Wednesday, January 17, 2007

News from here in Baja Occitania:

Head Cataloony Carod-Rovira babbled about how the Tripartite was going to promote the "social use" of Catalan. Seems they want to institute a policy of including "linguistic clauses" as part of the process of awarding public contracts, which seems discriminatory against companies from other parts of Spain and from the rest of Europe--and I thought we were part of the EU, where that sort of discrimination is outlawed. And get this--they want to extend this regional government policy to Catalan municipal governments as well. This is, by definition, unnecessary and even harmful government interference with both economic and individual rights.

According to Carod, "Catalan must be considered an unsubstitutable common heritage." The problem is, it isn't for more than half the people in Catalonia. At least three million are Spanish-speakers, and at least another half-million are immigrants, while 99% of native Catalan-speakers also speak Spanish with native fluency and accuracy. If all these people have any language in common, it's Spanish.

My position, as always, is that speaking Catalan is wonderful, but not necessary, if you live in Catalonia.

Meanwhile, TV3 reported that somebody did a study on second-language use in Europe, and discovered that while 79% of the Danes speak English, only 21% of Catalans and 18% of Spaniards do. And I guarantee you that those percentages are exaggerated in the Iberian cases. My guess is that around 10% of people under about 30 can get along OK in English and another 10% or so can speak it well enough to work in the tourist industry. Over about 35, it's very rare to meet someone who knows English.

Why? 1) Until recently you didn't need to know English if you lived in Spain, and most people still don't need to know it. So they don't need to learn it, and learning a language is hard work. 2) English is very badly taught in Spain, and the main reason is that most of the teachers don't know English. Hell, some translators don't know English. (I am currently rewriting a fifth-grade history text in English, to be used in Spanish schools, that somebody else very drastically failed to correctly translate.) 3) It's harder for Romance-speakers to learn English than it is for Germanic-speakers, because English is a Germanic language. Duh.

Oh, get this. Carod wants everyone in Catalonia to know Catalan, Spanish, English, and "a fourth language, which might be French." Yeah, right, most people in Catalonia can speak about a language and a quarter right now--that is, half-assed Spanish, half-assed Catalan, and "Don't Worry, Be Happy." (Note: Before anyone gets angry, I freely admit that most people in America speak half-assed English and nothing else. Four languages just seems excessive when folks don't even use their own very well.) And why French? Why not something useful like Japanese, Mandarin, or Arabic?

Immigration note: The PP claims that there are currently a million and a half illegal immigrants in Spain, and that 3000 persons are missing and probably dead at sea while trying to cross the Atlantic to the Canary Islands.

Other news: A Spanish court has reissued an arrest warrant for three US soldiers accused of murdering Jose Couso, a Spanish TV reporter, who was killed by gunfire from a tank in the battle for Baghdad. This is ridiculous. Some dope gets himself in a war zone and gets himself killed, so let's call the Americans murderers. I call on the US government and military to treat this warrant with the contempt it deserves.

Two local big stinks: The security guy who shot the Albanian robber whose gang was trying to break into his employers' house is still in jail without bail. I vote we give him a medal. And somebody murdered the mayor of the town of Fago in Huesca province, Aragon, filled him full of bullets, and nobody in town is talking. Very occasionally very weird things happen in little Spanish towns.

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