“When people in Cuba speak, it sounds like they have a potato in their mouths.” – Cubans in Miami
HAVANA TIMES — About a year ago, I wrote something of an anarchist post mocking the school campaigns developed in Cuba to improve spelling in the country.
At the time, I maintained that forcing a person to memorize arbitrary rules was downright stupid – something very much in keeping, to be sure, with practices inherent to totalitarian regimes.
With time, I have come to understand that teaching children respect towards a given order, no matter how absurd, is of vital importance to the maintenance of society. Linguistic sloppiness and social indiscipline, I now see, are intimately linked.
What’s more, I feel the spelling campaign is far too superficial, overly focused on the written word. We need to concentrate more on oral expression, which, ultimately, is the mother of the former. How can anyone be expected to write properly when they don’t even know how to express themselves adequately? What sort of laxness are we encouraging by teaching a language in which graphemes and phonemes have no fixed relationship?
To be fully consistent, to pull this country out of the moral pit it is in and resume our spiritual and economic growth, the State ought to extend its campaign to the field of orthophonics, understood as the art of pronouncing words correctly. The Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT) and Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), even the Ministry of the Interior, could lend a hand in this.
Before nationalist patriots lunge for my jugular, I should clarify that I am not calling on people to imitate native Spaniards, for they also make terrible pronunciation mistakes (like confusing the “v” with the “b”). Such ambiguities must be eliminated if we want to have a clean and mature language that promotes mental hygiene, science, development and progress.
That is why I believe schools ought to encourage orthophonics and punish those who commit infractions. Only this way, by instilling people with respect towards the established early on, will we be able to forge the civic virtues we need to pull this country out of the sorry state it’s in – only this way will we confront the new linguistic and social challenges that await us after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States.