Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One nation divided by two languages

Whether or not Catalonia and Spain are/will ever be/should be two different nations, Catalan and Spanish are most definitely two different languages. To paraphrase The Guardian Pass Notes, Don't Say to a Catalan: 'So it's a dialect of Spanish, then?' Having said that if you have O-level French and starter Spanish like I do, you can get the gist of a Catalan newspaper story.

But the two languages come together in the strangest ways. El Periodico, a Catalonia daily, publishes identical editions in Spanish and Catalan - a blue masthead for Catalan, red for Spanish. I think this is unique in the world and I would be very keen to watch the production process unfold.

Then on Sunday I was watching the football highlights and chat programme Gol a Gol on Catalan TV33. They usually have a hack or two on as guests and up pops John Carlin, former Independent colleague and now at El Pais.

With a Spanish parent, John is fully bilingual but has little Catalan. But having a presenter speak Spanish on Catalan TV is not on, so the questions were fired off in Catalan and responded to in Spanish.

In John's words 'I just guessed what they were asking and answered as best I could.'

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