Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My friend Fernando has written to say my Danelaw spoof is a bit unfair on the issue of language. This is rather ironic as I’m a ardent supporter of those who want to preserve and extend their language. I’ve learned, in my time, 2 or 3 of the world’s less useful languages and I like to believe that, if I was as Welsh as my full name suggests, I’d be fluent in both English and Welsh. So I have no problem with the Catalans, Basques or Galicians doing what they can to protect and further their respective languages. What I do object to, though, is this being done in a doctrinaire way at the expense of Spanish. When I first came to Galicia only 5 years ago, everything was in both Gallego and Spanish. Now it’s only the former and I’m not comfortable with this. Nor, I suspect, are many Galicians.

My other defence is that my tilt at language aspects of ‘nationalism’ stems from a very British disregard for august language Academies, whether they be French, Spanish or Galician. We just find them funny. A year or two ago, the Galician Academy announced that, henceforth, the Galician word for ‘Thanks’ would be ‘Graza’. Since then, I’ve heard this word only once and this was from the mouth of a character in a Galician TV soap opera, Pratos Combinados. All of which gives me the opportunity to say I had dinner with Maria Castro the other week. Not that this will mean much to most of you.

Another reader has advised that the stories of driving licence points being sold is an urban myth. This was also reported in today’s press. I certainly hope so.

Within only weeks of the ratification of their new Constitution, the Catalan president says he’s taking the Spanish president to the Constitutional Tribunal for exceeding his powers in seeking information on the distribution of subventions. The first of many such battles, I suspect. And it’s not as if Mr Zapatero wasn’t warned You makes your bed . . .


Anonymous said...

I think the reason nationalists justify the protection of their languages in this way is because these languages, unlike other minority languages of the world, have not become uninportant just because the low number of speaking people or for their low influence, but because they were strongly repressed during the dictatorship and all people from these regions were forced to learn spanish, the last been continued in democracy. If it weren't for this maybe galicians would not speak more spanish than any portuguese does.

Portorosa said...

...So I'll explain my point of view:

I know some stupid things are being done about Galician language. But what I can't accept is that its importance, its history and its authenticity are judged just paying atention to a few ridiculous and childish behaviours.
What Galician language detractors always say is very similar to what you said, Colin: invented words, language completely out of use and strange for normal people. And that's not true. Saying that is giving more importance to some exceptions than to centuries of popular culture and literature. I think that's saying simply a small part of the truth, and I consider that attitude a little contemptuous.

Anyway, I share your criticism in a good 90%. In my opinion, their worst mistake is making the same mistakes the dictatorship made: trying (just trying) to impose the language they believe should be spoken, and pursuing the other.


David said...

The wish to use and also preserve ones native local language has to be applauded. Nobody has the right to suppress the use of such a language. That is not to say that it should be rammed down ones throat or deemed to be the first qualification one requires to work or live in that area. Language as we all know is the prime method of communication between humans. It is therefore logical and sensible that as much as possible should be communicated in a common language. The misunderstandings between countries and communities can clearly be seen demonstrated every day by the problems of translation anf interpretation. It is very difficult to capture the nuance of a language once interpreted.

Most countries in the world are made up of different speaking tribes, civilisations and mixed races. Most countries have a standard language by which all people can communicate.

In Spain the automony seeking districts of Catalonia, Galicia and others appear to be obsessed with ensuring that only the local language is spoken. This appears to me to be a very misguided notion as without a national or indeed international language how can the population fulfil their financial aspirations.

I am aware of course that standard Spanish is taught as a second language and english as the third. This is a heavy burden to place on a child particularly if that child does not have a natural interest in languages.

It seems to me that the only purpose served by having the local language as the main language is to provide politicians with an argument as to why such and such area of the country should be independent. It of course provides political jobs and clout as well of course of enabling the parties involved to go down in history as the persons who enabled an area of the country to become 'independent'

It also as in Catalonias case shows contempt for the other reasons and total self interest.