Monday, September 10, 2007

'Word of Mouth' on Radio 4 discusses Bilingualism

I've not listened to Word of Mouth before (it's on too late for me), but tonight it discusses bilingualism:
Next programme

Michael examines the language situation in Wales, Northern Ireland and Canada, and looks at the different ways in which laws can be used to protect minority languages.

Word Of Mouth this week looks at bilingualism. What exactly is meant by a bilingual society? And how do you create one?
This sound like it's going to be really interesting, although I'm not sure what kind of constructive contribution there's going to be from Wales' 'representative'!
The contributors are Rob Dunbar (Does legislation help?), Professor Dennis Baron (A bilingual USA), the Official Languages Commissioner of Canada Graham Fraser, Janet Muller (A bilingual Northern Ireland), and Chris Bryant (A bilingual Wales).
Oh well. But the question of "what is meant by a bilingual society" is one I often ask myself. Of course I have an idea in my head of what it is/could/should be, but what do others think? And do people who speak more than one language think differently about it to one's who only speak one?

Thanks to Nic (via Pat) for the link.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welsh Blog Awards 2007

Just realised I've not blogged about the Welsh Blog Awards. Sanddef has organised the competition where people vote for their favorite Blogs from or about Wales. I'm not a huge fan of such awards, but it's certainly an opportunity to introduce people to new blogs. I think anyone can vote (or maybe it's restricted to bloggers, I'm not too sure), but if you do want to vote, you must cast a vote for each category. Voting closes Saturday the 8th of September.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This is carzy stuff

In Wales, when there's any suggestion by the public or campaigners that private companies should be covered by a Language Act that require them to provide some Welsh language service, we're told by politicans that we need to show there's a demand. How were supposed to do this they don't say - I assume we're all expected to write a letter to every busienss which we use or are likely to use sometime in the future. This will require a lot of pens and a lot of stamps, but it's something we have to do it seems.

I remember reading about 14 year old Èric Bertran from Lloret de Mar, who in 2004 sent an e-mail to three companies who operate in Catalonia asking them to provide bilingual (Catalan/Spanish) labeling in their stores. He made the mistake of signing his e-mails with 'Army of the Pheonix' (being a huge Harry Potter fan). The reason it made the news was because the police turned up at his home as they considered it to be a terrorist threat.

I heard no more about it, but apaprently a book about the whole affair has been published and a documentary as been made and is available on YouTube with English subtitles (in parts 1,2,3,4 and 5).

The story is quite remarkable and well worth a look.

Even though the authorities knew that the e-mail had come from a 'minor', they sent 20 members of the Spanish Civil Guard to the house in the middle of the night and questioned him and his family then took computers away. He was asked to make a statement the following day at the station. As the family explained what had happened, they thought that was the last of it.

Much to their surprise, Èric, and his parents were told they had to go to Madrid two month later to testify in the High Court before a juvenile prosecutor. She accused him of making terroist threats, he denied that and asked if she'd point out which part of the e-mail contained the threat. She replied she couldn't as she didn't understand Catalan, but Èric pointed out the e-mail had been sent in Spanish! This angered the prosecutor, who then went on to lecture him saying he should be proud to be Spanish. He replied by saying that he considered himself Catalan not Spanish, and the prosecutor then threatens to lock him up unless he called himself Spanish!

Afterwards he is sent to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist (part 4). After questioning him and again being given a lecture about how wonderful the Spanish constitution is, Èric replies that this was his first visit to Spain which makes them go nuts. They write a 6 page report suggesting he's a violent child and needs to attend a 'non-violence program'. The cause of this violent nature they concluded was that he spoke Catalan in the home and only watched Catalan TV! This is the attitude of profesional people in Spain towards people who wish to speak Catalan.

On top of all this, unrealated to the case, but another example of attitudes towards Catalans was when the family went out for lunch during the case. When his father tried to pay for the meal with a Caixa de Catalunya (a Catalan Bank), they restaurant initially refused saying they wouldn't accept it, although the bank has chains all over Spain, even across the street to the establishment.

So next time I write to my bank to enquiring if I can have a bilingual cheque book (and a left handed one please), I'll be sure to sign it with my own name!

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Thats not funny (or true)

I watched Something for the Weekend on Sunday, and Ruth Jones was on it as a guest. She's been on telly a lot recently, but my favorite will always be Linda from Nighty Night. Her character was so funny, especially the way she says 'Thank you' every time she was verbally a physically abused by Jill (don't know if it was supposed to symbolise the Welsh nation in any way!).

I know I'm going to sound over sensitive here, but I was a bit disappointed by her and one of the presenter's (Simon Rimmer) remarks.

Tim Lovejoy asked Ruth if she spoke Welsh, and she replied in Welsh that she did. He then asked her more about the language and I was pleased that it was being discussed on such a program which goes out UK wide and is aimed at a young(ish) audience. Then Ruth spoils it all by saying that the Welsh spoken in the north of Wales is a completely different language to that spoken in the south. That pissed me off as it's not true at all.

Then she goes on to say that people from the north don't consider south Walians as proper Welsh, "they call us Half-Taffs" she said. Now this is complete bollocks as well, for two reasons: Firstly, she's just regurgitating the Labour lie who like to split Wales north/south, welsh speaking/no-welsh speaking. And secondly, even if it were true these evil welsh speaking nashis certainly wouldn't refer to fellow countrymen (and women) as 'Taffs of all names - it's a derogatory term used by the English for Welsh people!

But to top this all off, Simon Rimmer goes on to say that he really enjoyes going out in Cardiff and Swansea, but "you have to be careful when going to pubs in north Wales". Careful of what exactly? He makes the place sound really sinister. I'd be interested to hear whar happened to him, or is he referring to the nasty local habit of speaking Welsh in pubs?

I've been spat at and threatened in Shrewsbury as my mate had a Wales hat (although this was on a footy match day v Wrecsam - not that it excuses the behavior) and I've had a glass bottle hurled at me in York (by a complete stranger from the other side of the street) but these are completely isolated incidents. I'd never go on national television and tell people to be careful when visiting England!

Am I over reacting?

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