Friday, November 24, 2006

Marius Serra, La Vanguardia's house plagiarist (Angie Schultz busted him bang to rights three years ago) has a piece in today's issue on new regional premier Jose Montilla's accent in Catalan.

They're televising the whole parliamentary debate on the new regional government on TV3, and boy, is it boring. I should have been taking shots of Ron Pujol every time Joan Saura said "sustainable"--I'd be passed out by now. Saura, who is our number one Luddite and who is spreading the falsehood that power lines emit cancer-causing radiation came out and said that the most important issue facing society is stopping climate change. The leader of Ciutadans, the anti-Catalanista party, has been using Spanish, which is highly scandalous on the floor of the Catalan parliament.

Jose Montilla is absolutely the most boring speaker in the world. Boring, boring, boring. Well, we need some boredom around here after all the excitement of the Maragall regime. His speech included naming every previous premier of the Generalitat, all 183 of them or whatever, and a word-for-word reading of his party's platform.

Anyway, though, Serra's piece in today's Vangua is dedicated to criticizing Montilla's poor accent in spoken Catalan. Mr. Serra, as someone who boasts of his own linguistic skill, wit and cleverness with great frequency, should have heard of that concept called first-language interference. That is, when you learn a second language, your first language is going to limit your second-language ability. This happens with everyone, and it is a pattern; it influences pronunciation more than anything else. Mr. Serra undoubtedly speaks English with a strong Catalan accent, and there is nothing he can do to change it.

Well, since Mr. Montilla was born in Cordoba, he speaks Catalan with a strong Andaluz accent. Mr. Serra runs down the list of pronunciation and grammar errors Montilla made during his speech:

--He does not voice the intervocalic s sound to the equivalent of English z, so Catalan "fermesa" /fermeza/ becomes /fermesa/.
--He does not use the apostrophized article before a noun beginning with a vowel, so he says "el Estatut" instead of "l'Estatut."
--He does not pronounce word-final "n" after a consonant, so "govern" becomes /gover/.
--He cannot pronounce the Catalan "j", changing it to a "y" glide, so "major" becomes /mayó/.
--He cannot pronounce the palatal "ll" at the beginning of a word, so "lloc" becomes /yoc/.
--He has difficulty pronouncing the schwa, which all non-stressed vowels in Catalan are converted to.
--He occasionally fouls up prepositions and conjugations.
--He does not use "weak pronouns."

All these mistakes that Montilla makes are due to interference from his first language, Spanish. They're not his fault personally. So what? We can all understand what he's trying to say, and, anyway, 100% of native Spanish-speakers using Catalan make the same mistakes. Just as 100% of Catalan-speakers using English cannot distinguish between the "i" sound in "hit" and the "ee" sound in "heat," or pronounce the "rl" combination in words like "world" or "girl," or make the "w" sound in "window," or distinguish between word-final "p" and "b" as in "cop" and "cob," or pronounce the English "r", or figure out the difference between "at," "in," and "on."

Serra concludes his piece making light of Mr. Montilla's minor language difficulties by calling on Montilla to improve his spoken Catalan.

1) What more do you want? Catalan nationalists constantly bitch that Spaniards who move here don't learn Catalan. Mr. Montilla has learned Catalan. Now people like Serra bitch and moan and say it's not good enough, he has to improve even more.
2) I would prefer for Mr. Montilla to spend his time in office working on being a good premier rather than learning how to do those damn silly pronoms febles.
3) I call on Mr. Serra to learn to speak English as well as Mr. Montilla speaks Catalan, and to phone me up in three months for his oral pronunciation exam. If he can't pass it, maybe he should shut up about Mr. Montilla's language abilities.

No comments: