Thursday, April 12, 2007

Future in our hands

We, Catalans, cannot simply complain about the Spanish government not doing this or that to grant Catalonia the rights it deserves.

It is also true, however, that so far nothing has been done to make of the Kingdom of Spain a place that Catalans (real Catalans, those Catalans from all origins who feel our culture, language and philosophy of life has a value) can call their country.
Those who, like me, live overseas, know that in the Spanish consulates and embassies, there is absolutely no sign or indication that Spain is a multicultural, multilingual country. With a minimum investment, it would have been possible to have the key signage in Spanish and Catalan (most probably they should have had it also in Galician and Basque too), and in those locations where there is Catalan speaking personnel, a sticker on the counter saying: “es parla catal√†”.
It would have been a great gesture by the Spanish government to push to have Catalan recognized as an official language of the EU, based on the fact that is the EU language without state that has highest number of speakers and is used at all levels of society (education, communication, literature, business, etc.). It would have been easy to make the case, or otherwise refuse to pay for those languages that are not even exclusive of their countries and used by orders of magnitude less that Catalan, like Gaelic or Maltese.
They could have supported the Catalan national teams in those sports where Catalonia is a world leader (roller hockey, waterpolo, ...), the same as Great Britain with soccer, rugby and others, instead of spending public money to avoid it.
They could have favored multi-language labeling for products with distribution nation-wide. They could have included Catalan (and also Galician and Basque) as languages that can be used to represent Spain in any foreign cultural event (even the Eurovision, I do not think that by singing in Catalan, we would be worse off).
They could have encouraged the use of the 4 national languages in Parliament, just by investing a little bit in interpreters, a small investment to show that they care.
They could have fought to get the bullet train connection Valencia-Barcelona-Paris, far earlier than the Madrid-Seville. They could have pushed to get an international airport hub in Barcelona to support the “still now” leading economy in the Iberian peninsula.
They could have used the traditional Catalan industrious and reserved character, to counter the Hispanic stereotype flamenco-party-fiesta-macho-ole that people outside Spain have in their minds.
The could have endorsed the fact that Catalan and Valencian are the same language, something that is clear as water, but they never did it because they wanted on one side, to undermine the Catalan culture, and on the other side to score points with the Valencian Spanish nationalist. The scientific truth to hell if we get the majority in congress, that’s their approach. In the 70’s, for instance, the Belgian government issue a law that stated that Flemish and Dutch were the same language (Neederlands), something unthinkable in Spain.

During the 30 years of democracy, I thought that there was hope for a federal monarchy, where Catalonia, its culture, language and personality would be valued.
As per today, I have totally lost hope, especially today after watching a hate- speech program in Telemadrid. We need to go a different route. It is all in our hands, Catalans at home, in Europe and overseas. The biggest handicap is also within ourselves. The current Catalan politicians are a scam.

I hope that one day, we will act united as Catalans and not in a partisan way. Before that happens, I have no hope.


Garci said...

I don't think the PUC acts in a partisan way. They act all together regarding their sanctioning laws. And I think you will act together when you include those who don't feel 'your culture, language and philosophy of life'...unless the Generalitat chooses to definitively overcome the democratic way (they are on the way, but still not very close, luckily).

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

Dear Ian,
You have hit the nail on the head again. I always say it. If the Spanish government was open to the diversity of all cultures that Spain has, if they would embrace all of us instead of trying to suffocate slowly our language and our culture, it would be great to be a Spaniard and we wouldn't have any reasons left to desire the independence of Catalonia. What you describe here is the behaviour of a civilized culture, an intelligent and tolerant nation that embraces its diversity. Indeed, I also wish the Spanish embassies and consulates had 4 languages, and it would be so nice to have an identity card with 4 languages. Just like the Swiss ID card, or money in 4 languages. I think it's fun to learn languages, it is not annoying, it's enriching.
Unfortunately Spain is still different. I think it remains on a lower level of 'democracy', a bit like Russia. It's sad but true.
But I will give you some hope:
According to many studies, the Western world is moving slowly but surely towards a more democratic society, for example, in the book “the long tail”.
The power is shifting from governments companies. And companies are now learning that the only way to survive is to connect individually with their costumers. And to connect individually with us they will have to do that in Catalan language.
Costumers (individuals, so also me and you) will be able to co-create the world as we like it. Technology that is now just being developed will make it possible for us to get exactly what we want whenever we want it.
Internet and TV will melt.
All TV channels of the planet will be available with full resolution through the internet. The Spanish and the Valencian government are now able to avoid Valencian citizens to see Catalan TV. In the future, no governments will be able to avoid people from Valencia, Andorra, Balearic islands or Alguer to watch any channel developed in Catalan language. They will ALL be available for anyone anywhere on the planet.
To switch from English to Finish, from Russian to Catalan will be so easy that no companies will ever think of making or not making the effort to offer their products in Catalan language to Catalan speaking citizens. This technology is being developed now. See the way Gmail works: if you write an e-mail in Catalan language about scuba diving Gmail looks automatically for advertising in Catalan language about scuba diving.
This kind of technology will be the rule in the future.
Politicians will have to follow this pattern. They are already struggling with their voters. I am not so pessimistic as you are.
I am pessimistic about the possibilities we have today with the existing technology and the existing generation of politicians, but I think that if we have enough patience, the future will make everything easier for Catalans, and people wanting to hurt us and willing to avoid us developing our language and culture will simply have no tools to do that any more.

Habibi said...

Yeah, that's pity. I dislike the fight among brothers. It has happened before in Catalonia and Spain and it is, certainly, the worse of wars.
About what you said, I agree but, Ian, you know, the fact that milions of people care, does not make a hundred other people care. Comparing Catalonia-Spain with other countries is worthless.
I have friend in Seville and we speak almost every day. I keep making "jokes" about Catalanity. He laughs and do not critizice. It is fun, when I say "you, in your country" and such (now he might become even a different country) and he accepts that. Under a joke, there is always something of truth. And since I saw that documentary at TeleEspe (for others, TeleMadrid is aka TeleEspe, referring to Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the Comunidad de Madrid), I just feel like being one of those Catalans who are all the time so concious of their catalanity. I said already that I am 50-50, but I might sell my other half! It just gets on my nerves! I just feel like boicoting the Madrid exhibition in Barcelona these days.

Garci said...

I also saw the documentary, in YouTube. It is shame they use such a dramatic tone in such a sensitive issue, regardless of the fact that what they show is supposed to be real (interviews, hidden cameras on schools,...and I think it is real). Everything is on the tone to use. It reflects the aggressiveness of the film-makers and it generates blind defensive positions in Catalan nationalists. They should show it, yes, but with far less sensationalist flavor. Especially funny was the interview with Rosa she really a competent person in her work? according to her words, I am surprised she's got the job she's got...

Johnny Tastavins said...

Ian, Spain may be a marvellous country, of course. However, it is the hands of the worst nationalism, the Spanish one. We are getting a worst scenario. There were matters absolutely accepted in the Spanish constitution of 1978 that are right now being rejected (in a suspicious silence) such as the differences between nations inside Spain.

Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia were accepted as differentiated nations, with the right to use a different language.

Now PP and their friends are trying to kill any difference. Go to hell.

I suggest to create new languages, such as Argentinean, Mexican, Uruguayan, or even Cuban. Aren't they different form the Castilian spoken in Spain? I am smiling only thinking on the reaction of Pedro J. and Esperanza.

ian llorens said...

A couple of comments:
By taking isolated examples, editing the answers and mistranslating, you can create all kinds of false impressions.

The reality is that there is no linguistic conflict in Catalonia and there are many more things that you can do if you speak only Spaninh than if you speak only Catalan (you may want to read an old post of mine “zom una nazi√≥” ).
They could have interviewed tens of thousands of parents who are happy with the immersion but they did not do it.

They could have shown hundreds of signs, product labels, directions for use, software user interfaces that are only in Spanish, but they did not do it.

They could have gone to hundreds of bars and restaurants and see how difficult it is to get service in Catalan and they did not do it.

They could have gone to the Central government delegation in Barcelona and tried to get something done in Catalan (an impossible mission) and they did not do it.

The interviewed the canary guy who wanted to educate his daughter in her mother tongue, and as a remedy she put her in an English school (I thought he wanted to educate her in her mother tongue?). By the way, the guy is candidate for Cuitadans in the next Sitges townhall elections.
The Italian lady, if she does not like it in Barcelona, the world is big. Bye-bye. You know that. Garci.

And the interview to the two kids from the Magreb, with hidden camera, putting words in their mouths and without parental permission, is, in my opinion, not only morally wrong, it is illegal.

Regardin' Rosa Regas, I do not know her at all, but I did not see anything wrong in her words. Do you mean that Bush, Zapatero, Rajoy or Carod are stronger intellectually?
The reality is, Catalans elect their representatives who make the laws. If we do not like how they govern, we kick them out in the next elections. That's democracy. If someone from the outside, does not like it, I couldn't care less. Actually, if Telemadrid does not like it, that makes me extremely happy.

And remember, Johnny Tastavins and I were in Castilian immersion for 15 years and we did pretty well, although we only learnt to write in Catalan when we were in our 20's. We did not have 3 hours of Catalan a week. It was forbidden.

If you have some time and still understand Catalan, take some time to see this program:

Johnny Tastavins said...

Remember Ian, I was not only forbideen, but also punished. Don't you remember the bells of the "consejeros"?

Garci said...


Not only I understand Catalan, you would be surprised how effective I have been in the promotion of Catalan in the US.

And yes, regarding the Italian woman, she can leave, as many of us...but I don't think you'd say the same words for the jews in 1930's Germany.

ian llorens said...

Garci, you must be tired. You seem to be studying Cymraeg too hard. So I will not take your comment too seriuosly.

The Italian woman seems to be very unhappy with her life in a territory that has welcomed her and she was willing to participate in a program that promotes hatred against it. I am just inviting her to go somewhere else, where she will be happier.
What does this have to do with the Jews in Germany?
If I spent my time critizing USA and when I go to Spain I would participate in programs that incite hatred against USA, I would find it normal that Americans invite me to go somewhere else. Try in Wales.

By the way, thanks for promoting a minority language.

Joan said...

I wish we had our future in our hands.

ian llorens said...

You absolutely have it. I saw you holding Roger's little hand.
Future in Joan's hands

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

Going back to the Italian woman. It is funny to see how many foreigners go to Barcelona (Barthelona) thinking they are going to a Spanish-speaking city. The knowledge of the presence of the Catalan language in Barcelona is pretty poor. Spaniards should understand that if Catalonia were 100% Catalan speaking, if we would achieve that in Catalonia and all foreigners would know that, Spanish economy would increase because many foreigners want to learn Spanish and not Catalan. And they would all go to Spanish speaking communities instead of coming to learn Spanish in Barcelona and getting this kind of disappointments. I know of some foreigners that decide to go and learn Spanish somewhere else as they know that Barcelona is not 100% Spanish speaking. Honestly, whenever some Dutch acquaintance asks me about courses of Spanish language I advise them to go somewhere else than Barcelona (Barselona). It seems to me more appropriate.
I would not even consider going to Brussels to learn French!
So, if learning the Spanish is so important to you, Italian lady, you definitely are in the wrong place!

Garci said...

Miguel, interesting topic you arose.

Exactly the opposite view has Joan Ramon Resina, current professor of Hispanic studies at Stanford. And we had an argument about it some years ago. He thought the best place to study Spanish was Barcelona. He is not exactly what you would call a Spanish nationalist, I'd dare to say...
On the other hand, it is the very authorities at the Catalan Universities the first ones not interested in applying your reasoning, for obvious reasons.."the pela is the pela, noi!"

ian llorens said...

If I had to recommend a friend where to study Spanish, I would say Salamanca, Valladolid, Burgos or Soria.

This does not mean that Catalan private and publish institutions should not teach Spanish, market will decide. It is clear that in Barcelona, there is plenty of opportunities to use Spanish, more than Catalan, I am afraid.
But people should not come to Catalonia to learn the Spanish language only, if this is the reason, most probably Barcelona is a bad choice. If they come for the package (cultural, leisure, academic, etc.), it is obviously one of the best world destinations.

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

I know of many Dutch citizens that prefer to go to Madrid or Salamanca to practice or learn Spanish because they are seeking for a 100% Spanish (culturally and linguistically speaking) area.
Obviously no one could tell to these people go to Barcelona. Then you get the disappointments. Exactly in the same way I would not say to someone seeking for a typically Spanish environment to travel to the Basque country. Or someone seeking for a typical Dutch environment to travel to Frisia.
Garci please, my name is MiQuel, not MiGuel.

Garci said...


My most sincere apologies for that 'g' that I put in your name. I promise I did not have any purpose. I always (at least purposedly) name people by the way the name themselves: respect.
And because of respect I demand you to name Castilian (not Spanish) when you refer to that certain language.
Another point is what you mean by a 'typically Spanish environment'. Because I believe Spain is a multicultural country, a place that represents Spain would a place that represents all (or at least most) of the cultures in Spain. For that reason it is difficult to find such a place. Madrid or Barcelona could be relatively good options, at least the best ones. It is amazing how often I must tell people about the strong similarities between the Basque Country and Old Castile, but I will do it once again... For example, the 'pintxos' o 'pinchos culture' is typical for those two areas. Amazingly for Catalans a pincho (pintxo) is not the same as a tapa. And it is deeply embedded in the societal relationships in both places. Something that does not happen in Catalonia, scarcely happens in Madrid, and happens in different form in Andalucia. The 'pelota vasca' o simply 'pelota' game is another one. There obvious historical reasons for that. The same ones that link Valencia and Catalonia: middle age re-populations. Castile and Castilian were born partly in today's Basque territory: western Araba (Alava) province.
My point is: 'typically Spanish' must be a place with most of the cultures represented. For that reason you will have to go to those places receiving inmigrants from most of the places. Madrid is the first option, Barcelona and Bilbo (Bilbao) the second. I think I made the point clear. And sorry again for the confusion with your name.

Garci said...

Sorry, I meant 'amazingly for most Catalans a pincho is THE SAME as a tapa'. But it is not.

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

Hi Garci,
thanks. You know I didn't know it, but my name was Miguel until recently. When I was born my name was forbidden. Now I changed it to MiQuel.
Castillian is fine for me to name what everybody on the Planet calls the Spanish language.
About similarities. I won't argue with you. I don't know these areas of Spain as good as you.
No matter what these similarities are, the Dutch citizens I speak of (just like the vast majority of people who don't know Spain very well) think that typical Spanish is bull fights, flamenco and Castillian language. And that is what they want to experience.
Catalonia does not give them this (for them genuine) experience. I wish the Spanish authorities would promote your vision of Spain. Perhaps there would be no Catalans left wishing to be independent from Spain. You know, if they would show love and appreciation, helping the Catalan language to be included in the European parliament, making a passport, drivers licence, coins and stamps in which one can see this diversity of Spain, helping all Catalan areas to interconnect with each other, etc.

But the Spanish authorities still today 'sell' a Spain with only one language, that everybody calls Spanish. And this brings me back to the obvious perception of foreigners about Spain as a country with one language and one culture.

And this is why I think we would be better off by being independent from Spain. It's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I´d like to introduce you to my blog. Pop up as often as you feel like.

study spanish in Barcelona

kate said...

Hi thanks all for a really interesting discussion. I am from the UK - not english actually but scottish/irish! I came to Barcelona first because I wanted to dance tango ( my Argentinean teacher lives here) and then because i needed to communicate I started to learn castellano. I am certainly 'guilty' of the ignorance spoken of here about Catalan and I only gradually started to realise that I was actually living in a place where Catalan was the mother tongue and not the 'spanish' that I was learning. Now, one year on and with more information and experience I can see how annoying this must have been for my mostly Catalan friends who were kind enough to speak to me in castellano and sometimes to change idioms socially so i could be included. What I would like to say is that because of the lack of information outside Catalunya it is quite easy to arrive with little or no knowledge of the culture and language and history of Catalunya. I have been on a rapid learning curve. I now live in another city, more Catalan,less multi cultural than Bcn, my partner is Catalan and I have recently decided to concentrate on learning the language and to stop my studies of castellano. Of course I need a language to be able to communicate a little - I continue to speak castellano but it is actually a relief to stop trying to improve. I found it very hard learning two language and every time I opened my mouth to talk I felt guilty for using the 'wrong' language. Sometimes people would look at me blankly and say 'I don't speak castellano' and although this felt a hard response socially it has helped me see that it is up to me to put the work in. It is all about so much more than just language and I can understand why feelings run so high but I have enjoyed reading this blog as there is so much information without the sense of frustrated resentment that can be easy to fall into. I want to learn and my UK friends who come to visit also want to be informed but of course they still make mistakes such as saying 'spanish' when they mean castellano or asking about my 'spanish boyfriend'. But I want to educate myself and others gently without jumping on them as I remember doing myself in my strong feminist days when someone dared to say 'mankind' or chairman' without including women. Anyway, thanks and look forward to more Kate