Concerns about Catalan in Barcelona

Washington, D.C.- I discovered that the debate over the Catalan language has crossed the borders of Catalonia and Spain as this past Sunday I found an interesting answer provided by the NYTimes Travel section to a 20-year old college student looking for suggestions of the best city to study in Spain. Carolyn Fanning is trying to decide where to go for her winter semester in 2011, and she has in mind five cities: Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Seville and Granada. She asked the newspaper in order to decide where to go. Among the things she is considering, what interested me the most were her worries and concerns “that the Catalan in Barcelona might be a problem”, she said in her question to the newspaper. 

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan and international city, full of foreigners who chose the Catalan capital as their place to live, work or just spend some days off. Nobody has forced them to do it and I assume that their choice was based on many reasons: the city itself, but also the Catalan culture, open minded society, as well as its Mediterranean and European flavor, among others.

Even though there are misconceptions about the laws that regulate the use of the Catalan in public areas, or mistaken references made to the Catalan nationalism, the NYTimes gives her an accurate answer so that Carolyn Fanning and other college students can put their worries to rest: “[Barcelona] is a bilingual metropolis with street signs, newspapers and televisions programs in both Catalan and Spanish”.

Moreover, the newspaper recommends Barcelona as her “best bet” over the list she has in mind because it is a city with a “superb climate, easy access to the historic cities of Gerona (sic) and Tarragona and to the Pyrenees, as well as its striking architecture, notable cuisine and a hedonistic night life”; and furthermore, the NYTimes adds: “Of the five cities, it is closest to the rest of Europe, and just a one- or two-hour flight to North Africa”.

Bravo! Bravo because it is true and because the answer avoids the lies that some Spanish politicians and media are repeating every single day without a credible prove. There is only one little problem: Barcelona it is not a bilingual city in the strict sense; people who live in the city and use Catalan as their daily usual language is less than 50 percent—but this little mistake is not going to affect Ms. Fanning’s decision; so Carolyn, you are more than welcome!

PS: Regarding to this, I would like to highlight the fact that more than 10 students are taking Catalan lesson in Washington, DC, under the Global Language Network (GLN), a community of people who share an interest for language and culture. This initiative offers accessible and affordable language classes and their teachers don’t get paid. Ricard is the Catalan teacher.

40 comentarios en “Concerns about Catalan in Barcelona

  1. >I also read the blog in the NY Times…I agree with you ….Barcelona is a wonderful place and I wished I would have spent a semester there when I was in college. I think I had one of the best vacations of my life there last year…

  2. >Barcelona, is it a great city or it is not. Is it cosmpolitan, European, full of flavor? Anyhow, the question does not focus the very fact that a large part of international students considering studying in Barcelona, take into account Spanish as a major factor for choosing their very final destination.Catalan society has done its choice, and that has its own trade-offs. I remember very well the French movie, ´L´auberge espagnol´, in where a Erasmus student, argues with the professor for teaching in Catalan in spite of Spanish, and the proffesor bitterly replys him: "For that, rather go to Madrid or Latin America".There is a quite simple and popular proverb in Spanish: "No se pueden hacer tortillas sin romper huevos" (You cannot make ommelets without breaking eggs). Barcelona, and the Catalan society has chosen to build up a large, ambitious, national, language and cultural driven goal called ´Catalonia´, with its own ´proper language´. That´s a great ´omelette´, but please do not hide the fact that for that, some eggs -for some, too many- have been, and are being, broken off.Best from Lima, FJU

  3. >Sorry, but I've never seen a sign in catalan and spanish. The signs are only in catalan (let's say a 95%??).If you go to school or high school, almost all the subjects will be in catalan.All the official advises and local TV are in catalan. All the official messages are in catalan.If I were Carolyn Fanning I would choose Sevilla or Granada, because catalan is a real barrier for those who don't know this lenguage.I am catalan. I am from Barcelona. But our stupidity makes that for moving round the cities in here, catalan is indispensable.Also, if you want to live with the local people, we all know that catalans (from all the spanish people), we are less hospitalary … Andalucian's are the oposite!And true, the weather is great!Carolyne, if you want to come to Spain, I trully think that Catalonia is not a good choice.Piterabit.

  4. >Piterabit:I've studied in Catalonia and in my school fifty percent of my subjects were in Spanish, fourty percent in Catalan, and the rest were English…In my high school, public high school, all the students were asked at the beginning of every semester for their languages preferences, having spanish always preference, because of non catalan speakers and erasmus students.You're lying, catalan is not a barrier!!! If Catalonia is like you try to say, why are you living there?!People like you is the biggest problem we have in Catalonia!!!M.

  5. >Reasons to choose the city to study abroad to learn Spanish according to the NY (Some of them really laughable):1)Language:"Barcelona is bilingual". Well, Valencia, Alicante, Seville and Granada are not. Pure Spanish (with different accents)2)Weather: Barcelona has a superb weather". Apparently in Valencia,Alicante and Seville is freezing all day long. Granada could be a little bit colder than the other four but still a good weather. Weather in Seville and Alicante is also superb.3)"Easy access to historic cities". Sevilla and Granada are historic cities from themselves. Cordoba is not too far. Cadiz probably has more relevance in the Spanish history than Granada.4) Access to the Pyrenees. That is true, although if you like skiing you can go Granada and maybe Alicante since Sierra Nevada is not far away (specially from Granada).5)"Striking architecture". Are not La Giralda, Seville's cathedral and La Alhambra for citing a few, striking architecture?6)"Distance to North of Africa" Seville, Granada and Alicante are closer to the North of Africa than Barcelona. They miss for a little with the rest of Europe and they are probably worst communicated with the rest of Europe than Barcelona although not isolated at all.5)"Night life and notable cuisine" You can find it all around Spain, although I do not know if in the other cities is going to be "hedonistic" or not. If you are looking for "hedonism" check with your travel agency, locals or the international program in your school before to go.First of all, the arguments given by the NYT are shallow, laughable and biased. What about of universities programs, history of the cities, different purposes of studying abroad, other students experience…. I have not read the NYT article but it seems that the other cities are not interested, cold, boring, isolated, and this is not true.Probably Barcelona is the coolest city in Spain,I do not know and that is very personal, but come on, the other are excellent places too (Granada and Seville are superb in almost all the aspects). And if the whole purpose of spending a semester abroad is to learn Spanish and Spanish culture (do not forget that), regretably for Barcelona, it loses some points because it is bilingual (of course and you still can learn a very good Spanish and have a Spanish experience). If you want to learn Spanish and Catalan because you like languages Barcelona is the place to go. If you want to learn Spanish and you do not mind certain degree of another language in your day to day, then Barcelona is still an option. Best. Pablo

  6. >Me gusta mucho Barcelona y respeto el uso del catalán y me parece bien que se incentive. Pero al final, se trata de ir a aprender Español (o Castellano), y siempre será mejor en un sitio donde es idioma único, respecto a otro donde está compartido, no? Desde luego que no es un problema grave y Barcelona seguro que es un lugar soberbio para estudiar pero no el mejor, si de verdad tu prioridad es aprender Español.

  7. >Dear M.I see that you are the typical intolerant Catalan. A person that cannot accept that people are different and free to think what they want.I was born in Catalonia, Barcelona, and I have been living there all my life: so, I am catalan (are you?).Why am I livig here? Because I love Barcelona, my city. And I have to tell you that catalan is not a barrier for me (I read and write it perfect). What I was trying to say is that for someone coming to Spain to learn spanish, Catalonia is not a good choice (neither Euskadi or Galice). If they want to learn spanish, there are other cities in Spain without an idiomatic problem.We have great people and a great weather, but catalan could be a barrier for foreigners.Let me tell you something, tolerance and respect can't never be a problem. Thanks for understanding that (you got it?).Piterabit

  8. >Piterabit, desde el moment en el que dius que la teva llengua és un problema ("there are other cities in Spain without an idiomatic problem") queda clar la teva visió de la jugada. Opino que el català no és un problema real a Catalunya, per ningú, i per tant, opino que menteixes. Són opinions, i desde quan les opinions són intolerància??!!M.

  9. >M, Piterabit només ha dit que existeix una problemàtica en algunes regions, però no crec, en absolut, que menteixi ni que sigui un intolerant. Bé es molt cert que existeix una problemàtica. Ho pots veure cada dia.Per altra banda, les estadístiques internacionals diuen que de mitjana, a Catalunya només el 25% de la població fa un ús quotidià del català. La gent reconeix parlar català en àmbits merament administratius.Salut!

  10. >al menos en la universidad de Sevilla el castellano que habla no será el más puro, pero bien hablado si está. Canis e infraseres no van a la universidad, y los pocos que van, se transforman a los pocos meses.

  11. >continuo con mi mensajeSevilla y Granada son perfectamente válidas para aprender castellano. Quizás Granada sea un poco más cerrado, pero se complementa con la variedad de estudiantes de otras regiones y paises, y todo eso sin contar la Mae West! con la de bellezas estudiantes que pasean por allí…

  12. >4 comments:1 – Just the simple fact that a student asks the NYT times reflects that there is a problem with languages (as we all know).2 – True, in Barcelona you can learn Spanish. Just don't go to talk or work with the regional or local administrations or read any of their publications as they will all be just in Catalan.3 – If you are a student, the best places to go are small cities were students represnt a big share of the population such as Salamanca, Santiado ….and Granada. Barcelona, no matter how nice it might be, is not as fun to enjoy for students. And it's also much more expensive.4 – M: It's interesting how when anybody raises the question of a problem with Catalan or within Catalonia, the most common reaction for Catalan nationlist is "Why are you living there?". Calling him a "problem" seems a little intolerant, doesn't it? Don't kill the messenger; he just carries the bad newsJavi

  13. >Withouth doubt Barcelona.For a universitary student Catalan language is very very easy. It is very similar to Spanish. Also, all the people understand and talk spanish. Tha Catalan language is not a problem, it is an oportunity to learn something more.

  14. >Dear Carolyn:Be welcome in Catalonia. If youuniversity or choose Barcelona will make sure that your university and teacher quality. Catalonia has its flaws but if goods do not disappoint month and learn Catalan.

  15. >He conocido en mi vida profesinal mucha gente que por motivos de trabajo en su momento se trasladaron a Cataluña, gente de Extremadura, Castilla León, Galicia, Andalucia etc y yo siempre les he preguntado lo mísmo: cuando te jubiles deberás marcharte a tu tierra, porque claro aqui con los energumenos e intolerantes catalanes, no querrás seguir viviendo, me atreveria a decir que casi un 100% de ellos me han contestado que se quedan en Cataluña, porque aparte de que sus hijos ya han nacido aquí, estan muy contentos del trato recibido en lo que respecta a sus habitantes y nunca se han sentido incomodos por el tema del idioma , porque cuando ellos han hablado en castellano el catalanoparlante ha cambiado sin problemas el idioma.No confundamos ni mezclemos a todo el pùeblo catalán, con cuatro folloneros que nos hacen la propaganda en contra, incluidos las emisoras ES RADIO E INTERECONOMIA. Y dicho sea de paso el que no esté cómodo aquí, como dijo el presidente de Australia,a los inmigrantes, que se marche a su tierra.

  16. >To tell you the truth for me this bilingual characteristic makes the city more interesting to me…When you’re a student you also think about having fun and not only studying…there is a reason they chose Barcelona for shooting L’Auberge Espagnol…it’s because Barcelona is an awesome place to live as a student, the city feels safe, there is the beach, and services provided work really well…

  17. >If you want to move around Catalonia only in spanish language, you can. All population speaks and understand spanish language, on the other hand, not all population speaks and undestand catalan language…so don´t worried about that. Piterabit is a lier, trying to punish Catalonia citizens 'couse he doesn' accept catalan language because they think it should be ridd off from Catalunya (not only the language, the catalan parlament too, and lots of others things). The problem is in his mind, they are fascist people disguised in 'tolerant open minded people'

  18. >Without much surprise I completely agree with FJU and Pablo.Barcelona is probably over-rated. Nice city indeed and even greater public Image campaign. That great turistical effort has made it to the top cities in Spain and Europe. BUT let´s be clear. If you want to learn Spanish, don´t get confused with other similar languages while learning, still have the same or better nightlife and historical background, pay less for everything, … go to Granada (for example).Catalan in Cataluña is obviously a reality, for good and bad. Someone that artificially keeps pushing catalan up and spanish out, cannot in any sensible sense also defend Barcelona as a top place to learn about Spain. If that city is still, and indeed is, a great spanish turistic location is thanks to the ambivalent position.

  19. >Javi y cía. Tercer idioma en el que escribo y como puede verse mi educación "sectaria y nazi" me permite hacerlo a la perfección en castellano.Javi, que un nacionalista diga eso no es "interesting" como tú dices, lo que es común no es la reacción, sino que estamos HASTA LOS MISMÍSIMOS de oir siempre la misma porquería sensacionalista, hipócrita e interesada acerca de Catalunya y su gente. Aquí no hay más problemas que los problemas que ven los excluyentes nacionalistas españoles del "UNA GRANDE Y LIBRE", aunque ahora la lucha es con la lengua: UNA.Suecia tiene unos 9 millones de habitantes, el catalán lo hablan 7,7 millones y lo comprenden 10 millones. ¿Qué problema hay con eso?El catalán es cultura, patrimonio de la gente que vive aquí. Intolerante yo?? No amigo, yo soy intolerante con esa mentira de la que te hablo, soy intolerante porque en mi casa me han hablado en catalán y castellano por igual… y para mí no hay preferencias, son las dos por igual, por lo que si me dices que mi lengua es un problema para mí TÚ eres el problema.Qué acostumbraditos estamos a sacar la "TOLERANCIA" a relucir, tenemos un puñetero Máster en eso. No me gusta lo que dice éste, le saco la INTOLERANCIA y ala!! Solucionado!!Y sí, soy nacionalista, pero de los malos malos malos… de los que cada día que pasa se siente menos español porque se siente menos cuidado y comprendido.Y me da mucha pena que alguien que ha nacido y vive aquí vea la lengua originaria de Catalunya como un problema. Me da mucha mucha mucha pena. Eso creo que es porque no la ha hablado en su casa, porque desde luego cuando tu padre te ha guiado desde tus primeros pasos, cuando eras un crío, en Catalán, te aseguro que esa lengua lo es todo menos un problema. Pero, por supuesto, si no eres bilingüe, es muy difícil entenderlo.Ala, que este tema me cansa mucho, mejor dejemos que hable la democracia: así le va al PP, a Ciutadans y a UPyD en Catalunya… porque todos los demás somos nacionalistas MALOS MALOS MALOS.Como dice mi padre (me lo dice en Catalán pero lo traduzco por si acaso): "NO HAY MÁS CIEGO QUE EL QUE NO QUIERE VER!".FIN,M.

  20. >M:Si em permets faré servir les teves paraules però només en canviaré una.El CASTELLANO es cultura, patrimonio de la gente que vive aquí. ¿¿Intolerante yo?? No amigo, yo soy intolerante con esa mentira de la que te hablo, soy intolerante porque en mi casa me han hablado en catalán y castellano por igual… y para mí no hay preferencias, son las dos por igual, por lo que si me dices que mi lengua es un problema para mí TÚ eres el problema.De la resta, t'equivoques M:1 – Exactament has reaccionat com jo havia escrit abans. M'acuses de no ser català o de no estimar aquesta terra només perque dic que no trobo acertada la teva reacció. Justament el que havia dit: em dius que sóc un problema. Interesting, don't you think?2 – He dit jo mai que el català sigui un problema? NO. FALS. No distorsionis.3 – Assumeixes que perque no t'escric el primer comentari en català no sóc català. Aquí t'escric un quants dels meus cognoms: Llobet, Sanromà, Serra, Andreu, Jorba. Et fan falta més? Els meus 8 revesavis (8 de 8) eren catalans. El que fot molta molta pena és que jo t'hagi de dir els meus cognoms per justificar-me, per treure'm aquesta etiqueta de foraster, per haver de demostrar-te que sóc català de soca-rel.Fent servir també les paraules del teu pare: "¡NO HAY MÁS CIEGO QUE EL QUE NO QUIERE VER!". I, com vaig escriure ahir, és l'administració la que no vol pas veure la realitat del que parla la gent.JaviP.S.: Jo només n'he fet servir dos de llengües perque només he escrit 2 missatgesP.S2: Continuarà….

  21. >Barcelona and Catalonia is not the best place to learn spanish. Why? Because "100% catalan" people wants to speak catalan, not spanish language, although they know and speak it.Roger

  22. >When I say 100% catalan people I say people feeling 100% Catalan, catalan only, people native or immigrant who say that they are not spanish (about 20% of the population). Roger

  23. >Quin drama… pero per que no sem una mica mes practics i basem la resposta amb fets i no opinions politiques? A veure com s´aclara ara l´americana aquesta…Jode fet li diria que anes a Salamanca o Madrid, encara que nomes sigui per estalviar-se aquest espectacle de comentaris… Es mes, si la senyora llegeix aquest blog crec que acabara a Paris o a Mila, per que li entrara un canguelo… Mira quina imatge doneu alguns…Tornant al debat, a mi Barcelona m´encanta, pero no crec que sigui el millor lloc per ser universitari. Es carissim, les noies son mes tancades (i els nois) i hi ha menys cultura universitaria i de festa. Aixo es el que busca un universitari.El catalans tenim altres grans virtuts, aixo es indiscutible.L´idioma no crec que sigui un gran problema, sincerament. L´angles de NYC es quasi tan diferent al d´Atlanta o el de Houston com el castella ho es del catala. I si la americana ve a BCN s´ho passara igualment molt be, tampoc crec que sigui un debat a vida o mort…Dit aixo, crec que es una mica trist llegir alguns comentaris.A Espanya i Catalunya tenim per costum centrar molts esforcos en xorrades, per que debatre es mes divertit que treballar.La vida es massa curta per perdre el temps parlant de politica, crec jo. L´autor, que es un gato viejo, ha camuflat un tema sensible en un article simpatic. Molts no han picat i s´han limitat a donar una resposta coherent a la americana. bravo! Altres han sortit a la guerra amb els lleons.Mohammed

  24. >Ei Javi:1. Et cobraré drets d'autor. El que has fet amb el meu paràgraf ho dic jo a la 4a i 5a línia del mateix… Llegeix i veuràs. Així que no entenc per qué ho resaltes.2. Jo no he dit ni insinuat que no siguis català en cap moment. De fet només dic que els que creuen que el català és un problema és perque no el fan servir amb els seus pares. Però enhorabona, ets català pura sang, si això et sembla indicatiu d'alguna cosa, a mí no. La dona de fer feines a casa meva és Hondurenya, i potser més catalana que jo.3. He utilitzat un condicional: si el català per tu és un problema, per mi tu ets el problema. Això, Javi, vol dir que si per tu no ho és (per Piterabit sí ho era), doncs tu no ets un problema per mi.4. Qué dius de les administracions?? http://WWW.GENCAT.ES A dalt a la dreta hi ha un enllaç que diu CASTELLANO. Pica'l, que té premi.Jo no distorsiono,M.

  25. >Denial- You are in denial and you are missing the point from the NY Times letter. The girl is going to Spain to learn Spanish- Is Catalunya, amongst Catalans with an inferirority complex, the best place in Spain to learn Spanish. Lionel Messi's sister, the FC Barcelona star, left Barcelona so she could study in Spanish. another example, there was a committee of Latin American politiccias visiting Catalunya and the catalan congreess hired an interpreter to translate between Catalan and Spanish, when all the Catalan congress member speak Spanish. this is the social climate this girl would be going into. She can learn Spanish in Barcelona, but it is definitely not the best place for that goal.

  26. >I have my doubts re the credibility/existence of the person who asked the original question. The way it was worded, it almost sounded like a "plant" by someone from the Spanish government or with an interest in making Catalonia sounding inaccessible to a Spanish-speaker. I have a question for "Carolyn:" how about studying Catalan?

  27. >The use of MRS to refer to this student was inappropriate. You need to remeber that if a woman's marital status is unknown she should be referred to as MS. Note that many women actually prefer their status as married, single or divorced not to be an issue in any aspect of their public or professional lives. The origin of teh MS was to counteract the anonymity regarding marital status accorded to men – who are all MR, without exception.

  28. >Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?Can someone help me find it?Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.Thanks

  29. >I lived in Figueres for several years. A Catalan-speaking family signed their children up for a language-exchange programme: their two boys spent three weeks with a family in Lyon learning French, and then two French kids came to spend three weeks in Figueres to learn Spanish. The family made a point of always speaking Spanish with the French, but naturally spoke Catalan amongst themselves. The French boys were very confused!

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