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/



CAMPAMENTOS DE VERANO en Inglaterra y otros países de habla inglesa en verano para jóvenes, CON JÓVENES DE HABLA INGLESA, plazas limitadas. Estancias en casa del profesor para individuales o en matrimonio. También cursos de verano con otros estudiantes extranjeros. Puedes contactarnos en summercamps@englishtutors.es


Para PROFESIONALES EN CASA DEL PROFESOR, individuos o matrimonios/for professionals at the home of the teacher, both for individuals and married couples: homestay@englishtutors.es


In Spain for young people. Immersion Summer Camps with Spanish kids doig sports and cultural and learning activities. Limited availability, Please, do contact us at campamentosdeverano@englishtutors.es



Hong Kong’s English language skills branded ‘pathetic’ as Chinese has ‘negative influence’


The English-language skills of Hong Kong’s adult population have slumped to the level of South Korea, Indonesia and Japan, according to new rankings of 60 countries and territories.

Despite rising in the global rankings for English proficiency, over the past six years, the city’s actual score has dropped and it now sits fourth in Asia.

Experts put the blame partly on the switch from teaching mainly in English to mainly in Chinese since the handover. They said English skills must be improved if job-seekers were to remain competitive with mainlanders, whose English skills were improving.

Anita Poon Yuk-kang, associate professor in Baptist University’s department of education studies, said mother-tongue teaching had had a “very negative influence” on the efficiency of English learning. She said having two standard written languages – English and Chinese – and three standard spoken languages – Putonghua, Cantonese and English – had further lowered the importance of English.

Business consultant Joseph Luc Ngai said the performance of Hong Kong job applicants was “very pathetic”, with weaknesses in both English and Putonghua.

“Language ability has become a basic requirement [in job seeking],” Ngai, director of McKinsey and Company’s Hong Kong practice, said. “There is no option but to improve Chinese and English at the same time. Too many people are fluent in both.”

The annual rankings cover countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North Africa and Latin America where English is not the native language.While mainland China ranked 34th, just above Thailand, the study by language learning company EF Education First showed its English skills have been improving.

Although Hong Kong ranked 22nd among all countries and territories – three places up from last year – its score, at 53.5, has fallen a full point since the first survey in 2011. South Korea, Indonesia and Japan were ranked, respectively, 24th, 25th and 26th. Malaysia, ranked 11th overall, came first in Asia.

The rankings are based on tests taken last year by 750,000 people aged 18 and over.

The company also analysed the trends of English proficiency in these countries and territories over the past six years, based on test data from almost five million adults. The minimum sample size in each country or territory was 400 and the tests covered English vocabulary, reading, listening and writing.

Poon said that with the influence of mainland tourists and more frequent business exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland, more parents, job seekers and employees had focused on learning Putonghua.

Ngai said if Hongkongers wanted a language advantage over mainlanders, they needed good English, as their Putonghua would, at best, put them on a par with mainland graduates.

He said many potential employees he interviewed were poor at writing e-mails in English, with many grammatical and spelling errors, while others, although fluent in English, were “very mediocre” in Putonghua.

Smaller European countries proved to be the most proficient in English, occupying the first seven places and led by Sweden. The analysis showed that they believed better English could help them improve their international competitiveness.

France was ranked one lower than mainland China on the list, making it the worst English-learning country in Europe.

Some facts about the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is the most widely spoken Romance language, both in terms of number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is the dominant language.
There are more than 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Pronunciation and usage of the spoken Spanish language naturally vary among countries, but regional differences are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a single spoken “Spanish”. There are different Spanish dialects because of the evolution of the Spanish language in different regions.

The Importance of Spanish Today

The Spanish-speaking population is one of the fastest growing segments in the world, especially in the United States. The Spanish-speaking segment constitutes a huge community that shares products, services, and culture, offering businesses and institutions a truly unique growth opportunity. Here are some important facts regarding the Spanish language:
  • Spanish, the official language in twenty-one countries, is the third most widely-spoken language in the world, after English and Mandarin.
  • More than 400 million people speak Spanish worldwide.
  • Experts predict that by the year 2050, there will be 530 million Spanish speakers, of which 100 million will be living in the United States.
Hence, as you can imagine, the demand for having documents and communications in Spanish is growing at exponential rates. This is especially true in the United States where the Hispanic population has recently become the largest minority in the country.

U.S. Hispanic Market

The largest minority group in the United States is Hispanics. U.S. Hispanics have become not only a powerful group in terms of buying power, but also represent a key demographic group for national, state and local politics. The U.S. Hispanic vote can shift the results of a presidential election. In particular, Florida, whose population is comprised of over 20% Hispanics, has typically been a swing state in the last three crucial presidential elections.

French commuters get on-track English lessons

French commuters get on-track English lessons

French commuters get on-track English lessons
© Photo: AFP

French commuters now have a novel way to fill the time travelling to and from Paris by train, with English lessons taking the place of emails, spreadsheets and morning snoozes.

By FRANCE 24  (text)
French commuters can now make use of “lost” travelling time to take on-train English lessons as national rail operator SNCF starts turning coaches into classrooms.
The scheme – being piloted on two routes between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne in eastern France and Paris – is aimed at regular commuters travelling to and from the capital who want to make better use of the trip.
“It’s much more constructive than having a weekly two-hour lesson,” said businessman Jérôme, who has signed up for 40 lessons at a cost of 690 euros.
“Doing it four times a week means I will be learning a lot of new vocabulary that I can put to use as soon as I get to the office,” he told Europe 1 radio.
And despite the distractions of noise, the jolting of the train and the passing scenery, the SNCF’s new pupils seem to be enjoying the ride towards better English as they take their classes in small groups of three sat around a table with their teacher.
“Sometimes you get a bit scared of sounding like an idiot in front of all the other travellers,” admitted one pupil.
The courses, run by SpeakWrite English-language school, come in two flavours – the intensive “Locomotion” course of forty 45-minute classes, and the more relaxed “On Track”, comprised of thirty 60-minute sessions.

For more information see englishontrack.co.uk.


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.


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

El caso de los catalanes

Los viajes de Gulliver Archivo