Saturday, November 28, 2009

Returning to the subject of book readership in Spain . . . A couple of readers have commented that quite a lot of reading is seen on the Madrid metro. Which is true but I do sometimes wonder how many of the readers are home-grown. More to the point, perhaps, what else can one do on a tube train, other than stare blankly into the faces of the people directly opposite? Or at your shoes. But does one see much reading taking place in the cafés of Madrid? Or, say, in the Retiro park? Anyway, I’ve been trying to get national book readership figures to give some statistical endorsement to my comments but without luck so far. I’ll keep trying and, until the data is in, will continue to believe the Spanish will always eschew reading if there’s a chance to chat. Which I like to think is a factual, not a censorial, observation. I like both of these pastimes equally and revel in the fact I can enjoy both in Spain whenever and wherever I find myself. Sometimes at the same time.

From Santiago university, Xoán Wahn comments that his (poor quality) text books cost at least 25 euros each. Having been in that fine institution a couple of weeks ago and having seen not a word of Spanish on any of the notice boards, I’m guessing these are all in Gallego. Which a limited market, of course. But full of captive customers. I imagine the publishers could double the prices and get away with it. So, what’s keeping them?

By the way – The third market which foxes me here is that for newspapers. As with books, I can’t figure out how anyone makes money other than via subsidies. Which come in direct and indirect forms. Ghost subscriptions in the latter case. The press yesterday gave us the news there are 12 daily papers circulating in Cataluña, for 7.4 million people. Well, we have even more than that here in Galicia, with a population of under 3 million.

A propos . . . For some reason or other – possibly irregularities in application – Brussels has suddenly cut off all aid to the Spanish film industry. This has promptly led to internecine fighting among those accustomed to relying on this largesse. This is so bad one commentator sees it as potentially suicidal. Which rather points up the danger of developing an industry on the basis of hand-outs of other peoples’ money.

Finally . . . It’s been suggested half of the income on rental properties in Spain is not declared to the inland revenue. You’d think the government would tighten up on this before ramping up taxes for the rest of us. On the other hand, there’d probably be even less of a rental market here if they did. It’s a funny country sometimes. But I suppose they all are.


Lenox said...

The twelve dailies in Cataluña all printed the same editorial the other day - in an effort to bring the Constitutional Court into supporting the Cat nation and other wonders.
Totalitarian Press?

Xoán-Wahn said...

The subject of Gallego in university is an interesting one that often boggles my mind. A lot of the students speak it to each other, a lot of them mix it with Spanish. A lot of students also choose to not speak it at all. All of my professors can speak it but only one of them chooses to full-time, which means most of the lecturing is done in Spanish. This obviously contradicts the fact that the university's official language is Gallego but also makes a lot of sense for an institution with a lot of international students.

The noticeboards are covered with Gallego but some of the notices and most of the graffiti, are written in what is most definitely Portuguese. It's not even modified Portuguese as no one here says 'também' or refers to 'mércores' as 'terça-feira'.

Text books I'm not sure about as the only ones I've had to purchase as of yet have been for foreign language courses. Mandatory reading is mostly done through photocopies. These are actually quite funny because the headings are always written in Gallego but the text is always in Spanish!

Don't even get me started on the university website, where you can always find the page in Gallego but most of the time, the Spanish version is conveniently missing!

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, are you sure the notice boards in that Galician university are not in Spanish? How can you be sure? Not so long ago I was there, but I can’t remember in what language they were ... perhaps it’s got to do with me being fluent in both languages, Castilian and Galician, that sometimes I can’t tell you if in any given occasion I spoke, heard or read one or the other ...

But this conundrum is easy to solve anyway: whenever you see an “x” in a notice board, it is Galician, whenever you see a “j”, it is Castilian Spanish ... the rest doesn’t matter, as it is identical, as much in form as in meaning

Anonymous said...

Mr Xoan-Wahn, so “a lot of students also choose to not speak it (Galician) at all” ... who is this lot? Those who can’t speak (properly)? Ah yes, I choose not to speak Urdu, Welsh or Tagalog, but choose to speak English, Galician or Spanish. Freedom of choice, that is the word, innit, or as they say over there: “libertaz, libertaz para elegir español!”

About your claim of all your teachers being able to speak Galician, I would take it with a pinch of salt. Mr Davies too can have a claim at his Galician speaking ability, but does that make him fluent in Galician? Would he feel comfortable enough to lecture in that language?

Those graffiti in Portuguese reflect the view (popularly ignored, but widespread in the linguistic community) that Galician and Portuguese are the same language, and as such they should share the same standard register. As Mr Davies knows, most Liverpudlians don’t speak the way they write. If they say, for instance, /bookh/, but write “book”, why shouldn’t Galicians write “também” while saying /taméη/? Shall we create an exclusive “liverpudlian standard” for the scouse folk? With loads of public money to prop up its use and publish books at a high price that nobody will buy, unless forced to?

By the way, “'mércores”, as “grazas”, is as Galician as I am Liverpudlian. Get your facts right. However, “terça-feira” is still heard in certain rural areas of southern Galiza.

Anonymous said...

In my last comment i meant "who is this lot? Those who can’t speak IT (properly)?

I was obvioulsy referring to Galician, but left the "it" out

Anonymous said...

Mr Lenox, it seems that Catalans have a more pronounced national identity, hence their insistence in that kind of plebiscites. It’s only their mercantilist streak that has stopped them from seceding from the Spanish state (they tried though, in 1640).
Some people, with no real interest in their business, seem to bother about it too much, and dismiss that national feeling as “tribal”. It may be tribal though, but not more than their Spanish equivalent.

Colin said...

Thanks, X-W.

And welcome back to Mr Cade. Who is free to stay and comment so long as he stays civil. (Though I'm not convinced he really knows where the line is, even when he is trying. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now).

I'm not sure I can believe your question, Mr C, as to how I know it's Gallego. I have 9 years experience of reading them side-by-side in numerous forums and reading only Gallego in every official communication (except speeding fines!) I've had in the last few years. If you are asking whether it was Castrapo rather than Galaeico-Portuguese, then you will have to answer that question for yourself. I'm sure, either way, it wouldn't come up to the standard you demand. Even if you say you would kill to protect a bastard 'dialect', as you call it.

@X-W, I leave you to answer Mr C's virtually-civil questions but I have another one for you myself. A few years back, a professor from the university told me the really interesting statistic is what percentages of pupils chose
Gallego and Spanish in which to write their answers to questions that are always only in Gallego. Any idea?

BTW - Mr C, I trust you have been keping up with the Climategate scandal. But please don't write on this. It's so boring and is not related suffiently to Galicia and Gallego that I will delete your comments for the sake of my readers. On everything else, you are free to comment. Civilly! And, yes, this is one rule for me and one for you. But life is not fair. And it's my blog!

Oh, yes. I know what you mean about not being consciously aware whether you are talking?listening to Spanish or Gallego. I recently used a pharmacy machine for blood pressure etc. and it was only when I was getting off that I realised all the instructions over 5 minutes had been in Gallego. Or Castrapo. But probably not Galaeico-Portuguese.

PS What is this 'linguisitic community' which (like you) rejects all the norms handed down by the Galician Royal Academy? Do you have an formal association? A newsletter? Do you have meetings? Of so, where? A web page? Blogs(?)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the courtesy of having me back in your glorious and extremely interesting blog, Mr Davies, I will try my best to not disappoint you. My question came only as a result of your doubts about the language used in the notice boards of that institution. You said it wasn’t Spanish, but you never said it was Galician, so I guessed it must be what it is turning out to be: something in between. But why I am asking you, anyway, when you know this reality full well, as you make clear when mentioning your pharmacy blood pressure (I wish it has gone down to safety levels) machine experience.

But in any case, these are only civil opinions, and I am sorry to disappoint your expectations about me, but I wouldn’t kill anyone holding the opposite view.

Further to your further rhetorical question (to yourself, via Mr Xoan-Wahn), after your university professor friend confession, I will venture my guess: is it that a high percentage chose to answer in Spanish, and not in Galician, as expected? And, may I infer, is the possible explanation of this “anomaly” a natural repulsion felt by Galicians pupils to have any language imposed, instead of having been given the choice of both?

About the Climate change denial drivel, don’t worry, Mr Davies, as I have decided to change sides, after reading in today’s Observer than we are heading to a new Ice Age. So enjoy your cheap road roams. While you can, that is, until the price of crude rockets beyond any previous record, sometime within the next five years. But I can assure you that this eventuality won’t be the European bureaucrats’ fault.

Anonymous said...

By “Linguistic community”, Mr Davies, I was referring to the linguistic scholars of the philological science. I never said they reject the official Royal norms (that’d be beyond their range of competence), only that in the linguistic field it is a commonly held view that Galician and Portuguese are the same language, or co-dialects of the same language, something similar to Scots and English, for instance.

mike the trike said...

I have heard that someone at the Coruña university is writing a book to teach English speakers Galego.

bsanchez said...

Does the absence of count as evidence of lower Spanish book readership?

bsanchez said...

Stats from and

2007 Total book sales Spain: 251m

2007 Total book sales UK: 855m

But the UK exports a lot more than Spain. UK domestic sales: 498m for 2007. Not sure whether the figure from Federación de Editores includes exports.

An even more striking difference:

Average price Spain 2007: Euro 11.75
Average price UK 2007: less than £4.

Unless one figure is referring to the amount the publisher gets and the other to the retail price this difference is shocking.

Midnight Golfer said...

I have just assumed that the lack of certain [business-name].es 's was a result of the pain involved in trying to get wares purchased online delivered to your doorstep in Spain.

I know that certain of the sources (outside of Spain, including Amazon) that I have hitherto used to get the 'objects-of-my-desires, have given up on shipping to this country. - & it irks me!

Colin said...

Well, Mr C, such is the diverse nature of the ‘linguistic community’ it surprises me that you can make any categorical statements. I’m sure you know that all languages are widely considered to be dialects of a previous language and that Galician and Portuguese – while having the same western-Iberian mother – are now considered separate sisters and, therefore, separate languages, If I understand you correctly – and I am never sure that I do – this is what you object to, as you’d like modern Galicians to eschew all Castilian influence and to return Gallego to its pure form. In which case it would then again be the same language as modern Portuguese. I suspect, though, that most of the rest of us feel you are swimming against a tide much stronger than yourself. Some of us may even admire your campaign, despite its obvious futility. While taking offence at the (counterproductive) way you usually do it.

As ever, you haven’t answered my questions so I must conclude the sub-group of the ‘linguistic community’ to which you belong does not deal in any formality. Shame. I was hoping to read some of their stuff.

As for rejecting norms, it was you who said that ‘grazas’ is not Gallego, even though the Academy insists that it is. Presumably you would prefer ‘obrigado’. As it happens, I agree with you that it is a pathetic monstrosity. My words. My galegofalante friends refuse to use it and I’ve only ever heard it on Galicia TV. Which is financed by the Xunta, of course.

As for killing to defend even bastardised Gallego, I could have sworn I read it on your web page. Not that I believed it when I did. So, thanks for the confirmation.

Finally, could you do me the favour of explaining what this means . . . “And, may I infer, is the possible explanation of this “anomaly” a natural repulsion felt by Galicians pupils to have any language imposed, instead of having been given the choice of both?” The pupils are given a choice and the vast majority of them choose Spanish Or at least they did a few years ago. Maybe things have changed. Perhaps X-W can tell us. And, if things are still the same now, then you can explain this strange situation more clearly. Without referring, I hope, to Castilian suppression and Spanish nationalists.

Incidentally, are all the pupils who write in Castilian to be regarded as Spanish nationalists?

Finally, what is a ‘road roam’?.

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, you haven’t done your h/w. Galician & Portuguese aren’t considered today by any linguist ( not with a political stake in the issue) as separate languages, but as two varieties of the same language, or as co-dialects of a “linguistic dia-system”. They are as removed of each other as, let’s say, popular Glaswegian is from Standard English. And don’t forget that when you speak of Standard Portuguese you are leaving out several varieties of non-standard Portuguese, some of them of more difficult comprehension for the educated Standard Portuguese speaker than the very Galician vernacular. So, are these varieties non-Portuguese? What are they then?

And as ever, Mr Davies, you distort the debate (very disappointing) by saying that I don't answer your questions. So let's refresh your memory: you asked:

"What is this 'linguisitic community' which (like you) rejects all the norms handed down by the Galician Royal Academy? Do you have an formal association? A newsletter? Do you have meetings? Of so, where? A web page? Blogs(?)"

And I answered: " ... the linguistic scholars of the philological science ..." And I judge you, Mr Davies, intelligent enough to grasp the meaning of this, as to not need me to lead you in a basic internet research for te word "Galician", and to take it from there ...

By the way, I am not running any crusade, just exposing prejudice and ignorance, with more or less banter ... I though you knew that by now ...

Anonymous said...

About "grazas" ... I am just keeping myself from laughing ... what else can I say? In old Galician people used to say "“muitas mercês“, then they'll started to substitute it for the castilian-Spanish form, a loan from the tongue of the upper class. In the only serious and viable standard register of our language there exists "obrigado/a" ...

But "grazas" is in fact very "gallego" (not galego). It is as Galician as "road roam" is English. Fortunately for the English language, i am not an academic, nor there is such institution of an academy.

Anonymous said...

Finally, Mr davies, trying (just trying) to answer all your questions here, rather than in your unofficial blog, respect to the choice of answer by Galician pupils, I surmize that what that teacher friend told you is that the most chosen is Castilian (or Spanish).

I will answer about his putting myself in them pupils shoes: I would probably answer in Spanish, not in Galician. Why? Because I, as the 99.9% of Galicians, know quite better the Spanish written standard. Would that make of me a Spanish nationalist?

Xoán-Wahn said...

Cade - I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. A lot of students CHOOSE not to speak Galician. They can speak it and I know because everyone I know has spoken it to me but they have done so at my request because I just felt like practising. They CAN speak it, most of them with gheada, but they choose not to speak it even amongst themselves. This contrasts with another group who choose to speak it all the time, even to people who can't understand them. Obviously, the people who can't understand them are not native Spanish-speakers either, as I find most people who speak Spanish can understand Galician perfectly (unless they go up to Fisterra).

I say my teachers can speak Galician for two reasons: A) all of them are native Galicians except one and B) whenever a students speaks to them in Galician, they automatically switch to Galician (including the non-native professor).

I am very aware of the 'reintegracionista vs autonomista' quarrel. I actually think it would be much better for Galicia (or Galiza, whatever) to adopt the Portuguese standard because it would help open it up more to the CPLP/CPLC, of which it is already an observer, and international commerce and trade with Portuguese-speaking nations. This is, of course, not up to me though and it seems to be against the wishes of the Xunta.

First of all, I never said that 'grazas' was Galician. I never even mentioned it! Still, we can't ignore that the word does exist in Portuguese (graças) and so it is in any case more Galician than 'gracias'. I don't know if they use 'terça-feira' in southern Galicia but then the proximity of southern Galicia to northern Portugal is such that we can't discount the Portuguese influence. One of my professors says 'coisa' instead of 'cousa' and he's from the south. Coincidence?

Colin - I'm sad to say I can't answer your question. I would imagine however, that it all comes down to how you choose to speak. If you're the type that doesn't like to speak Galician or doesn't know how, you'll write in Spanish.

mike the trike said...

moito obrigado - much obliged. Glad I am not going to Galego classes as this subject is very boring. From what I have been reading it seems best to avoid Galego as you just don't know who you are going to upset so you have to have a list in your head of who uses what words and keep switching each time you meet them after talking to someone else who has a different list.

Anonymous said...

Xoan-Wahn, I find your views somewhat inconsistent and contradictory. Even Mr Davies has claimed in the past to have spoken Galician, but does that make him a fluent speaker? Many Galicians claim to be Galician speakers, but this is the result of a policy of making of Galician a language (sic) “accessible to all”, that is, easy to speak to "all" (=Spanish speakers). That is the reason why any Spaniard can understand that "Galician"(sic), because it has been constructed to sound (and look) “Spanish friendly” (= no Portuguese). A Spanish journalist conducted once a political debate in Galician after one month of intensive lessons. The result was quite pathetic, but in consonance with the participants. If you call that Galician, that is a poor concept of a language. I call it “Galenhol” (= Galician-Spanish mix), something very similar to what people speak in certain border areas of South America, where a mix of Portuguese and Spanish, or “Portunhol”, is spoken.

About your teachers being Galician speakers, then again, being a native of Galician doesn’t make you a Galician speaker. There are hundreds of thousands that testify to this.

About the convenience of adopting the Portuguese standard, you are right, it is only easy to discern. But you are minority. That will put you in the deranged “lusistas” camp, if you dare to voice your views. Remember: Galiza, sorry, Galicia, is Spain, not Portugal. Never mind that the language is the same (though in another variety)as the Portuguese. Some things better we keep them secret.

Anonymous said...

However, the stigma of speaking Galician as a mark of "rurality" or of lack of "proper education" still plays a part in the choice of Castilian rather than Galician, so that might explain why some of your colleagues choose Castilian.

Finally, Mr Xoan-Wahn, two or three linguistic points:

1)“Graças” is also Galician or Portuguese, but not used in the Spanish context of “gracias” to express gratitude, but in that of referring to something or someone like “thanks to X we could ...”, or “thak’s God”. The formula “grazas” is just the umpteenth attempt at making something alien as our own, lest we look the same as “them” (=Castilian) and have no reason to claim to not be them.

2)The rural vernacular in the Galician-Portuguese border is practically the same. Older Portuguese people from these areas will say “cousa” instead of “coisa”, and a lot of lexical and morphological features are the same, although not for much longer.

Anonymous said...

OMG, how can mr mike the trike manage to live in Galicia without knowing any Galician?! I thought, after much “thoughts (sic) from Galicia” reading, that you couldn’t manage to live in a country where Galician is being imposed on you! He is a cheeky boy, he really is!

Colin said...


Three things:-

1. Could you please let us have a long paragraph or page written in a). Xunta Gallego, b). reintegrista galego, and c). Portuguese. Then we can have a better idea of what you are talking about. If you have time, you might also add a fourth version – the Gallego spoken on the streets of one of the coastal cities. And even a fifth – say the Gallego spoken in Lugo. As your knowledge is clearly intensive, I don’t suppose this will involve much work. Plus such a paragraph may well already exist.
2. You have a bad habit of twisting what people say so as to suit whatever argument you are making. This does not do much for your credibility. For example, I have never said it’s impossible to live here without speaking Gallego. Quite the opposite. But, of course, it is true to say that Gallego is imposed on me if I receive communications in only Gallego and I have to fill in forms which are only in Gallego. And it certainly is imposed on children in school, whether they are attending galescolas or not. You may think this is absolutely OK but other Galicians do not.
3. No one has remotely said you are not entitled to your reintegrista views or that you must keep them secret. You are free to think and say what you like. Preferably civilly. I imagine, though, that most people think you are pissing against a very strong wind and that you have no chance of achieving your aims until Galicia is a state independent of Spain. Even then, there’d be no guarantee of success.


Anonymous said...

@ Colin’s “three things”:

1)Could you please reformulate that request, as I don’t understand what do you want me to do, beyond writing / copying a sample of texts from different registers / orthography / standard of the language.

2) It is you who twist not me. I never say that you said that it is impossible to live in Galicia without knowing Galician. Where did I say that? Can you read my last comment directed to mike the trike again please? Is not “retranca” a very Galician word? Otherwise, you risk mal-interpreting my comments, as usual. Still, you carry on with the claim that Galician is imposed on you, and on Galician children. That’s fine, but only as far as you equally admit at Castilian being imposed on you (wouldn’t you rather have the town council letters and other official documents written in English?) and on Galician children (wouldn’t they – those who still speak Galician at home as mother tongue - rather have Galician in school) Otherwise, you are, as you do, distorting the issue.

3) If you think debating any issue and denouncing lies, manipulation or drivel as pissing against the wind, what’s the point of raising such issue? You argumentation is, as always, mr davies, very poor, and you always end up falling in the same point: I am minority.

Very poor intelectually, mr davies, very poor. Can't you understand why I opened your unoffical blog?

Colin said...

Very disappointing.

Enough is enough. You can continue commenting here, provided you stay the right side of the line (if you can see it) but I won't be wasting any more of my time on you.

You can piss against the wind to your heart's content. Contrary to your victim bleating, no one's stopping you. Just laughing at you. Though I can't even find the energy for that now.

Farewell, Mr Cade. Thank-you and Goodnight. You had a chance and you blew it. Not surprisingly.

mike the trike said...

My level of Spanish and Galego is not even at the level of a two year old. The other day in the supermarket a mother was talking in Spanish to her two year old son and I think I understood about three words. When I go to the butchershop María speaks Galego to all her customers and speaks Spanish to me. I nod my head every so often hoping I am giving the correct understanding of what she is talking about. Anyway they all seem to have a good laugh when I am there and one old dear of about 85 likes me because I call her xetosiña.

mike the trike said...

Another thing I forgot to say I can't spell or type very well either. That should read "xeitosiña"

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, you are pathetic (is that overstepping the line?). You won’t learn from your mistakes, will you? Why engaging again in the debate by asserting again your same old tune, that of the imposition of Galician, and then when refuted just chicken out? That’s very poor, as I was saying. I am not victim bleating here, contrary to your reminding us of your “Galician imposed letter”, or children imposition of Galician. I am debating, namely, I put to you why Galician is supposedly imposed but Castilian is not. You won't answer that, of course: too little grey matter, and cluttered with loads of prejudices. But when your prejudices and ignorance are exposed, you turn to the same old pathetic cliche: "I am pissing against the wind". Just pathetic.

I told you before, you raise an issue, you present your distorted views about it, and when contested (this is a blog open to the cybernaut, innit?) just disqualify your challenger or refuse to argument. That has a name: misery. Talk about blowing chances!

Anonymous said...

You are very "jeitosinho", mike the trike. Look who is imposing who!:

The poor woman goes about her daily grind speaking the vernacular of the country (which is not Spanish, mr davies, it is not Spanish, got it?) and then mr mike the trike arrives and ... hey, she has to switch to Spanish! Poor woman! And then, when mike leaves, wow!, back to Galician!

Poor woman, I am sure she must be developing some sort of brain tumor due to the Spanish language imposition experience she suffers every day! (And I am sure she won't want that same fate to befall her children ...)

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