Que no! No són bojos!

 

“What languages do you speak?”

“English, Spanish/Castillian, and Catalan.”

The next question is either “What’s Catalan?” or “Why/how did you learn Catalan?” (neither of which ever really surprise me). How I answer the first question should  be obvious at this point (it’s the language spoken in Catalonia, etc) but how I answer the second has changed a bit with time.
At the root of my interest in Catalonia is something simple: football. I’m a Barça fan and the club has literally turned my life upside down. I wouldn’t have half the friends I have now, or have gone to a quarter of the events that I have in the past four years, or have taken half the classes I did last semester, or be writing this blog post if it wasn’t for Barça. (I would have saved a lot of money because I wouldn’t have dropped hundreds on jerseys, but that’s besides the point.) I was kind of a slump when I encountered the beautiful game and in a sense, Barça gave me life.
I became determined to scheme up something to give something back to Barça, to thank it for that. The scheme I originally came up with was learning Catalan (as time went by the scheme eventually snowballed into this project). When I came to Columbia and found out that not only do they offer the language but that the professor was the biggest sweetheart on the planet/Columbia’s secret gem/literally the best person on earth, I knew it was meant for me to learn the language. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Not the part about Elsa but the second part.  In my head it was as if everything fell into place and so I enrolled second semester. By that point, the answer to “why did you learn Catalan” became a motley of “because I love Barça,” “because the professor is fantastic,” “because language classes are so much fun,” “because why the hell not,” and “because I wanted to.” That’s the answer that still stands today and while I was in Barcelona I sprinkled in a little of “because I wanted to visit Barcelona and get the most out of my stay.”
The past few days, I’ve been thinking about that second question a lot. I’ve also been thinking a lot about a documentary about the Catalan language that pops up on my Twitter timeline every so often. It’s called Són bojos, aquests Catalans?! It’s about this German girl who decides to learn Catalan instead of Spanish because she’s dating a Catalan guy and is moving to Catalonia. She gets there and takes a little road trip to see exactly how useful her new language skills are. She’s riding around in this van that is reminiscent of the Mystery Machine, talking to all sorts of people and going to all sorts of places. I first watched the documentary in 2013 and thought it was interesting, gave it a thumbs up. When I took my Catalan Cultures class, again with the wonderful Elsa (TAKE ONE OF HER CLASSES COLUMBIA STUDENTS TAKE ONE OF HER CLASSES), I watched it again for a homework assignment.

To give a little more context about the purpose of the film, here’s its summation as provided by the director, David Valls:

The Catalan language is spoken by about 10 million people. This makes it the ninth most spoken language in the European Union and within the 100 most widely spoken languages in the world. It is a medium size language, comparable in number of speakers with languages ​​such as Czech, Swedish, Bulgarian, and it has more speakers than Danish, Estonian, etc.. Despite these objective facts, what it happens to Catalan that it does not happen with these other languages​​? Why [is] Catalan is not in a similar situation such as other languages with a similar amount of speakers? Why [isn’t] its use it isnot normalized? Why [do] we assume [its behaviors] as normal linguistic behaviors [when they] are not? Why [do] Catalan speakers often code switch to Spanish? What are the actual uses of Catalan? What difficulties are there?
As a viewer, there’s two ways to look at the film. The first: you can think of the film as illuminating the obstacles that the Catalan language still faces, as the director’s summary leads one to do. The documentary shows that Catalan isn’t used in the courts, on food or medicine labels, or in machinery user-guides. It explains that universities have different sections for classes (sections taught in Castilian and others in Catalan) and the presence of the language in radio, publishing, television and even in other regions of Spain. It’s informative and exposes truths that people like me all the way over here in America wouldn’t have known otherwise. If you look at it this way, then the film won’t (or at least shouldn’t) discourage you from learning the language. Sure it faces obstacles, but that’s okay.
The second: you can think of the film as legitimizing the lack of a need for foreigners to learn the language. Here’s an entire documentary about foreigner that takes time out of her life to learn a language, heads over the only place the language is spoken, and then realizes that she was probably better off learning Castillian because the whole Catalan thing isn’t as important as her boyfriend made seem. She lucked out because she got her story turned into a movie, but clearly, that won’t be happening to you — she covered all the bases and the world doesn’t need two movies about the same irrelevant language. Why learn a language that faces obstacles when you could stick to Castillian and survive just as well, if not better?
I didn’t realize this second way until watching the movie a second time. Please note: realizing and adopting the second way are not the same thing. I realized it but vehemently disagree with it and here’s why:
  • I was already a month into my Catalan course to know that the language was 1. beautiful, 2. fun, and 3. a hidden gem (much like the Catalan professor at Columbia TAKE HER CLASSES TAKE THEM). Plus, ain’t nobody gonna convince me a month into doing something that all my efforts were pointless.
  • There’s something, I dunno, just plain obvious about the importance of learning a nation’s language before you visit it. This point is mainly for all my monolingual Americans who plan on stamping up their passport without cracking open a book about the places they want to see. Don’t be the ignorant American who hops off the plane and forces everyone they encounter to speak English because you can’t communicate in any other way. That’s just plain disrespectful and inconsiderate. Additionally, as my coworker recently pointed out, If you’re one of those Americans who demands that those who come to America learn to speak English, you should realize that you have the same responsibility when you go abroad. No one is asking you to be completely fluent in the language, but make an effort to learn and use it. You don’t even have to learn it before you get there — you can learn it while you’re there. This, to me, is part of being a decent traveler and a huge part of respecting other people’s cultures. (Some of you may chime out with the “well, newsflash you Ivy League brat: some of us don’t have the money to take language classes!” To you I say, get to a library and use the Internet or borrow a book. If you have the money to travel abroad, you most likely have money to at least do that.
  • When you go Barcelona and speak Catalan, new opportunities open up.It’s a conversation starter because not many foreigners speak the language. You’ll most likely be much more intriguing and you can finally become friends with the locals and see what the real city is like. Some people may open up faster and decide to take you under their wing and show you around themselves. You’ll be able to read the menu without having to bug the waiter to translate it for you. You’ll avoid ordering things that you know you won’t like or that you’re allergic to. You’ll be able to navigate the supermarket a lot faster and understand those cute signs that line the streets asking people to keep the noise level low at night. You also open up the door to a whole world of fantastic music. (There is a small chance that speaking Catalan may run you into some trouble but I’ll explain that tomorrow and it was literally a one in a million event that ended up flattering me instead of insulting me in the long run.)
My point is if you end up watching that documentary and regarding it in the second way, think the whole thing over again. Learning Catalan is a good thing. It’s a little weird, sure, but do it. It’s worth it — it’s fun, it’s different, and ultimately, it is useful.
BIANCA GUERRERO  http://biancaincatalonia.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/que-no-no-son-bojos/
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Carta abierta del actor Juan Diego sobre la libertad de Catalunya.

“Independentista, como madrileño he llegado a la conclusión de que soy independentista catalán.

No entiendo al Gobierno de España. No entiendo cómo puede tener a una comunidad de siete millones y medio de personas así.
Una comunidad que tiene tres idiomas oficiales. Que es referente en muchos campos y que ha sido motor de España desde antes de la democracia. Que no sólo ha sido puerta de entrada de importaciones, inversiones y turismo, que es puerta de entrada de cultura, modernidad y respeto.
No se le puede decir a un pueblo que no use su idioma para educar a sus hijos.
No pretendas que se queden inmóviles amenazándoles con qué les pasará si nos abandonan. No es dinero lo que perdemos. Perdemos siete millones y medio de habitantes, cultura, gente muy importante y preparada en muchos campos, empresas internacionales y nacionales, industria, prestigio, calidad como país y democracia. 
Al motor de España durante décadas se le cuida y se le mantiene, se invierte para que siga siendo competitivo.
No se le gripa una y otra vez esperando que dé el 300% para que otras comunidades que nunca han funcionado o que tienen un concierto económico especial se permitan dar ayudas y subvenciones que Catalunya ya no puede.
¿Qué solidaridad es esa? Y la respuesta desde hace años es no. No a todo, a sentarse a hablar, a una mejora de financiación, a una redistribución mejor de la solidaridad y ahora a una consulta.
No soy catalán, soy madrileño, y me entristece decir que les entiendo, que para seguir así, es mejor que sigan solos. Yo tampoco quiero estar donde no se me aprecia.”

Johnson: Do different languages confer different personalities?

LAST week, Johnson took a look at some of the advantages of bilingualism. These include better performance at tasks involving “executive function” (which involve the brain’s ability to plan and prioritise), better defence against dementia in old age and—the obvious—the ability to speak a second language. One purported advantage was not mentioned, though. Many multilinguals report different personalities, or even different worldviews, when they speak their different languages.
It’s an exciting notion, the idea that one’s very self could be broadened by the mastery of two or more languages. In obvious ways (exposure to new friends, literature and so forth) the self really is broadened. Yet it is different to claim—as many people do—to have a different personality when using a different language. A former Economist colleague, for example,reported being ruder in Hebrew than in English. So what is going on here?
Benjamin Lee Whorf, an American linguist who died in 1941, held that each language encodes a worldview that significantly influences its speakers. Often called “Whorfianism”, this idea has its sceptics, including The Economist, which hosted a debate on the subject in 2010. But there are still good reasons to believe language shapes thought.
This influence is not necessarily linked to the vocabulary or grammar of a second language. Significantly, most people are not symmetrically bilingual. Many have learned one language at home from parents, and another later in life, usually at school. So bilinguals usually have different strengths and weaknesses in their different languages—and they are not always best in their first language. For example, when tested in a foreign language, people are less likely to fall into a cognitive trap (answering a test question with an obvious-seeming but wrong answer) than when tested in their native language. In part this is because working in a second language slows down the thinking. No wonder people feel different when speaking them. And no wonder they feel looser, more spontaneous, perhaps more assertive or funnier or blunter, in the language they were reared in from childhood.
What of “crib” bilinguals, raised in two languages? Even they do not usually have perfectly symmetrical competence in their two languages. But even for a speaker whose two languages are very nearly the same in ability, there is another big reason that person will feel different in the two languages. This is because there is an important distinction between bilingualism and biculturalism. 
Many bilinguals are not bicultural. But some are. And of those bicultural bilinguals, we should be little surprised that they feel different in their two languages. Experiments in psychology have shown the power of “priming”—small unnoticed factors that can affect behaviour in big ways. Asking people to tell a happy story, for example, will put them in a better mood. The choice between two languages is a huge prime. Speaking Spanish rather than English, for a bilingual and bicultural Puerto Rican in New York, might conjure feelings of family and home. Switching to English might prime the same person to think of school and work. 
So there are two very good reasons (asymmetrical ability, and priming) that make people feel different speaking their different languages. We are still left with a third kind of argument, though. An economist recently interviewed here at Prospero, Athanasia Chalari, said for example that:
Greeks are very loud and they interrupt each other very often. The reason for that is the Greek grammar and syntax. When Greeks talk they begin their sentences with verbs and the form of the verb includes a lot of information so you already know what they are talking about after the first word and can interrupt more easily.
Is there something intrinsic to the Greek language that encourages Greeks to interrupt? Consider Johnson sceptical. People seem to enjoy telling tales about their languages’ inherent properties, and how they influence their speakers. A group of French intellectual worthies once proposed, rather self-flatteringly, that French be the sole legal language of the EU, because of its supposedly unmatchable rigour and precision. Some Germans believe that frequently putting the verb at the end of a sentence makes the language especially logical. But language myths are not always self-flattering: many speakers think their languages are unusually illogical or difficult—witness the plethora of books along the lines of “Only in English do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway; English must be the craziest language in the world!” What such pop-Whorfian stories share is a (natural) tendency to exoticise languages. We also see some unsurprising overlap with national stereotypes and self-stereotypes: French, rigorous; German, logical; English, playful. Of course.
In this case, Ms Chalari, a scholar, at least proposed a specific and plausible line of causation from grammar to personality: in Greek, the verb comes first, and it carries a lot of information, hence easy interrupting. The problem is that many unrelated  languages all around the world put the verb at the beginning of sentencesMany languages all around the world are heavily inflected, encoding lots of information in verbs. It would be a striking finding if all of these unrelated languages had speakers more prone to interrupting each other. Welsh, for example, is also both verb-first and about as heavily inflected as Greek, but the Welsh are not known as pushy conversationalists.
Neo-Whorfians continue to offer evidence and analysis that aims to prove that different languages push speakers to think differently. One such effort is forthcoming: “The Bilingual Mind” by Aneta Pavlenko, to be published in April. Ms Pavlenko speaks to François GrosjeanhereMeanwhile, John McWhorter takes the opposite stance in “The Language Hoax”, forthcoming in February. We’ll return to this debate. But strong Whorfian arguments do not need to be valid for people to feel differently in their different languages. 

Countries with Better English Have Better Economies

by Christopher McCormick  |   9:00 AM November 15, 2013

Billions of people around the globe are desperately trying to learn English—not simply for self-improvement, but as an economic necessity. It’s easy to take for granted being born in a country where people speak the lingua franca of global business, but for people in emerging economies such as China, Russia, and Brazil, where English is not the official language, good English is a critical tool, which people rightly believe will help them tap into new opportunities at home and abroad.

Why should global business leaders care about people learning English in other parts of the world? 

Research shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and the economic performance of the country. Indicators like gross national income (GNI) and GDP go up. In our latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index  (EF EPI), the largest ranking of English skills by country, we found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income. And on an individual level, recruiters and HR managers around the world report that job seekers with exceptional English compared to their country’s level earned 30-50% percent higher salaries.
Better English and Income Go Hand in Hand ChartBetter English, Better Quality of Life Chart

  • Which countries are aggressively improving their English proficiency in an effort to attract businesses like mine?
  • Where could poor English hinder the growth of emerging economies?
  • In which countries should I target my international recruitment efforts?
  • As we think about expanding globally, where will my existing, native English-speaking employees find it easiest to relocate?
The interaction between English proficiency and gross national income per capita is a virtuous cycle, with improving English skills driving up salaries, which in turn give governments and individuals more money to invest in language training. On a micro level, improved English skills allow individuals to apply for better jobs and raise their standards of living.
This is one explanation for why Northern European countries are always out front in the EF EPI, with Sweden taking the top spot for the last two years.Given their small size and export-driven economies, the leaders of these nations understand that good English is a critical component of their continued economic success.
It’s not just income that improves either. So does the quality of life. We also found a correlation between English proficiency and the Human Development Index, a measure of education, life expectancy, literacy, and standards of living.As you can see in the chart below, there is a cutoff mark for that correlation.Low and very low proficiency countries display variable levels of development.However, no country of moderate or higher proficiency falls below “Very High Human Development” on the HDI.
For business leaders, knowing which countries are investing in and improving in English can give valuable insight into how a country fits into the global marketplace and how that might affect your company’s strategy. Here are just a few of the questions you might consider: 
Business leaders who understand which nations are positioning themselves for a smoother entry into the global marketplace will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.  Your company needs to know how the center of English language aptitude is shifting. Because knowing English is not just a luxury—it’s the sina qua non of global business today.

THE CASE OF THE CATALANS – EL CASO DE LOS CATALANES

In the XVIII century Defoe and Jonathan Swift had taken concern of the Catalan issue, as well as Churchill during the Second World War, who offered the people of England the example to be imitated of the courage of the city of Barcelona when facing the bombings during the Spanish Civil War.


http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20130915/54383511908/enric-juliana-el-caso-de-los-catalanes.html

El caso de los catalanesLa cuestión catalana suscitó un gran debate político en Inglaterra en el siglo XVIII, en el que intervinieron los autores de ‘Robinson Crusoe’ y ‘Los viajes de Gulliver’15/09/2013 – 16:16h

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