Saturday, July 12, 2008

Catalan Pride

Not everybody knows that Barcelona being the Capital of Catalonia means that it has 2 official languages - Catalan and Castellano (common spanish to you and I). Speakers of neither could well pass a few days here and not even notice the difference, as they are both similar Latin languages. Catalan is a mix of Spanish and French if you listen to it, or even if you read it - for example everything on the metro is in 3 languages, Catalan, Spanish and English, so it's easy to see the small differences.

The Catalans are a fiercely proud nation, and many shops will remind you with notices in the window "Catalonia is not Spain" - as they seek to gain their independence from the government. The language is a great way for them to try and express their desire for separation, and indeed, many people - even if they can tell you are a foreigner trying to speak Spanish - will always only speak to you in Catalan. They think that it's their country, their language, so you should speak it. Fair enough, but if you're making an effort to speak a language that they understand, at least come half way?!

Another favourite way to show off their Catalan pride is with bumper stickers on cars. I have mentioned this in a previous post. The black sillhouette of a Bull is a typical emblem of Spain, so to mock this, the Catalans have embraced another animal indigenous to Catalunya instead. Trot forward the donkey. similar to Catalan, it was close to extinction in the Franco era, but now has a blossoming population, so I'm told. Various versions of this donkey have been coined - a donkey mounting a bull, for example, and vice versa outside of Catalunya.

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Anonymous said...

Your blog sucks and your comments about catalan people are a shame

Unknown said...

hey davda, sorry to hear you don't like the blog. I don't think the comments are offensive in any way, just me pointing out the pride that the Catalans have, but each to their own.
I could have rejected your comment, but I awlays say that I encourage comments, so you have a right to reply.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the information, very interesting.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Andrew. Glad to hear I didn't offend you!

Anonymous said...

I live in Barcelona (and am Catalan) and your blog is totally right. Thank God people (specially young and old people with a good and not public education) are starting to arise against this stupid catalanism which only brings discussions and blinds the rest of catalan people to see the real problems of the catalan society.

Anyway, I'm leaving from Cataluña, I just discovered that southern Spain is much much MUCH way easier to live. To live in Barcelona you must have enough money.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comment, and good luck in your venture south - I can totally understand your position, as things are still really tight at the moment with almost everyone I speak to! ¡Bona Sort!

Anonymous said...

Hello David.
I've just been referred to your blog by Martin Brown. I'm enjoying it very much.
Regarding Catalan identity, you've touched on a very delicate matter. The country, one of the oldest in Europe, is in real danger of losing its language and identity through the massive pressure exerted by the media and the millions of castilian speakers. TV, Spanish and South American immigration and the relentless political pressure from Madrid put the language's survival in doubt. You may ask, why it should survive if it can't stand the climate. Well, Catalan people love it and for some strange reason believe they have a right to speak it.
Catalan, by the way, is not a mixture of Spanish and French. Catalan is older than Spanish and different to it because the centre of Roman Spain was in the South, where the educated people lived. In Hispania Citerior remained the lower level soldiers who spoke camp latin, not the sophisticated language of the governing elite. (In a way, this is a bit like the Saxon/Norman difference in English where we have a word for the animal (Saxon) and another for the meat (Norman)). Another important reason for the difference is that the Franks and Catalan Counts ousted the Moors from Catalunya Vella in the 8th Century and so 680 years of Arab influence is missing from Catalan. That's why there are none of the throat rasping sounds so common in Castilian. Regarding French, Catalan was the language spoken in the South of France until well into the middle ages…
There's an article on the whole Catalan/Castilian question by Mathew Tree from a talk he gave at theLSE, I think: It's very interesting and informative.
If you'll forgive the self-serving plug, there's an inept and sketchy bit about the early history of Barcelona and odds and ends about the language on my web:
Keep up the good work!
Kind regards

Unknown said...

Thanks Peter for the clarifications. I don't really think it's in Danger of disappearing, though - quite the opposite. There seems to be more and more steps taken every year to ensure the printing of more books, obligation of cinemas, etc. and you only need to go to somewhere like Sant Cugat (relatively close) and you hardly hear Castellano. I've spoken to people there who really "can't" speak Spanish (one guy actually apologised to me for speaking to me in Catalan!!), but yes, it's a touchy subject!

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