Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

The disappearance of Spanish from Catalonia

In common with all Spanish holidays, we’re completely full with Spanish guests this evening thanks to the Spanish holidays on December 6th (Constitution Day) and December 8th (Immaculate Conception).

Or, rather, we’re full of people from Spain but going by those that arrived last night not all of them will be Spanish. Thanks to the rising nationalism in Catalonia, the Spanish language isn’t actually taught in the schools just south of the border and it’s becoming increasingly common to have “Spanish” guests arrive who can’t speak Spanish. Unfortunately, the emphasis on Catalan means that it’s the only language that they can speak truly fluently and we’ve been reduced to hand signals on a couple of occasions in the recent past.

In fact, the introduction of Catalan only schools from around 1983 looks like it will have the effect of cutting off Catalona not only from Spain but from the rest of the world too. That date of introduction means that the first generation of workers who only speak Catalan have been coming into the workforce over the last couple of years and with that it’s becoming more and more difficult to deal with shop assistants who are, of course, at the younger end of the workforce.

Although, it’s nice to see that a local language is on the rise, the concentration on Catalán to the exclusion of other languages seems likely merely to alienate all the non-Catalans. Whereas elsewhere in Spain it’s expected that the locals will speak English, in fact most of the younger guests that we’ve had over recent months couldn’t speak English well and for that matter couldn’t speak French well and Spanish not at all.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Practising Spanish in Spain

It used to be pretty handy living here and learning Spanish. After all, we’re just 30 miles or so from Spain and we get a lot of guests from Barcelona so it’s obviously easy to get a lot of practice in, isn’t it?

Well, no actually, it isn’t. Up until about 18 months ago it certainly used to be but the Catalans have become a whole lot more militant about their language since then. The immediately obvious impact of that was that since around then brochures in shops are only available in Catalan instead of being in Spanish too as they were previously. Similarly all signs are only in Catalan these days.

In the last 12 months we’ve found that the Catalans quite simply refuse to serve us in shops if we speak Spanish. I think that’s because we come across as residents of the area and therefore they expect us to speak Catalan. However, that’s not possible for us because even though we live in French Catalonia the French have all but stamped out that language.

Recently we even had a Catalan guest who insisted on speaking in very bad English rather than Spanish so we expect that it will get worse in the coming years.

It’s getting quite difficult for us because although we get a lot of guests from Barcelona, not all of them are Catalan and neither do all of them speak or read English yet all of them speak and read Spanish (or Castillian as the Catalans call it). Therefore we acknowledge reservations from Spain in Spanish.

Will they eventually become as militant as the Basques? Who knows, but it certainly seems to be heading that way.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

France isn’t Spain

We’ve had quite a run of Brits who live in Spain stay with us on their way to/from the UK over the last few months.

With few exceptions, they have all assumed that southern France will be just like Spain. So the resorts will be fully open ’til November, the restaurants will start serving food from 9pm, and so on.

Well, it isn’t like that at all.

The beach resorts in France start closing up in the first week of September and are almost completely closed down by the end of the second week. Of course, that suits us as we get a jump in bookings for the second two weeks of September.

Far from opening at 9pm, the restaurants here have all closed by then and usually won’t serve you much after 8pm. In fact, by then your choice is usually limited to McDonalds and the like. Even in the busiest week of the year for Perpignan (which is this week), they still close at their normal times. This seems particularly daft this week as the town is full of journalists and there’s a very popular nightly show which runs to midnight yet everywhere is closed by the time it finishes.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Barcelona hassles

Since we’d to go back to the Halifax in Spain, we thought that we’d stay in a hotel in Barcelona rather than doing a round trip of about six hours driving.

Good idea in principle as the hotel would have cost around the same as the petrol and tolls and we’d have had a full day in Barcelona too which would have been nice.

However, we didn’t allow for the combination of somewhat elevated prices (despite the hotel being almost empty) and the very poor signposting in the city. Anyway, we tried the Ibis which used to be around EUR 60 but is now EUR 90 so we thought we’d try the Campanile near Baricentro instead.

We’ve been planning on staying in that Campanile for ages as it’s just beside a shopping centre which needs a full day to do it properly plus the Campanile are brilliant for families. Not so this one. Despite their child policy allowing children under 12 to stay free, they said that they’d only rooms for two and we’d have to take an extra one for the kids. Actually, now that we’ve looked at their website in fact they DO have rooms for three. They were available too as the carpark was virtually empty but that in itself is no real surprise as it took us nearly an hour of driving past the place on the motorways which surround it before we happened across the single (unmarked) exit required to get into the hotel.

They must make a fortune on no-shows! If I could buy a small house in that estate I’d be tempted to list it as a 300 bedroom hotel on the basis that virtually nobody is able to get to it.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Learning Spanish in France

It’s still hard for me to believe but somehow or other I find myself on the final course of the Open University Spanish course and even harder to believe that one course after that should give me a BA (Hons) Modern Language degree.

My original plan was that I’d do enough French to be able to live here but once we’d reached that point I figured that I might as well carry on and pick up the diploma so two years ago I added Dip French after my name. With that completed and us receiving growing numbers of Spanish guests, the logical step was to do the first of the Spanish courses but once you start these things it seems hard to stop so here I am doing the final year.

Coming here just after the final year of the French segment started worked out very well. It wasn’t easy as we were very busy that year but the daily practice in spoken and written French helped the final mark no end I’m sure. With the Spanish it’s a completely different story. The two languages are similar enough that in the past I always had to “forget” my French when learning Spanish but, of course, that isn’t really an option this time around which makes it quite an uphill struggle at times. Still, the next coiurse should be easy as it’s in English, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it turns out that the last course I need to do to get that modern languages degree is supposedly the hardest one in the university so I’m half-thinking of doing a humanities course prior to it to get into the subject a little better.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.