Let’s make history: some of those lights that illuminated the 18th century must have also illuminated the neoclassical academics when the Ortografía de la Academia de 1741 was a systematized compendium that regulated, as it does today, the orthographic regulations of Spanish, drawn up between the RAE and the corresponding academies in Latin America. Hence his consideration of pan-Hispanic spelling.
With this compilation it was intended, and is still intended today, to fix the voices and words of the Castilian language with all their property, elegance and purity. Its motto “Clean, fix and give splendor” continues to this day.
Intellectuals of the stature of Father Benito Jerónimo Feijoó , Tomás de Iriarte , Melchor Gaspar de Jovellanos , José Cadalso and Leandro Fernández de Moratín , together with important translators such as Alberto Lista and José Marchena , among other highly relevant figures, were very committed and especially linked to the academy.
This institution, according to the first article of its statutes , has as its main mission to ensure that the changes experienced by the Spanish language, in its constant adaptation to the needs of its speakers. Also that the unity that it maintains throughout the Hispanic sphere is not broken to preserve the genius and soul of the language – as it has been consolidated over the centuries – and to establish and disseminate the norms and their corrections to contribute to its splendor.
“But if my son reads …”
It is commonplace to hear: “But if my child reads …”, as if reading were the panacea for good and “correct” spelling. Some of my students have come to blurt out: “Well, Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote everything with jota”. As it is. But it happens that we are not the poet from Huelva.
It is difficult to make nature itself make some people read and others not. Even for some to read and write in a passionate and artistic way and others not. Are we then faced with a fatalistic dilemma? Could it be that family habits influence these behaviors? No … Or not alone.
Like to read the one who has read. But why have you read? Perhaps by predisposition. And what could we do to awaken the pleasure of reading among those who have not read or are not attracted to reading? There is only one path, although it does not guarantee success: it is the path of spiritual discipline, that of the education of intelligence and feelings.
If we take into account the data of the Federation of the Publishers Guild of Spain, we find that 31.5% of Spaniards do not read and that the percentage of readers in 2019 reached 68.7% of the population. It is also interesting to know what the reading population reads .
Little reading and little writing
These are not quixotic chimeras that I am proposing. Driven by the pragmatic utility, we find ourselves doomed to scarce academic and creative reading and writing, despite the fact that by reading and writing we investigate the mysteries of the universe with a language that allows us to think and act outside the closed spaces of the political ideologies.
Therefore, you have to read. But what? From my point of view, I encourage you to read everything. This is how I confirm it at the university: from a pharmaceutical leaflet to the toothpaste box; from the neighborhood community agenda to the subway pamphlets; from the metropolitan illuminated advertisement to the television aprons. And, of course, books in any of their formats. Read and write. Read and write to share experiences, opinions, ideas, wishes, fears and illusions …
Because with the orthographically correct languages, there is a whole world of ideas, feelings, traditions, history … culture, in a word. Today’s Spanish, a language of great geographical extension, which maintains the systematic unity –thanks to the spelling– in the infinite variation of its achievements, reaches the 21st century strengthened in the fruitful coexistence since the Glosas Riojanas .
The importance of spelling
Now, current words acquire varying meanings and nuances, thus giving rise to the so frequent mistakes: the parapet is put up by the always protective shield of an orthography that guarantees its authentic meaning. Spelling, therefore, ensures clarity of thought, that is, the structure of effective communication.
Today it is very common to feel compelled to answer questions about spelling: “How much do mistakes count?” “What is this for?” They are concerns raised by some close people with whom we chat and students who are not very inclined to language , literature, and even culture.
Writing correctly ensures clarity of ideas necessary for any act of communication. Beyond the technical advances that the internet provides us to avoid making spelling errors, spelling facilitates the unitary preservation of a language to whose evolution millions of speakers have contributed and that we must master.
A message without spelling mistakes helps the recipient to understand its content and avoid ambiguities and distortions, and hence a misinterpretation of the written intentions. Spelling is our business card to the other, whoever they are.
It says a lot about us, beyond the academic or professional field; it does not matter if our area has little or nothing to do with what is called “letters” versus numbers or science. The human being is sociable and, as such, needs to be related in society. That is why we must prevent misspellings, reflect before expressing ourselves in writing, become aware of our thinking and make it arrive “clean” to others, without noise or confusion.
So let’s watch the spelling. Let’s read and write. Read, always read. To live.
Author Bio: Maria Pilar Úcar Ventura is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, Department of Translation and Interpretation and Multilingual Communication at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas