dimarts, 8 de novembre de 2011

Reason 31: The only way to get all products labelled in Catalan

How many years have passed since the restoration of democracy. I remember in those times people spoke another type of Catalan. I remember that the first Catalan TV channel TV3 had to 'create' an artificial language, as so many years of linguistic oppression had brought a tremendous lack of vocabulary, since by law everthing had to be in foreign language (French in North Catalonia in Spanish in South Catalonia). Watching Catalan TV series was like watching to a utopian, non-existent and surprising Catalonia, in which you could see a robber speaking Catalan, where you could hear people talk about products in Catalan for the first time. Gradually the situation has changed, but not much. In Southern Catalonia (the Spanish side), one of the most serious causes of this deficiency of vocabulary are the 500 laws that require the labelling of products in Spanish language or the use of Spanish language in business and on the other hand, the almost total lack of resources or desire to get products tagged in Catalan.

What a relieve it was for me, in 1992, to move to a country where there are no such linguistic deficiencies, and what makes me sad seeing how Catalonia, after 20 years in Amsterdam, has hardly improved, it gets one step forward and two backwards.

I was very happy to discover businesses like supermarket chain Bon Preu, where the fancy brands of the chain are in Catalan, but if you want to buy any ‘A’ brand you practically won’t find any in Catalan at all.

If my conclusion, long ago, was already that only a Catalan state can get this situation to normality, now it is being enforced by a new EU law. The EU is looking to take a new measure that will make even more difficult to label in Catalan, and will even turn tagging only in Catalan into an illegal activity. The EU wants to force EU member states to label their products in one of the languages that are official in Europe. In the case of Spain it is definitely not the Catalan language, as Madrid blocks the access of Catalan language to have an official status in Europe. (Http://www.elsingulardigital.cat/cat/notices/2011/07/l_etiquetatge_en_catala_en_perill_70738.php)

As with the Catalan language at schools, the situation is precarious and uncertain as long as Catalonia is part of Spain (and France). The Catalan language, after 30 years of 'democracy' is still in a similar situation. Buy a car, medicine, shampoo, quince, cheese, condoms, or whatever you want. To find any product in Catalan is still a rare and surprising experience. This phenomenon is not only emotionally painful, is a constant weakening and impoverishment of our language; it is a constant free Spanish lesson for native and foreign citizens. Imagine a foreigner who wants to learn Catalan (and does not know Spanish). Going to the supermarket and all interested in how the products are called in Catalan. Well, what will she learn? pañuelos, lavavajillas, membrillo? Not a single Catalan word. No mocadors, rentavaixelles, codony.

Besides these inconveniences, Catalans still today have to snap to Spanish language when talking about certain products that in the public arena only exist in Spanish language as the Spanish law commands.

It is clear that without the protection of an own state Catalonia will never reach a normal labelling of products.
More information (in Catalan):