Monday, January 30, 2006

I thought I’d have some fun with the stamp machine in the post office today and try the instructions in English. It was an equally long, multi-step process but all went well until the end when the final instruction from the machine was Receive. I guessed this was one of the meanings of the multi-purpose verb Cobrar and really should have been Pay. But I was once again left wondering why such critical things aren’t checked with native speakers, especially when you’ve gone to the trouble to cater for non-Spanish speakers.

Along with the other autonomy-minded communities/regions/ countries/nationalities/nations of the Basque Country and Galicia, Catalunia suffered greatly under Franco’s fascism. So it seems rather ironic the government there should now be indulging in measures such as a new law to make it compulsory for all university professors to speak Catalan. In other words, suppressing teaching in Spanish. Perhaps the Catalans – who are famous for their common sense [seny] – lack a sense of irony.

Meanwhile, back in Galicia, the year has started badly on our roads. A total of 34 people have been killed so far. 50% of these were not wearing safety belts; and 50% - possibly the same people – were killed by trees and walls, after their cars had parted company with the road. Usually around 5am of a Saturday or Sunday morning, I imagine. A columnist in one of today’s local papers expressed the hope the imminent points-based penalty system will have some beneficial effect, given that [surviving] offenders will be sent for remedial lessons specific to their offence. Having seen how driving instructors take their pupils around roundabouts, I am rather less sanguine. He also put forward the view the authorities should stop concentrating on tougher penalties and invest more in making the roads safer. I was initially tempted to dismiss this as a variant of the oft-heard argument to the effect that, if all the roads were wide, flat and dead straight, everyone could drive at 180kph in complete safety. But, in the end, I decided it was sensibly pragmatic to admit one can’t stop indulgent Spanish parents financing the purchase of fatally fast cars for their offspring and so should concentrate on minimising the consequences. If this is really what he meant.

The regions of Asturias and Galicia have amicably settled their dispute as to which side of the border certain towns lie. Both of them must surely feel a sense of relief they weren’t up against France and so facing the threat of a tactical nuclear strike.

A total of 12 foxes were shot during the weekend’s Galician championship. But no humans. And the little abandoned bitch which has adopted me escaped from my garden and found a male friend who, naturally, shared her interest in seasonal rumpy-pumpy. Next weekend, it’s the Pontevedra rampant-male-dog hunting championship. A new but wildly popular event. At least around here.

Anyone want a puppy?


MrMann said...

Your comment about the degree of suffering in some regions, as opposed to what happened in the rest of Spain because of their nationalistic orientation is definitely biased. First of all, the killings in regions such as Andalucía and Extremadura exceeded by far, both in number and in cruelty, those in the north of Spain. Secondly, large sections of the populations in the regions that you mention and, most particularly, the middle and upper class, those who had previously supported some nationalistic tendencies, and those who after Franco would again support nationalistic partires, supported fascism. This is particularly true in the case of the Basque country, in which the catholic church has a strong influencie, together with the traditionalist paty (supporters of the legitimacy of the monarchy of Carlos, the "carlistas") and in the case of Catalonia and its middle class. Both regions were enormously benefited by the industrial policy of francoism, and received huge subdidies to boost their economy (unlike Galicia), in the hope that the development of those parts of Spain would trigger the development of the rest of the country, as it in fact happened.
True, languages were forbidden. But, on the whole, both Catalonia and the Basque country fared extremely well under francoism, far better than the rest of Spain.

Lenox said...

On translating leaflets, instructions, menus, advertisments (!) and forms into English, the Spanish are not noted for using 'native English speakers'. Perhaps they can't find one handy. There are, after all, only about 750,000 Brits living in Spain... and another ten million or so visiting for a few days.
Much easier to use the talents of Cousin Bertín, who spent six weeks in London, and speaks English fine, tank you very well fandangüi.

Zeitnot said...

Hi, Collin!

I've been following your "Thoughts from Galicia" for a few months now, though I think this is the first comment I leave. I find really amusing and even enlightening your comments on our lifestyle and political quarrels. I even linked you in my now semi-abandoned blog Pan y Circo.

I'm a non-nationalist Galician from La Coruña. Having introduced myself, I have to agree with mrmann comments I find that sentence rather misleading for any reader not acquainted with Spanish history of the 20th century.

Were those regions economically marginalized during Franco’s regime? Nobody claims that. Were people coming from those places mistreated in any way? Not really. The main reason behind that sort of statements is the ban on the regional languages and separatist organizations. Actually, any kind of political movements were forbidden besides the official ones. The post-war repression was really hard in 1939 and 1940, but then the totalitarian control became gradually laxer and laxer, specially in the sixties.

Spanish was always the language of the administration and the main media. Regional languages where never encouraged but the ban quickly became somewhat symbolic since already in 1941 catalan-written works were being published again. The ban on languages was eventually lifted tough I’m not certain of the date.

I was recently discussing these matters by email with a friend of mine, so I have some interesting extracts on the subject taken from Dionisio Ridruejo’s “Casi unas memorias” and “Spain Betrayed” by Radosh , Habeck and Sevostianov. They are in Spanish and would make this comment twice as long, so if you are interested I’ll be glad to mail them to you or just leave them in another comment.

Have a nice time at (my) home.

Portorosa said...

Hello, Colin and everybody.

These three comments are very interesting, but, seeing the idea of his post, I think Colin was talking only about languages, and I do consider languages caused troubles to these regions. Legal measures may have lasted just a short time, but they had very important social effects, turning (at least in Galicia) those languages speakers into second class people during many decades.
Which makes some present autonomical government's actitudes hardly understandable.