Spanish or Catalan – what do you speak?

I arrived in Barcelona totally ignorant about the language situation in Catalunya.  I didn’t even ask myself if I should learn Spanish or Catalan – I assumed that Spanish was enough.

I thought I was coming to a famous Spanish city where I could learn and practise Spanish.  I had been studying it and was excited and eager to get going.

I enrolled in a course and started reading local newspapers and watching  TV in Spanish.

But it slowly dawned on me that things were not as simple as I thought.  Here is what happened to me. Continue reading

Catalan Words

In Torroella de Montgri I saw this sculpture and dedication.
Francesc Viver i Puig was a monk who was very active in the cultural and religious life of the town and was well known for his literary skills and his passion for Catalunya.

What I liked especially was the word zigzaguejava

He seemed weak but to defend God and Catalunya his lungs roared, his arm wove about and his eyes shone with a burning light.

Voices and Accents

Hello faithful readers!
Long time no post. There are reasons for that but I will explain another time.

So here I am travelling again for the summer holidays. It got very hot in Granollers and that always makes me want very much to get back to the UK.  Bonnie also struggles a bit with the heat – even walks that start at 8am seem to end with a panting scurry home in the shady streets between our home and the park.

We drove through France, came through the Tunnel, visited family along the way and now are in Cambridge at my sisters house, preparing to leave tomorrow for Scotland.
We are covering miles and miles this summer. So far just over 1000!

Tonight in the local Coop supermarket I heard voices speaking Catalan. A child was asking for something and my finely tuned ears pricked up. “Això Mama. Vull Això!”

Suddenly I found myself talking to them. I wonder why I do this?  I just can’t seem to stop myself when I hear someone talking in Catalan in another country. I did it last year in Italy as well. And in London. And at  Avebury stone circle.   It seemed an amazing coincidence that they were there in the Coop at the same time as me.  I have that tendency to approach people with Scottish accents as well – not when I’m in Scotland of course.  But I would never strike up a conversation with someone in Granollers just because they were speaking English. Somehow that seems different.

I wonder what it’s all about? Is it something tribal?

Beautiful Girls

I’ve just been on an interesting and surprising educational journey.

I started doing some homework (surprising to me as I hardly ever study, hoping just to soak in Catalan with the sunshine and light)
The lesson in my book Passos Elemental 2 was all about a choir and the book printed several traditional childrens songs. I picked one out and looked for it on YouTube so I could sing along.
Here’s the words

Les Nenes Maques

Les nenes maques al dematí
s’alcen i reguen, s’alcen i reguen.
Les nenes maques al dematí
s’alcen i reguen el seu jardí.

Jo també rego el meu hortet,
faves i pèsols, faves i pèsols.
Jo també rego el meu hortet,
faves i pèsols i julivert.

Julivert meu com t’has quedat,
sense cap fulla, sense cap fulla.
Julivert meu com t’has quedat,
sense cap fulla i el cap pelat

Without translating it word for word, it is saying that beautiful girls get up in the morning and water their gardens. Also they water their vegetable plots which have beans and peas and parsley. The third verse is about how the parsley has ended up without leaves.
Ahhh – how sweet and a nice tune too.
But another web site which looked interesting had an article saying that the song is actually about teaching girls feminine hygeine. And the last verse is referring to the loss of bushiness in later life.

You never know when you are reading things in another language. Was it a joke?  I found another reference so perhaps the song is generally seen this way but what about all those children singing innocently in school while other older ones giggle behind their hands? 


I am watching the news on TV3 one of the Catalan television channels. They are reporting on a fire which killed three women yesterday in Sabadell, a city 20km north-east of Barcelona.  The report is in Catalan, the neighbours interviewed speak in Spanish (castellano) and the story moves seamlessly from one language to another. No voice-over. No subtitles. This is because people who speak Catalan are all bilingual so they have no problem switching between languages.
Interestingly in the recent furor over possible independence one of the criticisms I heard from Spanish speakers is that Catalans only speak one minority language. Actually it is the rest of Spain who only speak one language. People here in their daily lives are constantly moving between two – and in our home – three!

I try to imagine this happening in the UK – that the news is broadcast in two languages and changes from one to another with no warning or explanation. It is one of those things that make life here fascinating.

Meanwhile I wonder how many more years before I can understand all that is said on the news!