Monday, January 16, 2006

Some guidance on Language

Before I elaborate on why I think that Catalans should start investing in Los Monegros (Saragossa = Zaragoza) and develop a Las Vegas type of environment, I will touch on the language issue for a little while.
I get mad when I read the ABC newspaper. It is strictly an anti-Catalan forum. They only publish articles and letters that denigrate Catalonia and the Catalans, and at a lesser extent, the Basques. It is no secret that this is where they got its name (Anti Basque and Catalan) or maybe I made it up?
However I have to admit that Catalan politicians are clearly misguided. They show daily their provincialism and lack of global approach.
First a couple of facts:

  • The traditional language in Catalonia is Catalan and it has been Catalan for the last 1000 years. Before that, Latin was the language that the previous invaders, the Romans, imposed on the Iberian peninsula. As far as I know, no one in Catalonia is mad at the Romans or their direct heirs, the Italians.
  • When Catalonia lost the Succession War in another tragic September 11th, Philip V's decree of new foundation (January 1716) was the start of the penetration of Castilian (=Spanish) in the Catalan territories, especially Barcelona.

But, by now, all this is history and we need to be pragmatic and smart. Spanish started as an imposition, but in the course of the centuries, it has become an asset. That's why Barcelona is the city where, most probably, more books in Spanish are published every year.

So Mr Maragall, Mr Carod-Rovira, Mr Mas and company. Here a piece of advice:

  • Invest all the additional money you can get as a result of the new "Estatut" in education. Make sure that every single resident in Catalonia is fluent in Catalan, Spanish and ENGLISH. Do it quietly, it will take 15 years to get the next generation up and running, but DO it.
  • Make sure that all students get at least 40% of their education in either Spanish or Catalan, not a Catalan only education with one hour a week of Spanish.
  • At the University, all studies should be offered in Catalan and Spanish. Students should make the decision. This way we would be able to attract talent from other parts of the world, what would generate more income to be reinvested in our education system and hopefully some of the students would settle in Catalonia increasing our brain power. I would also suggest some of the curricula be taught in English to increase the cross-fertilization even further
  • We should recognize that Catalan outside Catalonia, the Balearic islands and Valencia is useless. It is a beautiful language that I love with all my heart, but is certainly useless outside the territories where it is spoken
  • We should not try to impose it outside those territories. It will cause not only rejection, but it will be detrimental for our economy. Sending invoices or other paperwork in Catalan to non Catalan speaking customers outside the areas I mentioned before is not only disrespectful but also the fastest way to commit economic harakiri. Customer should always be first and if they want the invoices in Swahili, we should provide them
  • We should not campaign to get Catalan in the European institutions. We should lobby to remove all languages but English from the European institutions as a way to get a lean European public sector. Only English should be spoken there, all master documents should be English, all public servants and bureaucrats should master English, otherwise they should lose their European job (we can give them some transition time to adapt, like a month or two). Who can get a job in a multinational if he or she does not speak English fluently? Translation to local languages should be undertaken by the respective countries and regions. So the Catalan government could run the Catalan EU website with all translations in Catalan, the same as the Spanish government, the French, the Danish or the Maltese (obviously UK and also Ireland should contribute with some cash, otherwise it would be a free ride for them)
  • In Catalonia, Catalan should be used as a way to promote the economy. Everything should be customer driven. If customers demand Catalan, localization in Catalan should be required. If you come to invest or you are a tourist or visitor, you can speak in whatever language you want or use smoke signals, that we will understand you.

So please, politicians, get me the money, do not squander it (you know, the 3% commissions and things like that), start spending heavily in education and shut up for 2 or 3 or 15 years. Once you deliver, you can open your mouth again.


Ale said...

tell it like it is! bravo

Habibi said...

I agree with mostly everything.
Even thought I love English I still thing that we should use another language. Call it Esperatno, call it IDO, call it Latin of whatever you want. This would be difficult, but giving the strenght to only one country and a half (remember that Irish is also oficial in Ireland) is not fare. Anyway (this will sound contradictory), if not, English is the good Choice.
I am an Spanish Speaker/Thinker (when I do), and native-like speaker or Catalan. I so agree with the trilingual education. 33% each. I have "verguenza ajena", I pity other people, sometimes when they try to speak in either language (Spanish and Catalan) and they don't do it properly. I can understand with English but, hey, if we are not using Esperanto (which I am learning, btw), "plug your batteries" (get started) and learn the one and only language!
Education should "very much so" be THE INVESTMENT, yes. The problem with it, actually, is that we don't have the resources slash interest that exists in the States, GB or Scandinavia.
I love languages and I love Catalan but, as I said many times, if I had to choose one language to be saved, that would be Basque (talking about Europe) as it is the only one that is isolated and, hey, only 600000 people speak it!
Anyway, Ian, make sure this gets to Maragall & Co. You'll need to translate!
Today I've been to do some paperwork and, this really needs to be inproved. As I say, if you don't spend you won't receive.

ian llorens said...

I am a very pragmatic person and the reality is that the lingua franca in the 21st century is English. Eighty per cent of the internet pages are in English. No one can reverse this trend anymore.
Esperanto, good try that failed.

Ireland should pay some money to the language fund too. I know that some of them speak Gaelic (about 50 thousand actively, less than Catalan speakers in the Barcelona soccer field (Nou Camp) in any given Sunday), but they have achieved that their language be an official language in the E.U. with translators/interpreters paid by you (not me).
Besides, I do not know whether you have noticed that our Spanish passports contain all the information translated to Gaelic too (the only language in the passport that I do not get at all), whereas there is NOTHING in Catalan, Basque or Galician.

Food for thought.

Haters said...

"When Catalonia lost the Succession War in another tragic September 11th, Philip V's decree of new foundation (January 1716) was the start of the penetration of Castilian (=Spanish) in the Catalan territories, especially Barcelona."

I stopped reading there. Plain lies.
Castillian=Spanish? And Catalonians were not Spanish?

That's really funny.

Haters said...

One more thing... The regions that are now part of Spain have been part of Spain for FIVE CENTURIES. And that's a fact. I don't think any other European country can say that.

Things may be a little different in your own fantasy world, though.

ian llorens said...

In my blog there is a lot of wishful thinking and a great deal of irony and sarcasm.
You are free to read as much or as little as you want, but if you stopped there, you missed the best part.

However I think that you misunderstood the sense of Castilian (= Spanish). I was referring to the Castilian language, also known as Spanish language.
Therefore my statement that the penetration of the Castilian language a.k.a. Spanish in Catalonia started as a result of Phillip V's new foundation decree is a historical truth.

Some facts about Spain:
The term Spain has been used for hundreds of years to designate the peoples who lived in the Iberian peninsula, independently from the way they were organized politically. You can find it in "Tirant lo blanc" and even in the Book of Deeds of James I, king of Aragon when he wrote in his chapter about the conquest of Murcia: "And by the faith that we owe to God, since those of Catalonia, which is the best kingdom of Spain". This was written in the 13 hundreds.
Formally Spain started in 1555, when queen Joan (Juana la Loca) died and Charles V, became I of Spain. The centralized Spain where all the kingdoms, but Castilia lost their institutions, laws, judicial system, etc. came as a result of the new foundation laws issued by Phillip V in the early 17 hundreds.

And personally, I do not hate anybody.

María said...


Well done. We have disagreed sometimes (ok, almost always) but I liked this post. Its a good piece of Catalan seny which I admire and find distourbingly lacking in Catalan politicians at the moment.

On the bilinguist thing, I totally support it, as long as it´s not force fed. I wish I could be bilinguist (Spanish and any other language), I wish I could speak Catalan, my nanny´s mother tongue.

I think all the children in Catalonia should learn both languages. Call it same number of hours in language teaching (lets admit it, sometimes having learnt a language at home isn´t enough, you need some academic knowledge too) and the freedom to choose what language the other subjects are taught in.

Someone said sometime that if a language is imposed, it won´t survive.

adam said...

I know it´s very easy for an english person to say that have everything in English, it would save a lot of money and people inployed, but, I think languages should be accepted and catalan should be in the europeen union, other wise most europeens don´t even know it exists! I found a lot of english people who have never heard of catalan, and I feel sad.
Adam Macià-Parris from catalunya. (even thow I have an english name and surname, I´m half catalan)

adam said...

I´m sorry to say, that catalan is not imposed in the schools, if we have spanish and other nationalities, that doesn´t mean we have to have classes in their language, would you want indian to be taught in UK, or arab.
You just have to think, that catalan is a country, not part of spain, and that solves everything.

Rich said...

Hi Ian, I am new to this blog and hope I can give my comments.
1. we both share the same last name
2. I was born in the U.S. second generation
3. I am a 50/50 mix of Basque and whatever my father is from Spain.

having never yet made it to Spain to see the land of my heritage (will be there next year) and finally getting the time and opportunity to attempt to find out more of my family history I will make the following comments.

I believe in learning the language of your heritage. I wish my parents had continued speaking their original languages to me when I was a child.
However, seeing the issues that happen by not creating a common bond I see the need for a defined single language in many cases.

Again I believe in learning and making available the language of heritage ( and wish I learned mine as a child) but believe in the necessity of creating a common ground and therefore a common language to overcome our tendencies of exclusion.