dimecres, 5 de març de 2008

Reason 9: Even with Zapatero we are in permanent danger of loosing our language

There are many Spanish politicians (and not only from PP) that fight for Spanish education in Catalonia. With which hundreds of thousand children would only speak Spanish and not Catalan. Spanish speakers tend to speak Spanish even if they have learned Catalan because they can express themselves better. Only total education in Catalan language improves the situation of Catalan language in Catalonia.
For the first time in my life I hear young second generation immigrants speaking to me in Catalan when they notice I am Catalan. If they had gone to a Spanish speaking school they would never do that. The so called ‘inversió lingüística’ has helped improve the situation of the Catalan language among young people.
Several times I have had encounters with Spanish speakers who deny that the Catalan language is in danger. We know that unfortunately the numbers don’t lie: the percentage of Catalan speakers in Catalonia has decreased, the territory where Catalan language is spoken has decreased, etc.
Many Spaniards say our language protection laws are fascist laws. Well, I can assure you that in civilized countries such as Switzerland, Belgium or Canada this kind of laws are accepted by everyone and nobody is making associations with a fascist regime. First of all because they have been chosen democratically.

In Belgium and Switzerland the territory is divided by linguistic zones. Each zone has only one official language: its own!
In Belgium, as well as in Catalonia, it is allowed to fund private schools in any language you like. But the state schools must give lessons only in the local official language. And nobody tells them they are fascists.

The situation of the Flemish language is very different than ours. They don’t have the necessity to protect by Law the labels of products, shops or restaurant menus. They don’t have 30% of French speakers in their territory. And where there is a mix of French speakers and Flemish they have a bizarre volunteer apartheid. Flemish costumers never go to French speaking shops. And you won’t find any French speakers in a Flemish shop either. Can you imagine if this was the situation in Catalonia? What would then happen?

In Quebec the situation is much more similar to ours. The Québécois had to take more measures to protect their language. Quebec does have a big minority of foreigners who only speak English. The Québécois are like the Catalans, if they go to a shop where they only speak English they think: “It’s OK, I understand them and I speak their language”. This is very noble, but very bad if you want your language to survive from extinction.
And without any protective laws companies would do as they do in Catalonia: forget the French language and label only in English.
And that’s why in Quebec there is a law that says that it is compulsory to label in French language all products, shops, restaurants, etc.

It is now clear that a majority of Spanish politicians think that it should be possible to live anywhere in Spain by using the Spanish language. That’s why they see our linguistic policy as a threat. They don’t understand (and will never do) that this would be like to force the Flemish to accept French schools in the Flemish territory, or to force the Swiss to all learn and use the German language. Well, this sounds as fascist to me!

At the moment we are obliged at school to learn a language that is not ours. A language that does not belong to this land. They see this as normal. And I think many Catalans see this as normal too.
But this is not normal. This is just the result of an absolutist regime, imposed by absolutist kings and dictators.
If ‘democratic’ politicians as today’s PP and PSOE politicians still have this mentality, the only way to avoid for ever this kind of attacks and be sure we can protect and develop our culture and our economy without obstacles is total independence from Spain.

information in Dutch language source:
information in Catalan language source:

8 comentaris:

California CAT ha dit...

It might help if Catalans stopped spending money in businesses that did not provide services in Catalan. The fact that many Catalans change to Castillian when they go to restaurants, cafes, shops, etc.. once they find out that nobody speaks Catalan there, has the effect of destroying the perceived value of the Catalan language as a useful language. When you find yourself in a business in Catalunya that will not give you service in Catalan, request someone there who can give you service in your language. If they cannot do this, walk out and don't spend money there, and tell your friends to do the same, maybe start a campaign. Make it a priority to spend your money at businesses that respect you and your language in your own land. Once enough people start doing this, maybe businesses will start to realize that it is in their best interest to use Catalan as a language of communication. You shouldn't have to apologize for speaking your language in your land.
All you have to do is make that commitment to your language.

Anònim ha dit...

california cat: WOW, your recommendation reminds me somehow of the german NAZIS boycotting jewish stores in Deutschland... are you serious?? That's BROWN thinking, man!

Miquel, publicaràs aquest comentari? És que si no, tinc francs dubtes que acceptis crítiques... gràcies

Miquel Marzabal Galano ha dit...

Hi anonymous,
Could you explain what you mean with 'my recomendations'?
Because in what I have explained in this article there are no recomendations. I only state what the situation is in different countries with a similar situation than ours.
What is the similarity with what I say and the German nazis? Tell me, I don't understand.
I am not recomending any boycots, I have never done. And now we are speaking of Boycots, the boycot that many Spaniards are doing to Catalan products doesn't it remind you of the German nazis? Aren't you the brown thinker here?
It is Spaniards who are boycotting Catalan products (as German nazis boycotting Jewish products). Not the other way around!
In my article I am speaking about the Spanish authorities forcing catalans to learn their language while we do not live in their linguistic area.
Doesn't this make you think of fascism? It does to me. It makes me think of fascism, nazism and imperialism.
The Spanish government has imposed Catalans to study one hour extra of Spanish, while we had decided, by democratic means, to study in Catalan language (for many reasons).
So please, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous, explain what you mean,

California CAT ha dit...

Okay anonymous, I, as most sane people, do not like being compared with the Nazis. You know exactly what I was trying to say on my earlier post, and it has nothing to do with what happened in Germany in the 30s. It is easy to bring up the specter of Nazism as a diversion from the heart of what I was trying to say, and that is a people's quest for dignity in their own land. I don't really need to explain myself to you, because you probably already have your mind made up, but I do need to clarify it for other readers who might misunderstand where I'm coming from with my point of view.

I think all languages are precious and of equal value on this planet, and that one language should not subordinate another. Catalan is just as precious and Beautiful as Spanish, and as such, Catalans should have the right to express themselves in their language as they go about their daily lives in Catalunya without being resented and hated for it. Many people from all over the world come to live in Catalunya, and many make the effort to learn Catalan. As Catalan is a romance language, once you know Spanish it isn't hard to learn Catalan. The problem arises when people come into Catalunya with an attitude of a conquistador, an attitude that because Spain has conquered Catalunya, all Catalans should give up their language and speak what the conqueror speaks. This has been a success, because all Catalans in Catalunya can speak Spanish as fluently as someone from Madrid or any other part of Spain, which is great. On the other hand, many people from the rest of Spain come to live in Catalunya and never bother learning the Catalan language, not because they cannot do it, but because they feel they shouldn't need to bother, as in their eyes, Catalan is a useless regional language of a people that they have conquered who should stop complaining and just accept their lot in life as part of a greater Spain. It is against this attitude that my original post was written. Catalans have every right to keep their language alive and use it on a daily basis (in their own land, remember) for everything from watching TV, going to the store, taking a bus, calling the phone company for service, or ordering a sandwich. These are things you take for granted if you're first language is Spanish, because you can already do all these things without trouble anywhere in Spain and most of the western hemisphere. Catalans only have Catalunya.

My original post was a message of empowerment, I wanted to remind people that they have a choice in who they support with their money, and they have a right to choose to give their money to someone who will not treat them and their language with disdain, but with dignity instead.

California CAT ha dit...

Hello Miquel,

I apologize for changing the topic from what you had originally posted. Anonymous was referring to my post, not yours.

Miquel Marzabal Galano ha dit...

Oh dear, now I understand the post of mr. or mrs. anonymous.
Well, I don't like boycotts, I must say, but what California cat is saying on his post has to do with love and hatred.
As a Catalan citizen living in Holland, I went once to Brussels. Brussels is a bit like Barcelona, there are many people from different countries. But in Brussel, as I said, there is a kind of volunteer appartheid. The French speaking community is in the south and the Flemish, Dutch speaking community in the north. This has happened in an organic way, because Brussels is exactly on the border between these two cultures. The funny thing is that Flemish shops will speak to you in any language. Flemish shop keepers will speak to you in French, English or even German if necessary. This is the attitude of Catalan shop keepers.
And unfortunately also of most Catalan costumers. And I say so, because shop keepers who don't speak Catalan will never learn Catalan as long as Catalan costumers switch to Spanish for them. And this is the world upside down. The shop keeper should speak all the languages of the country he/she is in. It should be in the interest of the shop keeper to sell more, to sell better, to help the costumers better than the competitor. But unfortunately the habit is indeed that Spanish speakers in Catalonia have the imperial mentality 'California Cat' has mentioned.
In Brussels I went to a French speaking café. I did not know, but the waitress (probably owner of the café) refused to help me in Dutch. My Dutch is far better than my French, so I rather speak Dutch. But this woman did not want to even understand "a cup of coffee with milk please" (in Dutch). She didn't even look at me, she looked the other way and said: "Je ne parle pas Néerlandais". So, she was expecting me to leave.
It was not me, but the bar owner who did not want to help me, to sell me coffee because I was not speaking French to her! Obviously I left.
This, Anonymous, is more or less the attitude Catalans in our own country have to cope with EVERY DAY.
Spanish shop keepers expect that we change to their language.
And this, Anonymous, is the world upside down.
How on earth can you have a café and not even want to understand 50% of the population? How on earth can you pretend this to be a good formula? This is a disgusting attitude of hatred towards Catalan language and the Catalan costumers.
As a costumer I would like to feel welcome, to feel that the shop or bar keeper wants to serve me in the best possible way. That is the normal behaviour of an entrepreneur.
I think that Catalans have indeed the right to be served in Catalan, to buy, shampoo, tomato juice, or wine in Catalan, and if we have to inverse the situation in order to achieve that and in order to stop the Catalan language from the process of extinction, then I agree that all Catalans should demand to be helped in Catalan. This has nothing to do with ethnic homocide. If a Catalan costumer does not want to help me in Catalan language (they do exist) and there is a Spaniard or South American who does want to help me in Catalan, I will go to the Spaniard or South American.
This is a matter of who is taking best care of me as a costumer. Who is making an effort to connect with me as client. And in the Catalan case it’s much more than that, it is also who is against the survival of Catalan language. And who is willing to help to save it from extinction.
It is irritating to be in Holland and go to a restaurant and the waiter doesn't speak Dutch. It is irritating to go to Brussels and half of the shop keepers don't want to help you in Dutch.
I don't understand this mentality.
And I regret that Catalans accept it. Because this is not normal.
And if Catalans did a bit more effort to demand Catalan services to shop keepers, bar owners, and multinationals they would switch to Catalan within weeks. But the Catalans are used to be the underdogs and to accept the situation that Catalan isn't necessary to live in Catalonia. Thank God there are more and more people who don't!

xavier ha dit...

My mother is Basque and my father Catalan but, I grew up in Puerto Rico. This means I grew up speaking Spanish and English.
I've been going to Spain every year, ever since I was a little kid to spend time with my family in the Basque Country and in Catalunya. I lived in Madrid for a bit.
I also spent 7 years in Zurich working for a multinational advertising agency.
We had clients in Geveva who couldn't speak Swiss-German and our French wasn't good enough to conduct the meeting in French, so we spoke English. It was never an issue.
People, no matter whether they're from the German, French, Romansh or Italian part of Switzerland, they consider themselves Swiss.
Why couldn't the Catalans and the Basques consider themselves Spanish (I'm not saying Castilian).
just like a French Swiss or a Swiss German - Why couldn't you say you're Spanish Catalan or a Spanish Basque. Spain is not just Castile. Spain is a collection of different cultures, just like Switzerland.
Like me, you guys are fortunate to have grown up speaking several languages. Embrace them. Don't use them as weapons.
I don't speak Catalan because it made no sense for me to learn it but, I've been in that situation at a store in Barcelona where I ask something in Spanish and the clerk responds to me in Catalan.
The same has happened in restaurants.
Now that, I think is taking things too far, to the point of stupidity. It's a form of aggression and, therefore foolish because I rather not shop there.
In Puerto Rico, when we interacted with Americans who spoke no Spanish, either because they were just visiting or had just moved there, we spoke English. It was never a problem.
I don't think independence is your answer.
There's place for different cultures in one country. This is proven by expamples such as Switzerland, Belgium, United Kingdom, and many others.
Franco days are over and you have quite some autonomy now. In fact, independence would result way to expensive for Catalunya. Think about Energy for example. It would have to be reconfigured to cut off from the rest of Spain.
I don't think people changing from Catalan to Castilian in restaurants or anywhere is going to destroy your culture. I think this is becoming overly protective and provincial.
You already have your education, newspapers, television in Catalan. It won't do you harm to speak Spanish to someone who doesn't speak Catalan.
In any case, the fact that you speak Spanish gives you an edge. I currently live in New York City, and you have no idea how many people wished they could speak a drop of Spanish. It helps you in business and also socially.
If I lived in Catalunya I would definitely do everything possible to learn Catalan but, that is not going to happen with every one. A lot of Latin Americas come into the US and never learn any English. Most people here don't care.
It's not going to degrade your culture, it's only going to evolve it. Stop being so alarmist!

Miquel Marzabal Galano ha dit...

Hi California CAT,
You don't seem to understand the problem. All the examples you give me are of countries with a way more protective (and not therefore provincian) language legislation. Also you don't give me any example of a country that is being swallowed by another one.
Belgium, Germany and Switserland are federal states with very good protective laws for their separate federal states.
It is indeed very nice to speak languages. I speak 8 languages and I am very privileged. I completely understand what you mean. But if Catalans automatically switch to Spanish whenever they speak to any foreigner foreigners never will have the chance to learn Catalan. Besides, they will not even see the need. And this is a sign of a dying language. I am not being alarmist. This is a fact. This is what happens here in Holland with the Frisian Language. It happens in Quebec with French, it happens with Sami in Lapland, with berber in Morocco, and with many other languages that haven't got a powerful state that protects them. These are the examples you have to compare Catalan with. Quebec, Sami, Frisian. Not with Flemish in Belgium, English or Spanish in the Americas. Do you understand the difference?
And if we speak about the Americas. Let's speak of what the Brits and the Spaniards with their beautiful languages did there. They destroyed the religions, the languages and the cultures of the real Americans. And that is what many Spaniards are still trying to do in Catalonia. This is not being alarmist. This is being realist and giving a response to this phenomenon called opression, assimilation, cultural genocide, the result of an imperial mentality of a state that occupies and rules other countries. It is not a harmonic and democratic federal constelation of cultures that respect each other. Do you think Belgium was always as it is now, a federal state in which each member is respected and does not interfere with the other states? Vlaanderen has been several times occupied by Wallonië and their language was also forbidden. The situation you are talking about is only possible in a federal construction in which one culture does not impose itself over the other cultures. It is not the case in Spain.