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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