Fairy Tale, Film and Television Characters and Titles Translated to Spanish

Fairy Tale, Film, Television Characters, Spanish

“Centro guadalinfo, Pueblo Pitufo” by Manuelfloresv cc2.0

Welcome to another blog entry on the Spanish language. In the last entry, we looked at learning Spanish with Children’s books. In this one, we’re going to be looking at Spanish and popular culture, and more specifically, fairy tale, film and television characters and titles translated to Spanish from English.

Famous Characters and Titles in Popular Culture Translated into Spanish

We assume that beloved and famous characters and titles from popular fiction in the English speaking world are something that uniquely belongs to Anglophones. Daffy Duck is just that wacky animal on the TV that so many English speakers grew up with, and Snow White is that English Speaking brunette girl that more than anything has been shown in American cinemas, or broadcast on Australian televisions. Total Recall is that distinctly Hollywood film that so many Canadians, or English, or New Zealand teenagers grew up watching during the 90s.

Yet what many don’t realise is that many of these characters and titles from popular fiction have global reach, and are just as popular in places of non-English speaking backgrounds. There must be an enormous trove of examples in a myriad of countries and regions, but let’s focus on English titles and characters as they appear in the Hispanic world.

How were these titles and characters translated from English to Spanish using ideas common to both languages, such as word play? Were the translations successful, or maybe even better than the originals, or were they a complete catastrophe? And what are some of the perhaps lesser known reasons for the ways and circumstances in which they were translated?

Let’s start by listing the Spanish equivalents next to their English language counterparts:


Fairy Tales

Fairy Tale, Film, Television Characters, Spanish

Snow White translated faithfully to Spanish


Snow White Blanca Nieves
Rumpelstiltskin El Enano Saltarín
The Frog Prince El príncipe rana
The Little Mermaid La sirenita
Cinderella Cenicienta

Cartoon, Animal and other Characters

Fairy Tale, Film, Television Characters, Spanish

The Flintstones in Spanish – a clever translation.

Fred Flintstone Pedro Picapiedras
Homer Simpson Homero Simpson
Daffy Duck El Pato Lucas
Kermit the Frog (Spain) La rana Gustavo
Kermit the Frog (Latin America) La rana René
The Lion King El rey león
Jon Snow Jon Nieve

Film and Television Titles


Total Recall (Spain) Desafío Total
Total Recall (Latin America) El vengador del futuro
Back to the Future Volver al futuro
Back to the Future Regreso al futuro
Star Wars La guerra de las galaxias
Star Wars Star Wars (some countries)
Jaws Tiburón



Total Recall (Spain) Desafío Total
Total Recall (Latin America) El vengador del futuro
Back to the Future Volver al futuro
Back to the Future Regreso al futuro
Star Wars La guerra de las galaxias
Star Wars Star Wars (some countries)
Jaws Tiburón
Wacky Races Los autos locos
The Smurfs Los pitufos
Speed Racer Meteoro


 Some More Straight Forward Translations

A couple of the above characters and films have actually been translated from another language to English previously (for instance, the Little Mermaid, from Danish –Den lille havfrue), but it’s worth pointing out that the ones mentioned in this article have been straightforward, faithful translations, and that the English language equivalents arguably form the basis for their worldwide recognition.

Some of them have been translated as literally as can be done with translation, retaining their meaning, because the title does not rely on alliteration (the repetition of sounds or letters, often resulting in a catchy or amusing rhythm, such as “Fred Flintstone”) or puns (giving double meaning to words through words with the same sound or similar sound), but rather the fact that the words mean more or less the same thing in both languages.

Good examples of these would be Juego de tronos (Word-for-word, “Game of Thrones”), el señor de los anillos (word-for word, The Lord of the Rings) and La guerra de las galaxias (Star Wars), the latter being “The War of the Galaxies”, but which could also be translated as “Galaxy Wars”. Pretty close hey? The slight difference in this last example arises because of the way names and descriptions of things are ordered or phrased depending on the language.


Retaining Puns and Particular Meanings in a Translation

Some titles have been translated with the retention of a pun or particular meaning in mind. A good example of this is the (bad) romantic comedy “Stuck on You”, which deals with two conjoined twins who take part in assorted rom-com antics. The title, which alludes to the idea of a romantic attachment as well as referencing the compromising position the protagonists find themselves in, is translated to Spanish as Pegado a ti, for the same reasons, as the word ‘stuck’ (pegado) has much the same meaning in both languages. To a lesser degree, films like “Face/Off” manage it as well. “Face/Off” refers to the film’s premise in which the protagonist’s face is removed in a military experiment, but also makes use of a pun by referencing his confrontation with the enemy. The Spanish language translation Cara a Cara (Face-to-Face) sort of manages it, but there are better translations around.


The Modifying of Puns and Meanings

The most interesting cases though, are where the translator or translators have been able to retain some kind of meaning, by way of completely altering the title, simply because a literal translation wouldn’t work. An example of this could be the translation of the film “Knocked up”, a rom-com about an unwanted pregnancy. “Knocked up” when translated literally would have little to no meaning in Spanish, so they’ve opted for something else, which is translated to Spanish as Lío embarasozo (embarrassing mess). Likewise, “Embarrassing Mess” would mean nothing as a film title in English, but embarasozo (embarrassing) plays with the idea of embarazo (pregnancy) to interesting effect.


Translating Alliteration and Unique Meanings

Other titles have been translated with alliteration in mind, and this is almost always done with a bit of ingenuity, owing to the different sounds of letters and words from language to language. Fred Flintstone is a mild form of alliteration, insofar as the letter F appears in quick succession. The name also works because it’s amusing that someone has such an archaic object for a last name. The general humour around the idea of a man with a rock in his last name is retained in the Spanish translation, but while the alliteration would be lost in the literal translation to Federico Sílex, it is interesting that the translators have changed his name to Pedro (Peter), and given him the surname of Picapiedra (a nonsense word combining picar – to burn, itch, nibble, among a thousand other meanings, and piedra – stone), thus also retaining a novel form of alliteration.

In an effort to maintain certain odd words, or those with a special or unique meaning, some character names have been translated quite well. Take the name “Daffy” for instance. Daffy Duck is amusing in that it combines alliteration as well as a sense of delirium in the name “Daffy”. The Spanish language equivalent el pato Lucas (literally “Lucas the Duck”) seems strange to an English speaker. It loses the alliteration, but does the sense of nuttiness get lost too? Well, “Lucas” sounds a little like locos (crazy), so perhaps not.

Losing One Thing, Gaining Another…

Whether it’s the use of alliteration, puns, or certain special words to create amusing or unique images in character names and film and television titles, sometimes the nature of the title cannot be retained during translation. Some characters have been translated in interesting ways to get around this. The character of Kermit the Frog relies on the novel and somewhat benign-sounding name Kermit to elicit an image of a sympathetic anthropomorphic frog, yet when translated into Spanish, la rana René (René the Frog), the translation arguably loses this feeling with the common name René (I mean, you can’t beat the name Kermit. Who is called Kermit in real life, anyway?), but arguably gains an amusing alliteration of the letter R in the process.


Better than the Original Translation?

Some of these titles and characters have ingeniously improved on the original translation. While rare, this is something special. An example can be seen in the translation of the college-humour film “Get Him to the Greek” – clearly referencing something internal to the film experience – to Todo sobre mi desmadre, which translates as “All About my Wild Party”, using the word desmadre (wild party) as a pun on todo sobre mi madre, (All About my Mother) the famous Spanish film by Pedro Almodóvar.


English to English?

In some cases, the original English name has been retained in the translation, as is seen with television series such as “Breaking Bad”. It’s worth noting that in certain circles of film fans, original titles are retained when speaking about well-known and loved series or films. For instance, many Star Wars and Game of Thrones fans simply refer to the ultra-famous movie and TV series as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones”.


Lost in Translation

In some cases, meanings have been slightly (or very) lost in translation. The animated film “An American Tail”, about an immigrant mouse in the U.S.A., is translated literally as un cuento Americano. Not a bad title, but as far as the pun goes, it is completely lost, as “tail” and “tale” are not homophones in Spanish. In the case of the 80s’ television series “Night Rider”, the title carries a mild rhyming sound, but also exudes an air of mystery and coolness. The translation to Spanish El auto fantastico (the fantastic car), while not a horrible translation, loses much of the original feeling and rhythm in the title, but arguably gains something else in its more 60s–sounding, perhaps slightly child-like and innocent tone.

Majorly Lost in Translation, AKA “Some of the Worst Atrocities Committed to Paper”

Fairy Tale, Film and Television Characters and Titles Translated to Spanish

The Avenger From the Future!

And then there are the hopeless cases… The previously-mentioned El vengador del futuro (The Avenger From the Future), Tiburón (the Spanish language title of “Jaws”, which translates as “Shark”) and Sueños de libertad (the Mexican title of “the Shawshank Redemption”, which translates as the highly imaginative “Dreams of Freedom”) should win awards for terrible translations. Among the winners would have to be Mi pobre angelito (the Spanish language title of “Home Alone”, which translates as “My Poor Little Angel”) and finally…… Perdido en Tokio. Can you guess what that is? It’s the title for “Lost in Translation”, which translates as “Lost in Toyko”. Right….ok…


Translation and Regional Variations

Fairy Tale, Film, Television Characters, Spanish

La rana René? Or is it Gustavo? Credit: Gavin Galens Kermit The Frog Kermit at the Museum of American History Link via image

Regional differences also play a role in the translation of characters and titles. For instance, Kermit the Frog is known as La rana René in Latin America, but La rana Gustavo (Gustavo the Frog) in Spain. Total Recall is called Desafío total (Total Challenge) in Spain, contrasting with El vengador del futuro in Latin America. “The Terminator” was released under the same name in Spain, El ejecutor (The Executor) in Perú when the film was first promoted, and then as El exterminador (The Exterminator) for the Peruvian TV release.


Why These Types of translations?

I don’t profess to know all of the exact reasons, but aside from the obvious examples which translate well, puns and alliteration included, a lot of the decisions around the translation of slightly more (or very) difficult titles and characters can only be connected to the innumerable historical reasons, as well as marketing and distribution strategies over a range of time periods and varied geographical locations.


Age-Old Characters and Famous Translations

In the case of much loved fairy tale heroes and characters, well, they’re embedded in the imaginations of generations of story lovers. It’s no wonder that they’ve been translated so well. La sirenita (The little Mermaid) and El Enano Saltarín (Rumpelstiltskin) are good examples which capture the feeling of the characters, the first of which is a literal translation of the words “the little mermaid”, and the second of which evokes a quirky image of a small, prancing dwarf.

What about characters in long-running series such as the “Loony Tunes” and “Hanna-Barbara” cartoons, or newer series which rely on a strong, discerning fan base such as “Game of Thrones”? You would think that a bit of thought must have gone into the process. While some laugh at the translation of the imaginary land central to the plot of GOT from “Winterfell” to Invernalia, many think it a fitting reproduction of a word containing hints of the words “winter” and “land”, for a series that has a legion of dedicated followers.


An Absent Market?

As far as leaving the titles as they are in English, this absence of any translation whatsoever might be due to a lack of a market or relevance, and therefore a lack of major release in certain countries. Shows like “Breaking Bad”, exclusive to expensive cable networks would not have a large audience in many parts of Latin America.


A Discerning Market?

The reference by fans to certain titles in their original guises hints at a definite presence of aficionados and an educated fan following. I know of numerous popular culture-obsessed Hispanics who refer to a number of series and films with their original titles, and who absolutely REFUSE to watch anything that is not displayed in the original language with Spanish subtitles!


Or Perhaps an Undemanding One?

As far as the lesser translations go (and indeed the shocking ones), one can only imagine that a lot of it comes down to a lack of a serious and demanding market where these film releases are concerned. The absence of a strong market relevance must surely result in a lack of translation resources. Many of these horribly translated films are also dubbed in a hilariously cringeworthy way. It’s also worth noting however, that films such as “Friday the 13th,” translated as Martes 13 (Tuesday the 13th) have been translated with cultural differences taken into account – Tuesday the 13th, and not Friday as is the case in the Anglophonic world, is considered to be an unlucky day in many Hispanic cultures.

Of course, some of these atrociously translated titles could just as easily be attributed to straight-out laziness. On this last point, and just because I can’t resist, I’ll leave you with another one: Dos hombres, un destino. That’s “Two Men, One Destiny”, AKA “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”


Of Course, That’s Just One Perspective…

Of course, all of the above works in the exactly the same way when translating from Spanish to English. The Spanish film “¡Átame!” (literally, “Tie me Up!”) is translated as “Tie me up, Tie Me Down!”. I’ll leave it to you to reflect on the effectiveness of that translation, and there are undoubtedly hundreds and thousands more out there, but that’s an article for another time!


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How to Study Spanish: Learning Spanish with Books for Children


Easy, right?

Welcome to another blog entry on study methods for the Spanish language. Click on this link to read the last blog entry on the usefulness (or lack thereof?) of incorporating grammar into a study routine. This week we are going to be looking at…

Learning Spanish with Books for Children

There’s no doubt that reading advanced materials in another language can help an adult improve their second language. For most of us, this is a phase which comes towards the intermediate and advanced levels, when we are confident enough with the basics to be able to read such things as books, magazines and newspapers. There are even dual-text books with one language on one page, and the target language on the other (or vice versa). Many a student has told me about the book, magazine, website or other source that they’re currently reading. Every now and then, someone will tell me about the children’s book that they are using to help ease them into the language with something that would be…..well, pretty easy, right?



The Problems with Learning this Way

Spanish is quite different from English, and advanced topics and vocabulary in English don’t equate to advanced topics and vocabulary in Spanish. Some of the simplest expressions in English such as “I want you to throw the ball” (quiero que lances la pelota) are phrased completely differently in Spanish. The literal translation is something along the lines of “I want that you might throw the ball”. A bit different, hey? The sentence “don’t give it to him” (no se lo des) is literally translated as “not to him it you give”, and even with that quite literal translation, it still doesn’t quite capture some of the other untranslatable nuances which would a) have most students asking what the hell was going on, and b) would require a few pages more of explanations. To learn the above sorts of things, you would need to have a solid understanding of advanced grammar, as well as a good couple of years of conversation practise under your belt. Yet these are the types of phrases that you will find in any number of children’s books in Spanish.


Children’s books in Spanish are simply not written for adults learning a second language

Things which are alien, and therefore quite advanced for the English speaker, are engrained into the mind of a Spanish-speaking child quite early on, without much thought going into the grammar, and this is indeed the way we learn English as children as well. Yet as adults, it is significantly more difficult to learn this way. See this post on grammar for an in-depth explanation as to why.

As you can see, just because the story is about a large red dog who gives piggy back rides to a group of mischievous kittens, or a little mouse witch who practises good magic and grants wishes to well behaved little rabbits, this won’t necessarily translate into you picking up Spanish. Simple content does not necessarily equal simple language acquisition.


Are English and Spanish Complete Strangers?

So the sentence structure differs somewhat between both languages, owing to the fact that one is a romance language and the other a Germanic. Yet this doesn’t mean that Spanish and English are complete strangers. There are an enormous number of words which are the same in English and Spanish. A cognate is a word which has the same meaning in two languages, and owing to a common ancestry, has similar or identical spelling. Spanish and English share plenty (thousands, even) of these, due to both languages’ combined connection with Latin and Greek, as well as the English connection with French. Words like animal, restaurant, information, essential and technological (among countless others) are the same in both English and Spanish. These are the sorts of words you will be likely to acquire when reading Spanish, yet they are the things which are lacking in a lot of children’s books, because cognates with a Latin or Greek root tend to be slightly (or a lot) more technical.

What are the Best Texts for Beginners?

If you are happy to simply acquire random words for the sake of random words, then you may as well continue reading children’s books. It’s not like you’re not going to learn anything. There’s nothing wrong with this in essence, and any learning is better than no learning.

I think that the best choice would be to go with something that is written with English speakers in mind. These sorts of texts, found in language learning books and websites, tend to be written by experts in the field, and they are generally written as learning resources which utilise the basic structures which are first taught to the English speaker in a Spanish class, with grammar in mind. Moreover, they will likely make liberal use of cognates, which should lead to a rapid acquisition of new vocabulary due to their familiarity.

Given all of this, the last option should come as no surprise. A great couple of resources for learning a second language would undoubtedly have to be newspapers and magazines. These are littered with words derived from Greek, Latin, and French, many of which you will undoubtedly recognise. Now these texts may or may not be tough going, depending on how complicated the article is, or how advanced your Spanish is, but in spite of not understanding a little (or a lot), you will probably learn much more from reading an article about the war in Syria, or a new technological breakthrough, than you will from reading about Frederick the dinosaur and his Easter egg hunt on his uncle’s farm – exciting as that may sound.

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How to Study Spanish: Is Spanish Grammar Necessary?

is Spanish grammar necessary ?

Is Spanish grammar necessary?

Welcome to another blog entry on study methods for the Spanish language. Click on this link to read the last blog entry on ways that you can incorporate studying into your everyday activities. This week we are going to be looking at…

The G word! Everyone seems scared of this thing called grammar, some so much so that they refuse to acknowledge its apparent usefulness or relevance in their learning. So what is the deal with grammar? Is it really just something for the brainiest of language speakers and academics, or is there something else holding you back? And is there another way you can get conversational without grammar or at the very least competent enough to travel around a Hispanic country or chat with Hispanic friends?


The Misunderstanding and Fear of Grammar

I see a number of absolute beginner courses available in Australia and even around the world advertised on the sole fact that they are pure conversational classes, with no grammar involved. As a language teacher, I often get emails and phone calls asking for classes – just conversational ones, with no grammar.

While there are grammar-less Spanish conversation classes (aimed at intermediate and advanced students) and travel classes (aimed at a range of students), there are a few things wrong with the above kinds of claims and requests when it comes to conversation classes and the complete beginner. Why do so many people never stop to ask themselves: “why would everyone else (but not me) want or need to learn grammar? Why would they purposefully put themselves through something potentially unpleasant and unnecessary, when they can just have a ‘conversation class’ or put themselves in an immersive environment and skip it all together?”

I think that deep down, many grammar naysayers suspect that something is amiss in their approach. In spite of seeing others tackle it, and acknowledging the fact that most courses teach something that is ostensibly quite useful, they probably don’t think they’re capable of it. They might also fear that grammar is some insanely hard, lofty, academic, inaccessible set of formulas that are only applicable to those few who are interested in such imposing, die-hard pursuits.

Well the above is simply not true. While some grammarians will disagree with me, and there are a number of aspects to the idea of grammar, you could in one way say that grammar is nothing more than a fancy word for ‘explanation’. Grammar, in the sense of what we look at to learn Spanish, is just an observation of something that happens in the language. I really want to stress the idea of explanation and observation here. Some of these explanations of Spanish are quite common, and a variety of grammar books explain them in much the same way. In other cases, their subjectivity is so broad, that different books, people, websites etc. will often explain the same thing but from different angles or in different styles.

So for the average student of Spanish, that is the definition of grammar that most serves us. It’s just a particular take on how something works. Saying that you want a conversational Spanish class with no grammar is like saying that you want a new job, but don’t want any explanations whatsoever as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, or why things are the way they are. I think that most would agree that explanations serve a purpose for a great deal of things in life. Some explanations may be more involved than others, but an explanation is simply a tool for understanding something.


The Irrelevance of Grammar?

Saying ‘no grammar, thanks (i.e. no explanations, thanks)’ is, therefore, a misunderstanding or fear about what grammar is. A lot of students seem intent on the idea that their Spanish learning journey somehow doesn’t have anything to do with grammar. The notion that grammar is irrelevant to one’s own journey is probably due to the belief that tough grammatical explanations are simply not necessary. We only want the ultra easy ones, with a focus on conversation, because conversation is supposed to be fun and down to earth. That sounds reasonable, right? After all, who wants to do anything which might be potentially stressful or unnecessarily difficult? I certainly wouldn’t want to! We should just be able to go to a conversational class, copy what the teacher does and immerse ourselves in the ambience of the class atmosphere.

Through this process, language will happen. After all, when someone says yo quiero una cerveza, the word-for-word translation is ‘I want a beer’. That’s straightforward enough. Why would I want any grammar? Now if all language acquisition were like this, I wouldn’t be writing this article. All I’d have to do is participate in a few classes over a period of time, and memorise the words. Eventually I’d become fluent.

If only!


Unlearning Through Grammar…

It is said that language is a vessel for culture. It both contains and informs our worldview. You could argue that language is itself, a type of culture. You have been programmed from an early age to think and say things in a certain way, without much questioning. When you began your English learning journey, you were sort of like a blank slate on which things were written. Yet when you learn a second or third or fourth language, you come complete with baggage, with ‘common sense’ barriers and rigid ways of doing things. Yet these barriers won’t move easily for most. In a way, you will have to ‘un-write’ much of what you have learned.

Take for instance, the verb hablar. It means ‘to speak’. Yo hablo = I speak. Tú hablas = you speak. Él habla = he speaks. Ella habla = she speaks. Nosotros hablamos = we speak. Let’s also have a look at the verb gustar, which effectively means ‘to like’. Therefore, if I follow the first explanation, all I need to do is say yo gusto to mean ‘I like’, right? No. This is because Spanish speakers do not like particular objects in their environment, but rather, the objects in their environment appeal to, or please them. The verb gustar does not mean ‘to like’ – it means ‘to please’ or ‘to appeal to’. So what you ended up saying was ‘I appeal to’, which means absolutely nothing. The correct way of saying that you like something in Spanish is me gusta. But this is only the beginning… be grateful for the expressions like yo quiero una cerveza when you see them, because at least half of the Spanish language will not be so forgiving.


I’m still not convinced – I will immerse myself…and language will happen

So can’t you just put yourself in an environment where people are using this construct and pick it up through participation and observation? Not likely. At least not unless you’re three years old and you’re learning Spanish as your first language. This topic discussed above is so unlike English, and deviates so much from what we English speakers see as the norm, that to use it properly, you will have to train yourself to say sentences such as (literally translated): ‘to me the apples are pleasing, but to her and to my brother, no.’ This is the correct way of communicating this idea in Spanish. It’s a bit of a stretch to assume that you will ever learn to speak like this purely by participation and observation, without any reflection on or exploration of the grammar which tries to explain it.

The problem is that all along you have either assumed that grammar was reserved for lofty, advanced topics that you would never need. But now you see that an everyday, conversational English expression or sentence that you have found so easy for your entire life is phrased completely differently in another language, to the point where it becomes an alien concept. You are going to have a very, very tough time trying to decipher that one in a conversation class completely devoid of any grammar (ie.: explanations), or attempt to rewire at least some thought processes.


Does this guy know what he is on about?

Some of you are probably thinking ‘this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’ve done an immersion course and I know Spanish’, or ‘I know of a conversation class that my mate Bob took that doesn’t teach grammar, and he learnt a fair bit’. Well, several things are happening here. It might be that you know how to say a few things in Spanish, but you probably aren’t as good as you think you are, and neither is Bob. I’ve never actually met a person who learned Spanish as an adult who became genuinely conversational without learning at least some grammar.

Another possibility is that you’re a language freak, in which case, congratulations! This too can happen, and you can ignore my first point. The most likely explanation though, is that your conversation class or immersion class probably did teach grammar, but you just didn’t realise it (and perhaps neither did the person who advertised it), because you assumed that grammar was something beyond what you could do. Yet in reality, all it really entailed was a bit of explaining here and there.

If I haven’t convinced you that you need at least some grammar in your study regimen, you are probably full of doubt about what you can actually do, because I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with a bit of explaining in adult learning. You should give it a go. What is there to be afraid of in a few explanations? Some are easy, some are hard. So what? Search through them and find the tools that most suit your learning process. Make them work to your advantage! Remember, for most of us grammar is nothing more than an explanation of something seen in language.


I still absolutely refuse to look at Spanish grammar

For those who absolutely refuse to engage in grammar, you might want to know if there any ways at all that you can learn Spanish by just observing, with very little to no grammatical explanations. Sure you can. At many schools you can find travel Spanish courses that have few to no explanations for the way things are. But that is precisely what you will learn in these types of classes – travel Spanish.

What about if you’re overseas in an immersive environment, free of grammar-crazed Spanish teachers? The same is also true of that scenario. You might just learn certain expressions and phrases to get around.

However, in either scenario, one of two things will most likely happen: the things you learn how to say will either be those which are so close to their English counterparts that it is simply a matter of repeating and committing them to memory, or you will wrongly assume that certain expressions have certain translations, and commit them to memory regardless. You will end up with a very rudimentary Spanish at best, and one that is certainly full of many errors.

All of this is absolutely fine, especially if all you want to do is take a three-week trip to Spain, say a few words to the new in-laws, or take up a language purely as a social activity to get out of the house and meet people. Learning another language is admirable and you should be praised for any attempt, grammar or no grammar.


Taking Language Beyond…

If, on the other hand, you wish to advance to the point where you can think (even to some degree) in another language, you – the adult learner – will need some analysis of what you are doing. You will also need plenty of hands – on experience through conversation and interaction. There is nothing wrong with picking things up as you hear them, and learning the occasional fixed expression without too much questioning. Yet it is the combination of this approach with that of grammar and analysis, working together in tandem, which will help you achieve bilingualism.

It is, however, a bit optimistic to assume that you can learn anything purely through observation and even interaction without any explanations involved. Without explanations, you will remain stuck at the level of repeating English-type constructions. While accepting that the effective translation of me gusta is ‘I like it’, further expansion of this topic will result in the breaking down of that model. It is at this point, that your English-to-Spanish becomes lost in translation, and you find yourself invariably asking for explanations.


That concludes another chapter and another week. This article was late in being uploaded, but there will be another addition to the site in just a few days. Thanks for reading and be sure to check in again soon for more articles on language learning and Hispanic culture!


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How to Study Spanish: Everyday Ways to Improve your Spanish

Welcome to another chapter of Spanish study tips. Our previous entry focussed on something that doesn’t come easy to all of us, and which is often hard for the most enthusiastic aficionado at times – finding motivation to study. Have you ever wondered what you can do semi-passively to create a more immersive experience? While active learning and hard work is definitely the key to mastering a language, there are some small adjustments, changes in mind set, as well as lifestyle additions and changes which might help. This entry will focus on making Spanish part of your everyday routine.


When you’re out and about

When you’re out, go armed with a notebook and pen and try to think in Spanish. E.g.: You’re at the bank. Tell yourself (don’t do it aloud, because that is considered anti-social) what you’re doing, i.e.: I’m at the bank (estoy en el banco). I’m going to take out money (voy a sacar dinero). I’m waiting in line (estoy haciendo cola) etc. E.g. 2: You’re at the beach. Tell yourself what you see, i.e.:  I see a good looking girl (Veo a una chica guapa). I’ve just knocked an ice cream out of someone’s hand (Acabo de tirar un helado de la mano de alguien). It’s a large man on steroids covered in ice cream and the good looking girl is his girlfriend (Es un hombre grande anabolizado. Está cubierto de helado y la chica guapa es su novia). The large man on steroids is about to attack me (El hombre grande anabolizado está a punto de atacarme).

If you can talk about a lot of things that you are doing in your day-to-day activities, then you are clearly beginning to think in Spanish. If you hit part of a sentence where you are unable to explain what you are doing or what is happening around you (of course, as a true beginner, this will understandably happen 98% of the time!), note down in English what you wanted to say. When you get home, look it up on Word Reference Forums. For more information on this useful forum, have a look here. Add the new expressions to your home made dictionary. These new expressions which you’ve come up with are also valid additions to your flashcards. Try to do this everyday, and in addition to your basic, fixed study program – outlined here – over time, speaking and thinking in Spanish will become easier.

Social Media and Apps in Spanish

Set your Facebook, other social media and your email to Spanish. Join social media pages that are in Spanish so your daily feeds are giving you a constant influx of things to absorb. Join ‘joke-a-day’ pages and other light-hearted things. Here is one to get you started:


Have any hobbies? Find pages in Spanish that cover these things. When you’re confident, set your phone to Spanish. You should probably be relatively confident though, or you might not be able to set it back to English! Do not, I repeat do not set your GPS to Spanish, unless you want places like Fed Square and Flinders Street Station pronounced phonetically in Spanish…which is both bizarre and incredibly annoying.


Listen to music in Spanish.

Go online and search for the translations (or have a go at translating them yourself). For every other song, note down phrases you hear from time to time. Use your dictionary or go to Word Reference Forums and find out what they mean. Don’t stress if you find it difficult to understand them or if you can’t find a translation. There are a lot of songs in Spanish that probably don’t make a lot of sense to Spanish speakers.

Listen to Spanish radio and TV. Don’t expect to understand much at first, but it’s better than listening to Fox FM. Here is an example of what Spanish radio sounds like according to North American comedian Pablo Francisco:


Eating in Spanish…

It was a while ago, but I heard from someone else who was also probably also trying to make the similar points as I am, that in order to get good at a language, you have to eat the food of that country. I don’t think he meant that if you go to Coles and get the ingredients for a paella, that you will start to learn Spanish, but it would be a good start I guess. Cooking leads to a change in mindset. Dinner for one turns into dinner for two, then three, and so on. You will attract a certain kind of person. Next thing you know, your new interest has somehow resulted in the entire Chilean community of Melbourne over for dinner at your place. As awesome as Chileans are, perhaps you don’t want that though.

Going to Spanish and Latin American restaurants will also undoubtedly put you in contact with Spanish speakers. You may want to try your Spanish out by annoying the waiter, or even the people on the table next to you. A great place to buy Iberian and Latin American food products is Casa Iberica. There are two located in Melbourne at 25 Johnston Street Fitzroy and 154-156 Fulham Rd Alphington. Free Advertising for those guys I guess. Well all these things are pieces in the puzzle that is learning another language.


Going out and speaking Spanish

You could extend the previous idea to a more resolute and pragmatic approach. Why not go out to Spanish and Latin American night hotspots? They seem to be forever changing in Melbourne’s hectic environment, and as soon as one appears, another disappears, but Johnston Street is home to the Hogar Español and a number of other places where you can dance, speak, and mingle with Spanish speakers. There are also a number of community events and festivals run by the various Latin communities in Melbourne. The most famous is undoubtedly the Johnston Street fiesta. Check out this entry which mentions a little about the history of this Fitzroy institution. In any case, come November, you should definitely check it out!


There’s also the lesser known September Street Festival:



Making Friends…

I’ve saved the most obvious stuff for last, but there are a couple of points worth elaborating on. Firstly, try and go overseas for a couple of months (or longer) and knock yourself out. Now I know that not everyone can just take two or more months off, but I just want to cover all the possible bases in case you are one of those lucky people that has that opportunity. In any case, any time in Spain or a Latin American country will do wonders for your beginner Spanish. Make sure you go out constantly and don’t stop speaking (Spanish, that is…)! Latin American and Spanish people are awesome and very hospitable, so there’s no excuse not to throw yourself in. South American beer tends to be pretty ordinary, but Chilean and Spanish wine is fantastic.

Making friends with Spanish-speakers either locally or overseas and forming networks will provide an enormous drive for your learning. Going on a camping trip with Spanish-speaking friends or chatting on Facebook for half an hour a day will make you speak Spanish.

So those are some of the ways that you improve your Spanish in an everyday context. Remember, however, there is no substitute for hard work! Thanks for reading and there will be more in a week or so when we look at the idea of grammar and its relevance.

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How to Study Spanish: Motivation to Study Spanish

Motivation to study Spanish

Studying is straightforward.

Welcome to another entry on how to study the Spanish language! We’ve just finished looking at the various methods we can employ in a study program spaced out over the course of a week. Click on this link to read the last entry (and the ones previous to that). In this chapter, we’re going to look at the issue of motivation to study Spanish.


It can be difficult to find motivation to study…

You may have been doing it a while and stalled. You may have never attempted. You might have even convinced yourself that it will never be an enjoyable prospect. But we need study to improve our Spanish! How do we get around this proverbial thorn?


The Basics of Approaching the Problem

Firstly, you have to come up with some semblance of a timetable or regimen and stick to it. You might have decided to allocate time to one-hour blocks, five times a week. You may have possibly made an agreement with yourself to study everyday for half an hour. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter though, is that you force yourself to sit down and actually do it.

Okay, so you just accept the road in front of you and sit down and do it, no questions asked? It seems like fair advice I suppose, but some people won’t find this enough to motivate them to study, and that’s also quite reasonable!


The Issue of Stress

Many people are hampered by stress. They stress about learning Spanish, and they find the idea of studying stressful, because they think studying itself is stressful. Notice how I said ‘think studying itself is stressful?’ That’s because studying is not really that stressful. People are more inclined to stress about stress, rather than the actual thing that they are stressing about. But once these people sit down and do said thing, they find that it’s actually no big deal. Here’s some food for thought:

“there is nothing to fear but fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt at his inaugural speech.

motivation to study Spanish

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself”.

Is Spanish the real Enemy?

Some of you will be thinking ‘yeah right, easy for you to say. When I sit down to study, I don’t know where to start, and it’s frustrating because I can’t retain the information.’ It doesn’t have to be this way either. Instead of pummelling your mind with difficult-to-remember information, and making Spanish your enemy, bear in mind a few things:

Learning a language was difficult before you even decided to learn it. It has been, is, and always will be inherently challenging. So it’s best to forget that part, because it’s already a given reality that you can’t fight. You have chosen to take up learning a language, and it might be beneficial to instead see it as a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun – they’re not tests. Which brings me to my next point.

We have to remember that the vast majority of us are not really being tested on any of this in a meaningful way (this might not be so applicable to university students and kids doing VCE or IB, but hey, the rest of the article has enough pointers to override this shortcoming!). Aside from the odd ‘test’ you might receive in your casual Spanish class, there are no real consequences for failing or not getting it right. There are, however, a million benefits for succeeding! Do I even need to list those? Therefore the only failure is not sitting down and having a go.


Are Long-term Goals really that useful?

While we’re on the topic of distancing ourselves for the idea that learning Spanish is somehow a test, this might be a good time to address the idea of goals. While it is good to have long-term goals, it could be advantageous to not see language acquisition entirely in this way. People spend years learning languages and they all end up at different places. There is no white line waiting for you at the end of your hard work many years from now. Bilingualism is not the Golden Fleece. It is a journey. Have your goals in the back of your mind, but don’t let them crush you before you get started, because there is so much fun to be had along the way…


Applying what we’ve learned…

So we know that Spanish is difficult, we have decided not to stress because it is all in our imagination, and we have resolved to not make the Spanish language our enemy. We’re also looking at Spanish as a hobby rather than an antagonist that wants to destroy us with its testing powers, or its suffocating goal-oriented centre. Furthermore, we’ve settled on having an honest go at the language, just for the hell of it! Now I hear you say “but it’s still going to be frustrating and hard, and I won’t be able to practically apply this information when I sit down to study.” Can’t you? I think you can.

We can bring together what we have discussed along with how we put pen to paper. Think of studying through the lens of a Taoist. The information on the paper, the grammar rule, and the audio exercise floating around somewhere in the ether are not going to kill you. Flow with the information that you read and write, and let it pass through you naturally, and in large volumes (i.e.: doing it everyday). Perhaps this is too abstract… Another way of looking at it is that you sometimes have to become mindless and carefree with your study, because remember, there is no stress, there is no enemy language, there is no test, requirement or need for learning this language, and there are no failures. Distance yourself from these ideas. Don’t think about all the negative and false implications about studying and learning. Instead, just do it. It’s actually simpler.


Bringing it all together practically…

Write out your verb tables a few times and just appreciate them for what they are. Forget everything else – just do them for the sake of doing them. If you get them wrong, forget it. Go and do something else Spanish-related and come back to them later. Remember…there is no stress. Listen to your audio exercises and enjoy the process of being involved with the learning process. If you don’t understand them, don’t worry. Go and do something else Spanish-related and come back to them in a couple of days. Think back…there is no enemy. Write out your compositions about your weekend activities because you like seeing new words, or making novel observations about the differences between English and Spanish. If you make a lot of mistakes or have to turn to the dictionary a million times, who cares? Remember…none of it matters. There is no exam, and there is no finish line – just you and a journey.

This doesn’t mean that you switch off when you study. The tasks you undertake will still be difficult at times, but as I have said, it is the idea of being difficult, or the idea of stress or failure which is more overpowering, but ultimately useless to the study process. Enjoy studying and absorb Spanish, its words, phrases and expressions and all the rest of it for what it is. Relish the volume, bathe in the hard work, and bask in the inevitable making of a million and one mistakes. None of it matters – it’s just you and a voyage through new ways of thinking and fresh insights…


Progress and Success will be yours

It is the process of switching off all the irrelevant ideas which ultimately leads to progress. Your involvement and engagement with the material, coupled with your relaxed attitude and a sense that this should be fun, with no consequences but positive ones, will result in success. Focusing on the journey will lead to the acquisition of new language skills over time. And here is the good part…

In becoming good at something, you will have developed a passion for it at the same time, because let’s face it – we tend to be passionate about the things we are good at.

Next week we will look at some of the day-to-day things you can do to incorporate Spanish into your life. Kind of like ‘studying without the work’!

¡Hasta la próxima!

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How to Study Spanish: Spanish Reading and Listening

Welcome to the Travelling Koala ‘How to Study Spanish’ Series. This article deals with Spanish reading and listening. So far we’ve run with the attitude that many people should approach it with a regular, relatively fixed program and a dedication to sitting down (or standing up, I guess) and doing it. We’ve covered certain things which you should include in any good study program, and roughly divided them into daily ‘sessions’.

Spanish Reading and Listening

The last entry covered writing in Spanish at all costs, and how together with speaking Spanish it can form the basis of a good study program. In this chapter, we’re going to look at some of the other things that students think are the most valuable things of all when studying a language. While they’re great – and that’s why we’re going to look at them – we’re also going to explain why they might not be among the best ways to study Spanish.

We’ve covered the idea that if you speak and write, there must be some intense concentration going on. Writing your thoughts down or actively speaking to someone face to face, over Skype or over the phone forces you to think and engage with your subject matter or conversation partner. Unlike taking in information from a movie that you’re not understanding properly, or reading from a book you’re not interested in, there is no zoning-out when you write down your thoughts on paper, and there is less likeliness to zone-out when you are engaging in conversation (unless the person is boring). The blog entry on speaking looks at active learning in more detail.

Speaking with people is particularly effective, because not only are you forced to quickly come up with ideas and thoughts which you then transform into words, but you are forced to interpret what your partner is saying – your entire line of conversation depends on it. Speaking therefore equals better speaking skills in addition to better listening skills. But this doesn’t mean that things like reading and listening on their own won’t be useful to some degree.


Reading in Spanish

This is probably the best of the two things we are going to cover. While reading is no substitute for speaking and writing in a Spanish study program, opening a book or gazing at the screen still has its place. Reading still forces you to engage with your subject matter to some extent, although you will probably have to read quite often and in large volumes in order to retain anything. Reading short, easy-to-read texts which you find interesting are a good place to start.

Suggestions for Reading Resources


  • Comprehension books with short texts or stories are valuable. These often have questions at the end of each chapter to test your knowledge on the texts. Easy Spanish Reader by William Thomas Tardy is a great beginner and intermediate book to track down. It sometimes comes with a CD.
  • Dual language books are great as well. These are books which generally tend to be collections of short stories or comprise of a single novel which are published with the Spanish-learner in mind. There are numerous online shops where you can find these sorts of books, and they will often have the level written on them to guide the student.
  • Watch Spanish language films with the subtitles on…..in Spanish! You can actually pick up a lot from doing this.
  • Social media is another option. Join pages that interest you on platforms such as Facebook. Try to fill your news feed with things like jokes or memes in Spanish.
  • If you’re a news junkie, then read the paper! A lot of the local Spanish rags in Melbourne aren’t that good, but BBC Mundo (http://www.bbc.com/mundo ) is quite good. Surf the internet and see what you can find.
Spanish Reading and Listening

Watching films and television series with the subtitles on can be very helpful.

So what sorts of tips and approaches should you incorporate into reading in Spanish?

  • Now the following is what you should consider first and foremost – and it’s the point that most people overlook. There is nothing worse than reading something in English that bores you to tears, let alone something that has you going to the dictionary every thirty seconds, so make sure you read something interesting and pitched at your level.
  • however, while a novel may seem daunting, the advantage of reading a novel is that the author is likely to use the same words over and over again, which is great for reinforcement, and is a major plus point considering that coming across too may new words, and too often can be a bit of a deterrent. I guess you have to use personal judgement as far as weighing up novels and short stories is concerned.
  • while on the topic of looking up new words, you will definitely have to run this gauntlet. While many texts designed for students come with vocabulary lists foot-noted or written in a side-box, looking up lots of new words comes with the territory of reading in a new language. Study with a good dictionary by your side. There is a post on dictionaries and other books in this link.
  • you should probably use a combination of figuring meanings out by context, while not shying away from looking up new words, especially those that appear frequently throughout the text.
  • As mentioned, this can become tedious after a while. If you find you’re looking up too many words (more than two per sentence) then the text might be too difficult for you.
  • Write down new things that you learn. This is especially true when watching a film with the Spanish subtitles on, because once the next scene is on-screen, that great new expression that you just learned has gone with it, and you’re unlikely to look it up later!
  • For those really up for it, it is often quite useful to translate texts from Spanish to English – if you have the patience!

Listening to Spanish

Passively listening to something like a podcast or a movie might seem like a great and fun way to learn Spanish, but there’s nothing that will really help you retain large clumps of words or sentences unless you are actively engaging with them. Still, it doesn’t hurt to throw on a Spanish language movie or two.

Suggestions for Listening Resources

  • Podcasts can be of some value and a lot of them are fun. Studyspanish.com has a podcast, as do many other sites. A little bit of trial and error, combined with selecting what piques your interest will result in the discovery of a few gems out there.
  • There are quite a lot of books which come with CDs, online and other resources which are based around listening. A lot of these are interactive as well. Make sure you take advantage of these audio exercises if you have any books which come with additional resources. A couple of good ones are the Nuevo Ven series, as well as the previously-mentioned Easy Spanish Reader (just check to make sure they come with CDs if this is what you’re after).
Spanish Reading and Listening

A really good resource for those who want to read and listen to Spanish.


So what sorts of tips and approaches should you incorporate into listening to Spanish?

  • Don’t pick something that is going to frustrate you. A lot of presenters on news programs speak very quickly, and this can be discouraging. Remember: listening to the news or sitting back and listening to anything for that matter is not going to dramatically improve your Spanish. Speaking and writing are best for that. Think of the above resources as a mark to gauge where you are. So if you have no idea what is going on when you listen to things in Spanish, just chill out, have a laugh, or find something more easy-going.
  • Listen for key words and expressions to put things into context. This might seem obvious, but it’s important not to be discouraged because you’re not understanding every word. We don’t do this when we listen to English either…
  • There is a concept in Spanish called enlace, or encadenamiento. Google these terms and get roughly familiar with them. It might change the way you think about listening to Spanish.
  • Write down expressions and words that you would like to remember or which you think might be useful for a later conversation. This brings the writing component back into the equation, and we all know how important writing is….


Next Time…

Thanks for reading this exploration into Spanish reading and listening. The whole purpose of the last few entries on studying Spanish has been based around creating a study plan. Now that we’ve covered the bases for a decent weekly plan, please don’t forget to backtrack and follow the links in this article, or do a search for ‘study Spanish’ on the webpage. So I guess that means we’re done right? Nope. Next time around, we will have a look at some of the other things you can do to incorporate language-learning into the agenda, namely getting motivated!

¡Nos vemos!

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Salsa & Latin Music in Melbourne: The Great 90’s Latin Music Scene in Melbourne

Welcome to another Episode of a look at the Latin Music Scene in Melbourne


Latin music or Salsa? It’s all the same thing, isn’t it?

We’ve been looking at the origins Melbourne’s Latin music, with a focus on Salsa, and now it’s time to look right at the greatness of the Latin music scene in Melbourne. The last entry focussed on the way that Australia embraced multiculturalism in the late 80s and early 90s, and the way that the country embraced the ‘world music’ boom, in which Salsa was tied up. You can read about it here. In fact in many ways, Salsa had become an umbrella term for a number of different Latin styles. In this blog entry we’re going to have a look at the people who were behind the scenes. Who were these new musicians? Were they all Latino? How was this new music overall embraced by the Australian public? We’ll also look at Latin music as big corporate business and the ways that this played out in Australia with Groups such as Buena Vista Social Club.

Who actually were these Latinos?

A sizeable number of Italians and Greeks, who many people saw as having felt a particular affiliation with Latin music, became a large factor in the development of the Latin music scene, not only as patrons, but as salsa group members.[1] It is also noteworthy that Combo la Revelación was formed by Jorge Aguilar, who was not of Caribbean origin, but rather Peruvian, and the band, like many others at the time, played an eclectic mix of styles such as merengue and cumbia. Furthermore, the songs in the repertoires of such bands tended to be covers of classic salsa and Latin popular songs, rather than originally written pieces.

It could be said then, that in a certain way, many Latinos, and people who identified as being Latinos, who took up dancing and playing salsa and Latin music, were the result of an emerging and in-demand salsa scene, rather than the reason for it, as was the case in New York City. This mixture of Latino and non-Latino patrons and performers, in their various socio-cultural configurations, immersed in and shaping an eclectic mix of tropical Latin music, would set the precedent for the way the scene would unfold in the years to come.

The Rise of World Music

The broad understanding of non-western or ‘world music’ had fully entered the Australian consciousness around the beginning of the 1990s, and it was to have a lasting resonance. Bubacar Diop, of Senegalese world music group Bu-baca spoke of the way that this non-western music had been embraced by countless people.[2] Diop further spoke of the absence of problems, in spite of warnings of racist Australians who would pose a hindrance to his band’s shows, an occurrence that was all-too-common in places such as Paris, another city with a thriving world music scene. In fact, Bu-baca had received nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses, and their concerts from 1992 to 1995 consistently drew huge crowds.[3]

As the decade unfolded, much of the Australian public also continually demonstrated its readiness to move in a direction of cultural plurality with regards to popular music. The Music Hive Festival, promoted as being a multicultural event for all to attend, took place at the Footscray Community Arts Centre in 1994.[4] On the third of August, 1995, The Age newspaper published an article on the forthcoming Latin Stars Festival, and its featured dance group, Orquesta del Barrio, which was renowned for its Cuban-Puerto Rican salsa on the nightclub circuit. The article wrote:


‘…Orquesta del Barrio, which plies the Johnston Street nightclub circuit with its Cuban Puerto Rican salsa, is a good example of the multiculturalism Latin Stars celebrates. The rhythm section is mostly Chilean, the lead-singer is Peruvian, the horn section includes Australians, a Scot and a Russian.[5]

Melbourne’s Great Latin Music Scene…

By the middle of the week preceding the event, over 1,500 tickets had been sold. In addition to Orquesta del Barrio, Los Rumberos, who had by now transformed their image into an Afro-Cuban styled group, stylistically diverse groups Combo la Revelación, Espíritu Latino and Cacique, as well as the merengue group Furia, were among those that performed at the enormous gathering that year.[6]

Latin music, increasingly engaged in the musical experimentation of the era, had truly become a globalised phenomenon by this stage, experiencing commercial success in countries such as the United States.[7] Justo Díaz of Papalote had also observed that Latin music in Australia had flowered from a small-scale scene, frequented by an elitist ‘trendy’ type-crowd, into to a vibrant scene embraced by many of Australia’s music-loving public.[8] Clubs such as Bar Bakka and Copacabana opened their doors in Collingwood, and the Stage and Bolero began operating in the adjacent suburb of Fitzroy. These well-organised and comparatively commercial clubs marked the arrival of a scene unlike that of the one headed by places such as Café Clicquot, the Carlton Club, and Rosatti’s.[9]

The Bullring…

In 1994, a club known as the Bullring opened in Fitzroy. Containing the Spanish quarter of the city in the Iberian sense of the word, Fitzroy had been home to a developing Spanish music scene, with Flamenco events regularly taking place.[10] This direction was to change, however, when the owner, who had recently bought the venue, decided to convert it into a beacon for the new Latin American music scene. The Bullring fostered Melbourne’s Latin American culture throughout its blossoming years, and the nightclub subsequently became a Melbourne landmark, with its wrought iron Spanish-style gates, neon sign, its enormous gigantic wooden eye which spanned the staircase, along with its numerous mounted wooden bulls’ heads.[11] The Bullring also gained somewhat of an international reputation, with Chilean sailors frequently heading in the direction of Fitzroy after disembarking from their voyages.[12]

Night Cat

The Night Cat in Fitzroy. Credit: http://melbournepubguide.tripod.com/

Another venue which also developed into an institution was the Night Cat, which had opened in Fitzroy the following year. Los Cabrones, a fourteen piece Afro-Cuban band, began to play on Sunday nights to a capacity crowd in 1998, and they have not stopped performing since.[13] From the mid 1990s onwards, these venues and countless others were hosts to a circulation of regular local as well as international live acts. Located in the same geographical area, these places formed the backbone of a vibrant live music scene which lasted from the middle of the 1990s, up until recently.[14]

Melbourne’s Latin Dance Schools

With Latin music taking hold, and the establishment of a live music scene, the mid-1990s marked the rise of the now ubiquitous Latin dance school.[15] The Bullring and the Night Cat, merely two among many other venues, actively catered to the tastes of their generally non-Latino clientele by offering dance lessons. In fact, the classes were often taught by dance instructors heralding from anywhere but Latin America, a trend which kept in tune with the diverse socio-cultural makeup of the scene.[16]

Bull Ring

The Bull Ring in the 90s. Anyone know what stands there now? Credit: http://melbournepubguide.tripod.com/

The Bullring had seen hundreds of students learning to dance on a weekly basis, and at its highest point, the dance floor could be seen with up to five hundred people learning to dance such styles as salsa and merengue.[17]

Latin Music and the Worldwide Boom

The late 1990s brought yet another phase in the development of the Latin music scene. Melbourne’s rising numbers of Latin American immigrants contributed to the scene’s ongoing growth, yet if the corporate developments of the late 1980s had caused a tremble in the music scene, the late 1990s would cause an earthquake.

The release and enormous success of German film maker Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club, a documentary which chronicled the reuniting and the return to the stage of several retired Cuban son artists had a huge impact. Around the same time as the film’s release, successful international Latin popular music artists who incorporated salsa music into their performances, such as Ricky Martin and Jennifer López, had begun to appear. Progressions such

J lo

J- Lo in the 90s.

as these could be seen as part of an extension of the era marked by the emergence of the world music and non-western music scenes, insofar as these artists emanated from western countries, in this case, the United States. Martin, a Puerto Rican, had signed a contract with Sony, and López, a U.S.-born Puerto Rican, was reported to have a net value of thirty million U.S. dollars by the end of 2000.[18]

The worldwide boom in Latin music, erected on a massive Spanish speaking audience, had become a lucrative business, and consumption of all things Latin hit unprecedented levels in Australia during the following years.[19] Aside from the high record sales achieved by Latin popular music stars, salsa classes in one school in Perth, predominantly attended by non-Latinos, trebled from

latin music scene in Melbourne

Buena Vista Social Club: a phenomenon.

40 to 120 people within the space of one year.[20]

That concludes our exploration of Melbourne’s 90’s Latin music scene. Next time we’ll venture out of the 90s and have a look at where Latin music ended up during the beginning of the Millennium.


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