Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Someone named B posted this in the Comments section, and I thought it was something important to clear up.

I will be living in Catalonia for the last several months of this year, sending my 10-year-old to a private school precisely because we have no Catalan. I have assumed that speaking only Spanish and English won't be an insurmountable problem, since locals would realize we're American and unlikely to have been exposed to Catalan. The flap reported in your blog makes me wonder if I should be more concerned than I am. Any recommendations?

B. | 04.17.07 - 8:07 pm

Here's my answer.

B, as I said, there is virtually no conflict among individuals over the language issue in Catalonia. You have nothing to worry about. Half of the people prefer to use Spanish, in the first place. The great majority of those whose first language is Catalan will be happy to use Spanish with you, and the few jerks who won't are not people you'd want to spend time with, whatever language they speak. Also, if you know Spanish, then Catalan is pretty easy to understand and you'll pick it up quick, just by osmosis.

As others have said, look at it as an opportunity to enrich your family culturally. Agreed, Catalan is not a skill that would do anyone much practical good outside Catalonia. But being able to understand Catalan exposes you to a different culture, different books, different theater, different traditions, and so on, and that's an interesting and valuable experience. Also, learning any foreign language is good exercise for the brain. It helps you understand how your own language works, too.

My criticism of the Catalan language laws has nothing to do with disrespect for Catalan language and culture. I have no problem with the regional government encouraging Catalan, either, though I'm opposed to encouraging it with tax money. It's because I believe those laws are unconstitutional and will sooner or later be thrown out by the Constitutional Court, and I believe they're wrong because they discriminate against people who do not know Catalan or prefer to use Spanish.

One thing, B. You will have to send your child to a private school if you want him to be educated in Spanish. I believe this to be discrimination, but for now we have to live with it since it's the law.

John | 04.18.07 - 8:56 am

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