I don’t like to write about ‘domestic’ problems, so to speak, and I don’t usually do it because I cannot be neutral, but I think this one has transnational implications that go beyond Spain’s language policy – or, better, the language policy of Spain’s Autonomous (i.e. ‘slightly less than federal’) Communities – to reach the very language policy of the European Union, because this is what we are getting by the current “be official or die” policy of the Union.
As I’ve written before, the language policy of the European Union, of which language commissioners are always so proud, talking about “multilingualism as an important asset of Europe“, is just a fraud, a disguise of the actual untenable situation that just help create language predators in the Union, politicians looking for more and more European public support for their languages and, consequently, less for the others. How can a language like German (100 million speakers) be officially equal to Maltese (300.000 speakers) before the Union, while languages like Catalan (11 million speakers) or Basque (4 million speakers) aren’t? How can we European citizens pay millions of euros from our budget for translations from and into only some languages (see El Mundo report or its English translation), while others are left undefended by the institutions? How can we tolerate that English be the unofficious actual language of Brussels, or that any country holding the presidency decides to translate documents into English, or English+French, or English+French+Latin according to their will or frame of mind, while the institutions continue to sell this false idea of ‘multilingualism’, for whose supposed implementation our taxes are yearly wasted?
These are the latest news from regional and national language predators looking for their weekly pray: anti-Catalan and pro-Catalan politicians, against or in favour of the opinion of a “small” private airline (expressed by their director), looking to win one individual linguistic battle here, no matter if it affects the whole European language policy system – in fact, no matter if it’s the very consequence of the EU’s language policy system… I have my view on this, indeed, and it refers (as always) to the need of a common, only one official language legally obligatory for all the Union, and then national or regional support for other languages, but I’ll let you judge from the news. I’ll just add that Catalan-speaking communities are already calling for a Boicott on Air Berlin for the company’s attitude towards the regional language of the Balearic Islands, and that the words of the (intended to be) funny cartoon to the right, “saupreussischer Katalanen” is being translated, instead of “damn-Prussian“, a common Bavarian expression, followed by “Catalans”, as “fucking swine Prussian Catalans” in Catalan-speaking journals, to exasperate still more Catalan language defenders…
Edit: I didn’t see there are other comments of the Catalan blogger community, as the early comment of one of Menéame’s creators Ricardo Galli (in Catalan) on this subject, which criticizes the “literal interpretation” – I would say directly willing misinterpretation – some Catalan-speaking journals gave to the cartoon, which he compares to the overreaction of some Muslim media to Muhammad’s cartoons. His comment in English.
This is an automatic translation of one of the first articles on the subject:
“Today Spanish is no longer an official language”, says blunt Joachim Hunold, managing director of Air Berlin in the journal’s editorial Air Berlin Magazine, available to all users of the company during flights. “There are towns in Majorca where children no longer speak Spanish. In schools, Spanish is a foreign language,” he added. With this letter to passengers, Air Berlin, one of the major airlines operating in the Balearics, denounced the situation, according to the airline, suffers Spanish in front of Catalan.
The cartoon with which the editorial accompanies the article has caused more trouble, and it translates “If they come to Bavaria, these damn-Prussian Catalans, they’ll have to speak Bavarian. Damn it!”
It all began when the director general of Linguistic Policy, Margalida Tous, sent Air Berlin and other airlines to destinations in the Balearic Islands, a letter urging them to also use Catalan in their communications with their customers. “I am contacting you to express the interest that the Balearic Islands Government has to ensure proper use of the official languages of the archipelago in the communications company that provides its citizens with Air Berlin who choose to make their journeys,” the letter begins.
“Do we have to give courses in Catalan by law to my employees? And those who fly to Galicia or the Basque Country, who want to turn us into Galician or Basque? is Spanish no longer spoken in Spain?”, Hunold wondered . “The partition of Spain in regional nationalism is actually a return to the medieval mini states. So far I thought we lived in a Europe without borders“, he finishes. The editorial was accompanied with a cartoon which reads in a Bavarian German: “If they come to Bavaria, these damn-Prussian Catalans, they’ll have to speak Bavarian. Damn it!” .
The Balearic Government does not explain the Air Berlin public reply to his request for the company incorporates the use of Catalan. “We regret that a letter made in a constructive spirit has taken this misinterpretation”, say from the general direction of Linguistic Policy. “The president Francesc Antich is concerned about this issue and surprised because there are correct relations with the company. I think that the collaborative spirit of the letter has not played well and he will talk directly with Joachim Hunold to restore the situation”, added.
In fact, the letter urges Air Berlin to “ensure that customer service offered, as personally written documentation, web, instructions to passengers on board, etc., are made in Catalan, just as being made in other languages“. In addition, it offers “the possibility of establishing lines of collaboration to incorporate Catalan in response to the company’s customers”.
Air Berlin insists on the fact that “the director has exercised his freedom of expression”, says Alvaro Middelmann, CEO of Air Berlin in Spain and Portugal. He argues that the conflict between Spanish and Catalan “is a reality” and puts an example that does not want to “implement the third time Spanish in Catalonia”. And states that “Spanish is being discriminated against in certain parts of Spain”. “Air Berlin is a European company, to make it clear, and we must ensure the common language of all Spaniards”. That is why we believe that the introduction of Catalan “would be a wrong comparison with other regions and is inasumible”.
The Department of Linguistic Policy states that at no time “the letter spoke of punishing or compelling, but it offers the collaboration of government to improve service to the company but he recalls that Catalan is the official on the islands and has Baleares many customers. ” The same sources explained that so far no other airline has been in contact with the Balearic government to complain about their linguistic recommendations.