Monday, July 14, 2008

Telemadrid Goes To The Beach

I'm still recovering from an enjoyable, but tiring, weekend in Murcia. In the meantime I will reinforce South of Watford's public service commitment by bringing you Telemadrid's take on the great language controversy. I know many of you are forced to live without this channel. It turns out that this stubborn determination of some people to speak their own language is on the verge of destroying Spain's tourism industry! I particularly recommend the heartrending interviews with the hungry and thirsty tourists who are devastated to learn that the Catalans have their own words for items like "sandwich" or "juice". It reminds me of my first ever trip to Barcelona. On leaving the city by train I was sharing a compartment with an Australian tourist who told me that he wanted to buy some bread for the trip but he couldn't because "these people have their own word for it and they didn't understand me". We had a long trip ahead so I was able to break it gently to him that this strange policy of not speaking English extended to more things than just bread, and that he could even face similar problems when we got to France.



34 comments:

Tom said...

Illegal conversation in Tarragona, Sunday at 11am.

Me: "Un café amb gel, si us plau"

Camarero: "En castellano por favor, no hablo catalan"

Me: "No parles català?!"

Camarero: "No, pero lo entiendo"

Me: "Pues un café amb gel, si us plau"

Camarero: "Muy bien"

John said...

Oh my word. Even as someone who has seen previous Telemadrid efforts, as well as El Mundo, Libertad Digital and the rest of the sorry lot of them, I am truly shocked at the ignorance and stupidity of that clip.

At least now it is clear why you never see any tourists around Barcelona or the Costa Brava.

Colin said...

"stubborn determination of some people to speak their own language"

Graeme,

This is not the whole picture.

Here in Galicia, absolutely no one objects to anyone at all [especially me when I try!] speaking Gallego. And people who normally speak Spanish will happily chat with people speaking to them in Gallego. They all understand each other perfectly but have their personal preference which they maintain, to produce fascinating mixed-language conversations. No one complains and I think it's a wonderful example of harmony. What people do object to - and I know quite a few of these - is the suppression of Spanish in public life. In other words, that it is ceasing to be a co-official language in all dealings with the local government and its quangos. It is for this reason that normally relaxed, [old fashioned] liberal - even left-wing! - folk are signing up to the dreaded El Mundo survey/ petition, or whatever it's called. They are fed up with the way previous harmony is being destroyed by doctrinaire Nationalists. Which is why I forecast they will suffer a reduction in their vote next year.

Of course, this is not a comment on Telemadrid's offering. I haven't watched as I'm happy to take your word it's appalling because it was directed by La Espe.

Graeme said...

I know its not the whole picture Colin, I was simply reacting to the way in which the Telemadrid report was framed. I do suggest you watch it, despite the potential danger to your health.

Also, it's important to clarify what the manifesto promoted by El Mundo and friends is about. It's not intended to seek balanced treatment for Spanish alongside the other co-official language. The manifesto seeks to put Spanish in a position of supremacy. I don't doubt that there are some excesses on the side of those who promote the languages of their region, but the manifesto is not the answer to that issue.

Anyway, are the "nationalists" really responsible for what you are complaining about in Galicia? I was under the impression that they were a minority partner in a government that has been in power for a relatively short time. Could it not be that much of what you complain about is a product of the much lengthier reign of don Manuel Fraga and friends?

Colin said...

Graeme,

Of course it started under the PP but things have developed much further under a coalition government in which 'education' and 'cultural' matters are under the control of the Nationalists. As you'd expect. What price would you demand for your support if the only major plank of your manifesto is more and more Gallego and less and less Spanish? Oh and a central government that's left-wing enough to reject the EU as a capitalist plot.

Colin said...

PS If the Manifesto is as bad as you say it is, then isn't it a shame - and a true indication of how things are here - that PSOE voters here are rushing to sign it? I should know, I live with one. And know many others. Although I'm still generalising from the particular, of course. But ya veremos at the comicios.

Graeme said...

Well the odd thing about the manifesto is that it hasn't been signed by more people. If the PP in the last parliament was capable of mobilising a couple of hundred thousand demonstrators fairly regularly then how come the number of signatories of the manifesto doesn't even reach that figure? The manifesto proposes to do with Spanish what its promoters claim is being done with the regional languages. However, it gets presented as being anti-discrimination. Pure political marketing, I've read it.

Also, resentment at regional nationalism isn't just a monopoly of the political right, there are PSOE supporters who also feel that way. The idea that Spanish is in danger remains nonsensical.

Graeme said...

Oh, and where is this left wing central government that regards the EU as a capitalist plot? I don't see it.

Colin said...

Of course you don't see it. What I was referring to was the political platform of the Galician Nationalist Party. It was the only Spanish political party, as far as I know, that recommended No in the referendum, on the grounds that the EU wasn't socialist enough as it was in thrall to the capitalists. Its other plank was that Gallego needed to have supremacy over Spanish. Though, of course, they dress it up as 'equality', prior to ensuring that Spanish isn't used in any dealings with the Xunta. But, as I say, the people can decide whether this is what they want and we have elections next year. Interesting times.

The manifesto is a side issue.

Graeme said...

I see, I thought you were referring to Zapatero for a minute! I was beginning to wonder what they'd mixed into your albariño.

The people behind the manifesto are the mirror image of the Gallego supremacists, because they also advocate supremacy for a language. As you say, the people shall speak - we will see what language they use.

Susan said...

As a non-Spanish speaking, Catalan speaking tourist can I just say how hard it is to find Catalan speakers in tourist areas?

Graeme said...

Es permet.

StarHound said...

What would Telemadrid think of 'The Day Today' or 'Brass Eye'?

Graeme said...

You can tell when you've been away from the UK for a long time, people make references to TV programmes you've never heard of. Thank God for Wikipedia. I doubt whether satire even at its best is really capable of capturing the essence of such such seriously bad journalism. Telemadrid probably wouldn't get the joke anyway.

John said...

Graeme, the programmes starhound mentions are quite old, maybe more than 10 years. If you haven't seen them, you should definitely check them out. A reading of your blog suggests that it is your kind of satire..

Graeme said...

Yeah, they are both from the 1990's, but I was outside of the UK for quite a lot of that decade. Next time I'm back on the island I'll check them out.

StarHound said...

I thought Graeme woud quite like them too - I think they are paractically 'seminal' works on the power of the modern media.

Telemadrid's style of 'investigative reporting' reminded me of the Brass Eye 'Good Aids / Bad Aids' and 'Crime' episodes in particular - a lot of the stuff is available on You Tube.

I wonder, though, how Telemadrid can justify going to Catalunya and harassing school teachers, waiters and so on. How exactly does this contribute to their role in providing local TV for Madrid? It's clearly that bit more sinister than just bad journalism.

John said...

Justification, there is none. However, they got to escape the Madrid summer, go to the beach, and do the Dear Leader's bidding all at once. That just about made it worth enduring the extreme stress and mental torture resulting from the locals' use of an unknown and incomprehensible tongue.

Graeme said...

The next time they go to the beach they can take their bleeding helicopter with them as well, instead of just using it to annoy the residents of central Madrid. These things should be shared.

Mariapi said...

I'm catalan and just will say one thing. When I was in Boston my script teacher gave us an article about how many languages are lost daily in the world. He said the power of a script is the individual way to express a world. The same with languages. If we all just speak one language, eat one kind of food and make one kind of love, all films, art and music will look the same. Isn't it a pity?

moscow said...

@Mariapi,
Not really. If we all spoke the same language may of the problems of this world would be solved overnight. I propose reducing the languages spoken in this world to half-a-dozen: English, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and Arab.
There, that's much better.

Graeme said...

Moscow, there'll be no Christmas card from Nicolas Sarkozy for you this year!

Starhound said...

'I propose reducing the languages spoken in this world to half-a-dozen: English, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and Arab.
There, that's much better.'

And a simple, yet effective way to do it would be to beat school children with a stick, or give them a whack for each time they spoke the wrong language. After it all it did no harm in the Basque country under Franco or in Ireland under the English.

John said...

Moscow, thay may make life "easier" but would be a monstrous crime against the cultures of the world and the long histories that languages represent. Although I suspect you are not actually serious and are looking to get a reaction. So, here is one....

Tom said...

Moscow - It's obvious you're trolling but what a stupid thing to say. How would reducing the number of languages solve any problems whatsoever? Like there was never a war between English and Spanish speakers, or between English and Arabic (the language, 'Arab' is the person) speakers, or between English speakers and those who speak pretty much any other language.

And why is German there instead of Hindi? To protect our understanding of analytical philosophy, one hopes. Though why we have to lose the Continental school, or for that matter, the Kama Sutra, I don't know.

Besides which, think of the number of jobs that would be lost in institutions, agencies, NGOs and... err... software websites worldwide! This is an anti-worker position!

moscow said...

@Tom,
To continue in the stupid mood.....Ok, I agree, let's substitute German by Hindi then.
That makes the short-list a bit less Eurocentric...
I would round-off my proposal by suggesting that everybody should master at least 3 of the said 6 languages, and know a smatter of a fourth. Conflict reduction policy I call it.

Graeme said...

Yes, then they could all join together in an alliance to crush all the other countries whose languages have just been abolished. I think we might be better off keeping the translators.

StarHound said...

And surely people that speak the same language could never go to war with each other - and even if they did I'm sure it would all be very retrained. You would almost call it a 'civil' war...

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

Hahaha I only just actually watched the video. Classic stuff. I particularly like the German fellow with his 'estamos en España tambien, ¿no?' bit. I've got plenty of German friends and colleagues here but this is something nearly all of them say.

In my experience, the people who complain most about Catalan are: the Germans, the French, the British, the Americans, South Americans and then the Spanish (but usually Spaniards who don't live in Catalonia). My theory (and I'll write a longer post on my blog to explore this idea further) is that people who have grown up in a mono-cultured, mono-lingual powerful nation states are the ones most opposed to autonomy in Catalonia (or speaking Catalan, which to them means the same thing).

The way I see it, this marks a total lack of empathy with the people of smaller countries. The message always seems to be: yes, yes, we know you have your own silly language but I'd rather you spoke to me in another. In many ways, it's like a Singaporean tourist visiting Paris and insisting on speaking English. I mean, they all speak it really, don't they?

Graeme said...

Not forgetting the old standby, of course. If the person you are speaking to persists in claiming that they do not understand your language then you can always TALK A BIT LOUDER.

moscow said...

I agree to an extent. People in monogloth nations are less relaxed when confronted with poligloth chatter. I'd take it further. People from smaller nations - who always end up having to learn at least one foreign language - are unlikely to be unnerved hearing different languages. The most extreme case was of one - apparently famous - American culinary critic who wrote openly complaning about Europe's multitude of silly languages. Blooddy imperialist! Usually, where the language was the language of Empire (Britain, Spain, Russia), the attitude towards diversity in speech is perhaps rather less relaxed.
Although, I am not totally sure this is correct. Language is such a tricky issue. In the Soviet Union there was a multitude of languages, but everybody learnt Russian. I mean, few Russians ever bothered to learn Georgian, Armenian, Estonian, Uzbek,...But the people of these nations all know or knew Russian. Blooddy imperialism! But I perfectly understand those foreigners, who after having made the sometimes arduous effort of learning Spanish, find out that that's not enough, and that now they have to learn Catalan or (God forbid) Basque - the poor souls.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Graeme,

Thanks to Tom I found this great entry, which I had totally missed.

Oh how nice! Vilanova has been on TeleMadrid (the sticker "Volem una Vilanova més... ...catalana" in the video) ;-) I guess that the reporters had to come here to prove their hypotheses since it is almost impossible to do so in Barcelona.

John's comment about how few tourists we see in Barcelona and Costa Brava says it all. Have the journalists at TeleMadrid never seen statistics on which autonomous communities receive the most tourists?

//Erik in Vilanova

Graeme said...

I doubt they have seen the statistics Erik, but even if they have it would make little difference. Telemadrid output is 100% fact free and ideological considerations come first