Bilingualism… Good or bad? Have you had the chance to speak two languages since you were born? Would you have liked to?
Bilingualism keeps being a controversial issue. Some people say the more languages you speak, the better… others say that raising a child in more than one language is going to confuse him so in the end he won’t be able to speak any.
Who knows… what it’s clear is that Loreto Peralta, the main actress in the Mexican ‘Comedy’ Instructions Not Included gained this role for being the only child in Mexico able to speak fluent English and Spanish. In fact, the role was originally made for a male child but they couldn’t find a bilingual one…
Instructions Not Included tells the story of a Mexican stunt man, Valentín, who raises her child, Maggie, in Los Angeles. The kid speaks Spanish in the house but English outside, so she is a bilingual child.
On the other hand, Valentín just speaks Spanish. He has lived in US for seven years, yet he refuses to learn English because as a stunt man he doesn’t need it for his job. This is a very common attitude. I’ve met a lot of people both in UK and Spain who do not care about learning the language of the place they live in. Usually it’s because they don’t need it for survival so they cannot be bothered. Personally, I wouldn’t do that. I love travelling, and I’ve noticed it makes a great difference when you know – or not – the language of the country you’re in. In my experience, knowing the language allows you to have real connection with the culture and the people that probably you cannot get otherwise. For instance, now that I’m living UK, speaking fluent English is what has allowed me to look at the Lancastrian countryside feeling that it’s my home… – although I should also learn how to speak Cow and Sheep to feel fully integrated in Lancaster, to be honest.
Maggie knows her dad cannot undertsand English and, of course, as any kid of seven would do, she uses it to her advantage. Therefore, when Valentín uses her as an interpreter she’s not always accurate.
What I enjoyed about this movie is that many of the comedy gags are based on linguistic misunderstandings. However, I couldn’t help noticing that you must speak English and Spanish to get the most of them. I wonder if this is a common situation in Mexico – where the film was made. In any case, Instructions Not Included has been the most profitable Spanish speaking movie in US, and it’s been also incredibly successful in Mexico. So it seems people like multilingualism!
Here you have short video where Loreto and Eugenio (actors from the film) talk about bilingualism.
Valentín finally considers learning English when Maggie’s mother intends to take the sole custody of the child alleging that he’s not a good father because he cannot even speak English when he’s raising his child in LA. Maggie turns to be an exigent teacher and Valentín quite a dumb student.
There is a funny scene in which Valentín asks her daughter how to say ‘pasa’ – ‘come in’ – in English. In Spanish ‘pasa’ is the same word for both, the verb and the noun for ‘raisin’. So Maggie assumes his dad is asking about the fruit. In the next scene Valentín welcomes a very surprised guest by saying ‘raisin, raisin‘.
Considering that nowadays more and more people speak English, I think it could be good to watch more movies that, like this one, use several languages that we all can understand. Perhaps we bilingual writers should start writing the scripts!
Have you watched Instructions Not Included? Do you know any other comedy that uses language for fun?