In addition to my graduate coursework, I am taking Spanish 102 at the local community college. This is my completed homework from last night, practicing comparatives and superlatives:
I can tell my Spanish is improving because I nearly shit myself with frustration at the content of this assignment. I’ll type my best attempt at a translation in just a bit. Please bear in mind that I do better just reading for meaning; even in ASL (with which I have over a decade of experience) I prefer to simply converse and not translate/interpret.
Eugenia Hello, Carolina, you are as thin as your sister. How did you do it?
Carolina Thanks, Eugenia. See, I started eating more vegetables than fat, and I eat smaller portions than you have there. I also go to the gym as often as my sister.
Eugenia I think you look better than her.
Carolina Maybe, because my sister sleeps less than me, and she likes to go dancing until late. And you, why do you not start your diet (or Why don’t you start eating better)?
Eugenia Thanks for your advice. See you.
Carolina See you soon.
Then I got a bit rage-y and vented all over my Facebook timeline. I was Facebook friends with my prof for a couple years before I took the course, so he witnessed my rage and suggested contacting the textbook company.
One such Facebook post: OH MY FREAKING COW THIS ENTIRE SPANISH ASSIGNMENT IS ABOUT HOW SHE LOST WEIGHT AND GOT TO BE AS THIN AS HER SISTER!!!!
Another post: Holy Snackwells, is this ever ludicrous! keyboardfacesmash
Now, slightly more contained, here is my breakdown, in English, even though my prof also suggested channeling my anger into a well-constructed Spanish business letter. I prefer to spout my frustrations in my first language, not my third.
- The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women chronically dieting or trying to lose weight. The first complete sentence after the greeting Hola, is a comment on the Carolina’s weight loss and asking how she did it.
- The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women comparing themselves to other women. Eugenia compares Carolina to Carolina’s sister, and Carolina does it to herself (refer to FOUR examples in the green text above).
- The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women judging other women. Caroline says that she eats smaller portions than Eugenia is eating right now, and later asks Eugenia why she doesn’t start eating better.
- Weight loss is all they talk about. Eugenia asks about her friend’s diet immediately after saying hello. The entire conversation is based on how Carolina looks; not one mention of her health or well-being is mentioned.
Surely we can come up with better ways to practice comparatives and superlatives than to resort to tired stereotypes of women, appearance, and weight loss.