Saturday, February 21, 2009

I wrote yesterday of Spanish national and regional comic operas but the British equivalent seems to be what someone has called “The frenzy of briefing and counter-briefing over the Labour leadership that threatens to turn the Government into a laughing stock.” The same commentator added that “Barely a day goes by without fresh evidence of ambitious Cabinet members positioning themselves with all the subtlety of a sackful of ferrets”. And that, against the backdrop of the recession-cum-depression, “The self-important posturing of a ragtag cast of political featherweights looks preposterous. The country deserves better.” As does Spain, of course.

In case you want more on this theme, here’s an article, from the estimable Matthew Parris.

Incidentally, our local incident took on national character yesterday, after it was picked up by all the media and featured as an example of just how backward we still are out here in the sticks. Which has not gone down well with Galicia’s sophisticated intelligentsia. Who is understandably miffed.

Back at the national level, El País today has another article on prostitution, this time on the theme of how it's dealt with around Europe. "Spain" it says “neither regulates the industry nor prosecutes the clients”. Instead - in keeping with the national philosophy of live and let live – “It merely tolerates it”. And all the abuses which go with it, of course. Though the Ministress of Equality says her priority is to curb the mafia who control the country's disproportionately large industry. Quite how this is to be done, I’m not sure. One doesn't get the impression anyone is trying very hard.

Talking of Spanish laxity, I feel a little less supportive of the Spanish attitude towards fireworks today, having read of an 11 year old girl losing two of her fingers yesterday. But I don’t suppose this will change anything.

There’s widespread agreement – well, at least between me and [ex?]reader Moscow – that the EU will emerge from this crisis either much stronger or much weaker. Here’s the view of someone who thinks it will be the former. Never let it be said I am unwilling to listen.

The number of minority languages spoken in European countries is truly astonishing. Poland seems to lead the field, with 14. Followed by Hungary (13), The Czech Republic (12) and Italy (11). Even France has 6, though poor Germany trails with only 3. The UK has 4 but one of these is Cornish, which I thought had died out a couple of decades ago. Here in Spain, Galician [Gallego] is one of Spain’s minority tongues but I imagine the Galician Nationalist Party was disappointed to hear it's been taken off the endangered list. It’s not good for a nationalist party to have a bit of its victimhood removed.

Speaking of Galicia . . . There are now around 1,500 Brits registered as resident here. Which is fewer than both the Chinese and the French. And considerably fewer than the Rumanians. Who surely can’t all be employed as beggars. Anyway, here’s the latest count, in rounded thousands:-
Portuguese – 17
Brazilians – 11
Colombians – 8
Argentineans – 6
Rumanians – 5
Uruguayans – 5
Moroccans – 4
Venezuelans – 4
Rep. Dominica – 3
Cubans – 2
French – 2
Chinese - 2

Finally, I thought I’d share this gem, from a BBC News broadcast. “The family of Mr X would like to point out that he is a convicted murderer and not a convicted sex offender, as we reported earlier today. We would like to apologise for any embarrassment caused.”


Charles Butler said...

Hi Colin,

Take a quick guess on how many BMWs, Mercedes and Audis were sold in Spain, Ireland and others over the life of the boom. Then ask yourself whether Germany will support a euro wide bailout fund. It may end up a funny looking animal when it finally appears - but appear it will.

The Irish yield closed in on the bund's a full 21 points this week.

Anonymous said...

... Galician it's been taken off the endangered list ...

that makes me think of three possible reasons:
a) Galician is not in danger any more
b) Galician is not a language (any more)
c) both a and b

Either of them three may spell bad news for the regionalist (pretended nationalist) party (BNG), but they are indeed good for the other nationalist (for real) parties, PP and PSOE ...

Anonymous said...

oddly enough, I feel lax about british laxity about fireworks ... here, out and about the inner city, fireworks and bonefires (by now already on the wane) are part of the culture, the same as hoodies, spitting, (or throwing up when no sober) and pelting buses with stones ... you just have to embrace it!

Brian Barker said...

Hi Colin

No mention of Esperanto tho' by which I would assume it's not an endangered language!

This neither spam, nor an advert, but if you've got time you might like to check

Anonymous said...

Mr Barker, if esperanto dissapears there is no reason to despair, I can create another one overnight ... but when a REAL language dissapears, that's a real tragedy for sure ... a language is the blood of the spirit of a social group, quite a bit more than a mere colection of grammatical rules and lexic created by dilettante ... A real language encapsulates a global vision of the universe, of existence and of what being human means, apart from the oral framework to express a human way of life developed over millenia ...

But coming back to the Galician language (if such a language exists), I would say that its disappearance wouldn't be a drama, especially when scores of REAL languages are being wiped out every year, along with their invaluable knowledge on their natural environment, and the biodiversity that this environment harboured ...

And, surprise surprise, guess what language many of those who contribute to the demise of REAL human languages speak ...?

Colin said...


Yes, I increasingly suspect you [and Moscow] are right. You may have noticed me no-so-subtly preparing the ground for defeat . . . But at least my good net friend Biopolitical has offered to cough up the stake we had on the Spanish economy going into recession. Though it turns out neither of us actually likes cava.

But, more seriously, the ageing cynic in me keeps whispering in my ear that, near term, it's getting close to the time when nothing can stop the undemocratic, corrupt, racketful juggernaut that is the EU. So it's time to jump on the gravy-train, perhaps as the Euro-MP for Galicia. I can probably get off to a good start by getting Xunta grants for my Gallego lessons, dressed up as some eco-oriented, cultural entity which invests in wind farms.

So, I realy hope the BNG gets back in power. It would be terrible if the PP got in and put an end to all the stuff I suddenly find so appealing, from a personal point of view.

Colin said...

Brian, I've learned to say nothing about languages other than, in teh final analysis, every language in the world is a dialect of some other language.

As for Esperanto, I did in fact start learning it one summer when I was about 16, along with Pitman`s shorthand, as I recall. I must have been very bored. I acquired a facility in neither of them in the end. But I imagine both have survived.

Colin said...


Breaking the rule I've just enunciated to Brian . . . Yes, Galician [Gallego]is a real language. If rather similar to both Portuguese and Spanish. And available in several forms, ranging from the academic/literary to the mountain vernacular. Each one spoken by people who would find it tough to understand the other. Or that's what I'm told by Galician friends. I just speak Castrapo [bastard Gallego/Spanish] when I need to.

And many, many Galicians would be very upset to see Gallego die. Even if they don't agree with the way the Xunta goes about not just keeping it alive - surely not in question - but helping it wrest local hegemony from Spanish. Which is surely unlikely. Though this isn't going to stop them.

BTW - Do you really think pedople who merely speak one language can be responsible for the death of another? By which I don't mean the cause but morally guilty of something.

Anonymous said...


Galician a real language? Oh, I happen to disagree on that one. I thought (and still think) it is a (real) dialect, especially considering that in the region there is neither army nor navy, Galician, that is.

In fact, I am surprised you believe it to be a language and not a dialect, since you point out their similitude to both Spanish and Portuguese and suppleness to mingle with one of them ... couldn't Galician be a dialect of either of them? And if so, of which one?

As for laying the moral blame on Spanish-only speaking galicians for the possible demise of the Galician dialect, I think it is quite just, don't you agree? If galicians themselves don't preserve their tongue, who is going to do it then? Of course there are many worse amoral actions (or, in this case, inactions) ...

Colin said...

Well, the answer to your question about Gallego being a dialect of either Spanish or Portuguese is:-

a. Neither.

But, if you insist it is and want a choice . .

b. It depends which side of the river Miño you are standing on.

Yes, I do agree that it will be thanks to Spanish-speaking Galicians if Gallego ever dies out. But I still believe they should have a choice. Unless, of course, a political party stands on the patform of compulsory Gallego and gains a parliamentary majority.

Anonymous said...

well, I still think Galician is a dialect, no matter which side of the river Minho I am standing on ... as I said above, a) it has no army, b) it has no navy ... therefore, dialect. I am sure we can have the best wishes to make of it a language, but it takes a bit more than that ...

Anyway, even if you concede me(wisely) that it is a dialect, at any rate it could be considered a dialect of Spanish, not even the Galician oficial hibrid (galician-Spanish) version ... whereas it is clear that Galician is as Portuguese as Açorian or any Brazilian dialect are, for instance.

However, Colin, very interestingly, you say that galicians should have a choice to see the demise of Galician, without doing anything to prevent it, unless "a political party stands on the platform of compulsory Gallego and gains a parliamentary majority" ...

So says I, what would your opinion be if the opposite was the case (the wheel of history, innit?), that is, Spanish dying out because (most) galicians make the choice of not doing a thing to preserve it ...? Should they have that choice to let it die?

Colin said...

I'm not sure I understand your question but my view is:-

1. There are two co-official languages here. Everyone should be free to use whichever one he/she prefers. In any and all situations.

2. Without a specific mandate, no party should be free to take measures which prevent this being the case

3. This specific mandate could permit either the promotion of Gallego at the expense of Spanish or the propmotion of Spanish at the expense of Gallego. I see neither of them happening.

4. Where both languages can be freely used, it is the will of the people which determines which of them stays alive and which, if any, dies. Which is as it should be.

5. I don't see Gallego dying if Galicians are allowed to speak and write as they want to. But I know that some Galicians fear that Gallego will eventually lose out and for this reason they favour 'normalisation', which effectively puts obstacles in the way of the use of Spanish. Not that they would admit to this, of course.

Anonymous said...

Didn't get my question? No problem, in other words, I meant, if Galician was the language favoured by prestige in the public life, and Spanish the poor relative (the opposite case to reality - this is a hypothesis, but it could happen in the future), to the point that Spanish was going towards extinction, through the preference of the mayority of galicians to use Galician and ignore Spanish, would it then be fair to try some piece of legislation to try and revive Spanish, or would it be better to leave die, as it is the choice of (the majority) Galicians and it wouldn't be fair to put obstacles to their legitimate choice (Galician over Spanish)?

According to what you say in your last comment, point 4, it seems that there is only place for one language, in your view. What if that language happened to be Galician? Wouldn't Spanish only speakers have the right to preserve their tongue, and have the legal framework for that?

Sir Watkin said...

"Cornish, which I thought had died out a couple of decades ago"

The last native speaker of Cornish is supposed to have died in 1777, tho' there is evidence for some limited use of the language in the nineteenth century.

The current revival of what had been a dead language dates from 1904. It has had a modest degree of success.

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