There’s been a commotion lately regarding the use of the Andalusian variety in La Peste, Movistar+’s new show, a large production set in sixteenth century Seville. Many Internet users have criticised the fact that they couldn’t understand the plot, questioned the actors’ diction… At Ontranslation, it’s also been a topic of conversation, we have reflected on the issue and we have come to the conclusion that there are several issues that need clarification regarding the use of the Andalusian variety in La Peste, and that is why we post this constructive criticism from a linguistic point of view of both the audience and the show. Here it goes.
Multilingualism should be more common
Vilifying the use of a dialect (or linguistic variety, if we want to use appropriate sociolinguistics term) says a lot about our vision of language and how we interact through it. Indeed, the majority of Spanish people are monolingual, and this is a liability we should solve. Linguistic wealth consists of understanding variety, not of accumulating words, if not, we all know what happens. If we lived in an environment in which we were used to interacting in different languages (something which is possible in Spain through bilingual education with Catalan or Galician, for example), perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult to understand other varieties of the Spanish language.
Criticism towards the Andalusian variety in La Peste reveals linguistic prejudices
Language isn’t homogeneous. Each person speaks differently, as does each social group. Some varieties are quite similar, and others not so much. The Andalusian variety and standard Spanish are quite different, but this does not mean that some speakers have diction problems or don’t know how to speak. They just speak differently; we already talked about this in a previous post. Not understanding others is normal, but criticising someone for speaking with an Andalusian accent reveals the same ignorance as saying that Germans speak wrong because they speak in German. Moreover, surely the actors who had to speak with an Andalusian accent in La Peste and aren’t Andalusian have made a huge effort to be able to talk like that. Almost like speaking another language!
Subtitling the Andalusian variety in La Peste is not so far-fetched
And, speaking of prejudices, we should get rid of the idea that subtitling a variety means offending its speakers, right? Written language is a useful tool, and a homogeneous one. Nowadays, more and more people watch shows, films, etc. in other languages, with subtitles in their own. That’s great, it encourages multilingualism and learning languages. Why not understand dialectal varieties within this diversity? After all, differences exist, and if the Andalusian accent in La Peste is difficult to understand, why not make it more accessible with subtitles?
Solving the problem means naturalising and raising awareness
That’s it; both the audience and the show should look at things eliminating stereotypes and preconceived ideas. We don’t have to speak the standard variety all the time, since it’s actually a minority of people who speak it, let alone claim its use as the only one. However, if there is a standardised written language it’s for a reason, and using it to encourage diversity and linguistic openness will always be positive. The fear of criticism reverts to criticism, and today, learning is more valuable than ever. Why not start doing it with what is close to us?