One of the words that makes castellano speakers distinctive from other speakers of other varieties of the Spanish language is the use of "vale." It's one of the most important words I use every day. I know that my father loves to imitate me saying it, especially after listening to a conversation I was having with a Spanish friend of mine over Viber.
So, what does it mean? Well, I have something that can help me explain it.
While Americans anticipate Super Bowl ads, Spain's most expensive ad times are on New Year's Eve with the Freixenet commercial being as highly anticipated as the Budweiser or Pepsi ones of yore (when swarms of tween girls waited for what Britney Spears or Beyoncé would do next to promote the joy of Pepsi, and before that the Pepsi girl). But in the Spanish summertime, it's the Estrella Damm commercial that gets top billing on the larger part of the Iberian Peninsula. Estrella Damm might sound familiar, since a little controversy revolving around the paella depicted in the 2013 edition (yup, it got picked up on Time Magazine's blog), and Estrella Damm has much wider distribution in the States than any other Spanish beer (like madrileña Mahou for example).
On the streets of Madrid, this summer commercial is advertised like a movie because it is, in fact, a short film ("un cortometraje'). It wasn't until I saw one of the teachers watching it on her computer my last morning in the "cole" did I realize it was a commercial and not a movie I had to run out and see in theaters.
It has a top director, Alejandro Amenábar (whose titles include "Tesis" and "Abre tus ojos" (aka the original "Vanilla Sky")), and two main stars: Quim Guitérrez, and the one that most of you actually know slash care about: Dakota Johnson (or the girl from "Fifty Shades of Grey" who happens to be Melanie Griffith and the guy from "Miami Vice"'s daughter slash ex-stepdaughter of Antonio Banderas).
Now, back to my explanation of the meaning of "vale"...
At minute 2:45, Dakota's character Rachel asks: "What's vale? Everybody's always saying vale vale vale."
The response? Poor Gutiérrez, playing a stereotypical Spaniard, Víctor, whose English is very much lacking, tries to take a whack at it by saying: "Vale is for....todo."
While in practical terms I truly agree that I could get away with saying that vale is for todo (everything), the man with the better English interjects and says:
"It just means okay."
At around 4:15 Gutiérrez's inner monoogue has a mixture of English that encapsulates some mistake that many of us former (and current) Auxiliares de Conversación/English teachers come across in our labor. Towards the end, Víctor answers a large number of trivia questions. The true scale of his knowledge is incredible. And how is he able to answer them?
He went to various events with friends.
And the common theme?
"Te invito a una cerveza" (I'll buy you a beer)
"¿Teatro y unas cañas?" (Theater and beers?)
"Luego tomamos una cerveza."
He responds to all of the proposals: VALE.
At the end, he asks Dakota's Rachel, who naturally doesn't speak any Spanish, at the end of the night: "You want to look at estrellas tonight conmigo?" (Estrella means star and conmigo means "with me").
Her answer? "Vale." (It certainly helped that her ex-stepdad is Antonio Banderas, hence the adequate pronunciation.
Now, enjoy the summer Mediterráneamente (or Mediterraneanly), aka the summer slogan for Estrella Damm.