Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An answer to an Italian visitor

A friend from Italy has visited this blog and added a comment on last post. I think he or she has an interesting point of view and I would like to reply to the expressed ideas. Here we go:

Thanks again for your interest. I'll try to answer briefly:

  1. Spain is a bad thing for us as long as the government takes lots and lots of our money to invest a very important part of it in Madrid. Spanish is bad for us as long as they are languages in contact, Catalan being in the worst position.

  2. There is a very important difference between dialects and languages. You KNOW Italian is not any Spanish dialect. Catalan is not either. They are all romanic languages. I'm sure you agree, but in any case this is an incontrovertible scientific true. That is why we cannot compare the use of Catalan, Galician or Basque in the Spanish parliament on the one side and italian dialects on the other. The linguistic reality in Spain is much more like Belgium than like Italy.

  3. Tourists visiting Catalonia will be able to communicate in several languages, including English, Spanish and obviously Catalan. Some Catalans have Spanish as a mother tongue, but most of them don't, so there is no empathy when using Spanish. When I go abroad, I consider Spanish an international language, not MY language. I do not feel anything special when Spain's football team celebrates a victory, and I do not feel anything special when someone talks to me is Spanish. Actually, it makes no sense to me if a German, a French or an Italian speaker talks to me in Spanish, because this is not my language. So, we don't want to be unpolite with tourists. We simply want to be natural. Spanish laws might say Spanish is official everywhere in Spain, but this does not mean we all have to speak Spanish all the time.

  4. If people from all around the world expect to be in Spain, as you say, to hear people speaking Spanish, then maybe there is a mistake in expectation. You see, it's not our fault. People who travel to Italy do not expect to eat pizza all the time. You really eat other things, don't you? Spain is diverse too: it is formed by four nations, each of them having their own language and culture. If people do not know that, we'll try to explain.

  5. You seem to ignore many aspects of Spanish history. You say: “I would easily understand your point if Catalunya was recently conquered by Spain and forced to be part of it... but Spain as we know it, it is this way since many years before our country was even formed!” Actually, the crucial date, the date of the loss of our souverainity, was 1714, but that was the culmination of many previous attempts. Besides, you should not forget Franco's dictatorship, which ended 1975. Not so far. And I know you will be surprised to hear about that, but right now the basis of the Spanish cultural empire is under suspicion. A Catalan investigator is showing a series of elements that lead to the need to reconsider how Spanish Kingdom could have used the Inquisition and its means to exterminate Catalan culture during the XVI century. Columbus might have been a Catalan, and America's discovery might have been a Catalan enterprise Castilia would have assumed as proper after changing things and deleting tracks. Some Siglo de Oro literary works are now under suspicion of cultural appropiation. El Lazarillo de Tormes could have been written in Catalan by a Valencian author, then translated to Spanish and finally all tracks destroyed. The same happens to La Celestina or Garcilaso de la Vega. If you read these works, Catalan tracks apear everywhere. And now the best: Don Quijote de la Mancha is under suspicion too for the same reason. Would you feel at ease in Italy if they had done so?

I hope this post has been useful to you and to anyone interested in the Catalan Countries and their way to independence. Do not hesitate asking for more explanations if you need them. Now you know a little more about us, and that will be good if you finally visit Barcelona. If you do, I'll be pleased to meet you.


designkat said...
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designkat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
designkat said...

I'm sorry, I had to consolidate my comments into one, thus explaining my deletion of my previous comments.

Thank you Xavier, that is a great answer to the Italian poster. I happen to be half Italian and half Catalan, so this is an interesting subject for me to say the least. I wonder what the Italian poster would call the Catalan spoken in Alghero, on the island of Sardinia? Does he consider it an Italian dialect?

My grandparents came from Lombardia, where they had a thriving language of their own. Once the Italian state was created, that language began to die off dramatically. Today, only older people speak the language and who knows if it will survive another generation IN ITALY. I emphasise Italy because in Switzerland there is an area where they also speak Lombard, and there is support from the state and people are proud to speak it in the streets and learn it in schools, as opposed to in Italy, where people are made to feel shameful, backwards, and provincial if they choose to speak in their mother tongue. This is what Franco tried to do with Catalan, Basque, and Galician, and what Spanish politicians are still trying to do today.
I do not see anything wrong with many more smaller nations making up the Europe of the 21st century. A diversity of people, cultures, and languages that make up Europe are a thing to celebrate, not destroy.

Tom said...

Xavier, I'd also add that Veneto which is spoken by 3 million or so, isn't a dialect of Italian, it's a romance language too. Sadly, it hasn't had any official status for hundreds of years and from what I've heard it really is beginning to die out.

Like designkat, I too see no problem with a future Europe of smaller states, all working together for mutual benefit. It makes much more sense to me than the anti-regionalist attitude of old-style nation-states like Spain and the UK, governed from distant national capitals with little or no connection to the working people who pay their salaries.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Tom and Designkat,

Economically, there is no problem with small states today, as soon as they form a part of the European Union (Estonia) or have the EU's support (Kosovo). If it would not be for the EU, new small states would be marginalised in the international context, above all on trade related matters.

However, what I would do not agree to is an ideology of "one nation - one state". In my eyes that is equally reactionist as to defend current state constructions.

Being a boring realist, I suggest that we keep the current state borders but let them lose their importance within an EU framework.

And let's push EU to do a better job for the non-official languages. (Thanks for the updates on Lombardian and Veneto!)