? My daughter could have done something like this! Eccentric, ostentatious people like to throw piles of money at worthless junk, just to show off that they can. Then that worthless junk becomes the definition/standard of what true "culture" or "value" is.

I'm with Fred Reed on this. The problem is "scientism", the belief that science has the ultimate explanations, that there is nothing great to aspire to, that things which cannot be expressed as a mathematical equation - things like morals or beauty - cannot be considered absolute.

Or the eternal, or the divine.

You surprise me, Heitor. I didn't think you were the type that believed in absolutes. I actually had you pegged more in the "scientism" camp. How refreshing to be mistaken!

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I haven't followed this whole thread, but I started reading Heitor's last comments, and I couldn't help but agreeing with him. Particularly, when it comes to "art", among other things. Without having read other people's comments on this thread, I strongly subscribe to Heitor's ideas, written in a very persuasive, thoughtful and intelligent way. The whole thing reminded me of those Kantian's conversations I used to have in College. Very interesting!

Ah, even though I agree on most points, I am agnostic, by the way. grin

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This thread has moved, interestingly, from my original post and now we are discussing religion and belief. I would enjoy being a believer in God because it would comfort me but can't do so with any honesty. One aspect of most religions I can't accept is the concept of sin or original sin. I can think of no greater sin than convincing someone that they or those that they love might end up in a hell being tortured for eternity. That must surely be the ultimate sin but is committed by religious leaders. Any comments'

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One last comment from me.
That people are not all virtuous does not mean they are sinful. We can not all be saints by definition.

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One last comment from me.

That people are not all virtuous does not mean they are sinful. We can not all be saints by definition.

Bueno, si quieres continuar la conversación, podemos hacerlo en otro hilo, en el foro apropriado. Como ha dicho un fulano, este hilo ya se ha agotado.
Heitor
¿Deseas iniciar un nuevo hilo'

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