Friday, November 23, 2007

Resign in Spanish and in Catalan used to be “dimitir”

When I was a student at the Institute of North American Studies in Barcelona, our teacher, an interesting guy called Donald from Cocoa Beach Florida, spent a couple of lessons talking about things which sound similar in English and Spanish, but have different meanings. The most vivid example I remember is the word molest. As many of you well know, “molestar” means to disturb in Spanish. Some Spanish speaking people, however, have the tendency to say, “may I molest you?”, instead of “may I disturb you?”, what in some instances can bring them some trouble, since the connotation of molest in English is mainly related to making indecent sexual advances. The other word I remember is the word resign. The correct translation for resign is dimitir in Spanish (and also in Catalan. I know that in Catalan you can also say resignar, but let’s forget about it for the purpose of this post). Donald explained with multiple examples that when someone resigned, he or she was giving up an office or position and that we should not confuse the word resign with resign oneself to something.
After 30 years I have realized that Donald was wrong, that the word “dimitir”(resign) has been eliminated from the Spanish and Catalan dictionaries and that the only words left are “resignarse/resignar-se (resign oneself to something, to submit (oneself) passively; accept as inevitable).
Yesterday was Thanksgiving day and I was able to spend a couple of hours reading all the Spanish and Catalan internet press and I felt like crying. The situation in Catalonia is deteriorating so dramatically, but no one is taking any responsibility. I already mentioned in my previous posts the situation of the infrastructures and that the incumbent ministress Magdalena Alvarez (the spell checker wants me to change the word ministress by mistress, I am impressed by Microsoft!) is holding on to her post. Emulating John Stark’s famous sentence “Live free or die”, she said “antes partía que doblá” an Andalusian phrase that could be translated as “rather dead, than kneeling” And here we are, the infrastructures suck and she is a happy woman. Today she opened a new tunnel that connects France and Spain. It is ahead of time, as it was fully financed by the private sector. Unfortunately it connects nothing with nothing, because neither the Spanish side of the High Speed train, nor the French one, will be ready in many many years, but there she was, on the border, smiling and cutting ribbons, while tens of thousands of Catalans suffer every day from the ailing infrastructures. The Catalan disaster will position her very very well in the next elections when she is said to be a candidate for Malaga. Problems created in Catalonia are great credentials in the rest of Spain to become a public official.
But is she guilty of all this? No, not fully. The only group of people responsible for the debacle is the Catalan politicians, especially those in the “tripartite” (Montilla, Carod and company) who did not have any master plan for infrastructures in Catalonia. How can you measure progress if you have no plan. I heard Carod saying exactly that, “we have to admit that we had no long term plan in infrastructures” Quins collons! (translated as beep). And they are all still there, getting richer and richer and sending the kids to private schools.
That leads me to the last point I want to discuss today: the last report of the Jaume Bofill Foundation shows that Catalonia is trailing the rest of the countries in the European Union and even the majority of Spanish regions in terms of education. The only two countries which are worse than Catalonia are the two super powers Portugal and Malta. The biggest fiasco is in the secondary education where the percentage of drop-outs is extremely high. In a normal country the secretary of education would have resigned. Education is a fully transferred competence, so we cannot blame Madrid for this. However the guy responsible, Ernest Maragall, brother of the one who is even more responsible Pasqual Maragall, has said he has no intention to resign, that they were aware of it and they will take urgent measures. Urgent measures!!!. Once again, those living in Catalonia will have to resign themselves while our politicians pocket as much money as they can in a nation that collapses.


Johnny Tastavins said...

Ian , next december 1st, the "Plataforma pel dret a decidir" has raised a public demonstration in Barcelona. This platform, builded around what it is commonly know as "civil associations" is being now contacted by all political parties to add at the show.

Unfortunately I will not be in Barcelona next december 1st, surprisingly I shall be in Malaga, Maleni's land. But I can promise you that I would go to thedemonstration if I would be there. It's time to show everybody that the "català emprenyat" is ready to take action. We must not be resigned.

If you have time to come to BCN next weekend you are welcome. Even if you like to co-operate with this platform, I can give you some contact. But never give up the action.

Garci said...

I want to explicitly repeat your sentence: "Problems created in Catalonia are great credentials in the rest of Spain to become a public official". Indeed, have you wondered why those politicians from parties not depending on a infraestructure at the State level are the most popular? Right now, let me check: Carretero is one of them, Puigcercos is quite successful, Mas pulling the the meantime, those avoiding problems with the State (Duran Duran, Montilla, etc...) are the less popular. Are you sure that sentence does not apply still better in Catalonia?

Alex said...

For the record, it should perhaps be said that Madrid also has crummy infrastructure. I agree with the substance of your post, however.

Garci said...

For the record, Ian.. I assume you already know this. These data were already out at least one year ago. I remember reading them I think from the National Institute of Statistics. But it has to be the fundacion Jaume Bofill the one to tell so the Catalans can trust the information? I think this is the very root of the problem: trust. I remember posting the data in some forum (El Periodico? L'Avui?) stating that Castille & Leon was by far the place were secondary education students were best prepared. My point was to blame the brain-drain of Castile & Leon (the biggest brain-drain and the highest prepared people). Of course who's here to blame? First the Autonomous Government (although the competencies are not in their power, so..) second the Spanish Government. Third, the citizens. And fourth, a pre-federal state in charge of amplifying the inequalities already present. For us old Castilians, the results were not new at all. It is something you could see. Young Northern Spaniards, though low in percentage of the Spanish population, massively seem to dominate for example, in Britain. I know 4 young Spaniards in Aberystwyh, coming from Santander, Soria, Lleida and Pucela (myself) and I know of another one coming soon to work, also from Santander. This is the sort of stuff that never goes into the news, absolutely collapsed by the current interests (Madrid-to-blame, Estatut, ETA).

ian llorens said...

It is the first time i come across this type of info regarding information. I trust information from good sources, not Catalan sources only. For instance, if it comes from the current Catalan government, I do not trust a thing.

When we get this type of information in the industry (about other subjects), we tend not to rush to conclusions. We normally do deep-dives to understand the information better and derive conclusions. I read last week an article by Manuel Martin Ferrand blaming the failure to the Catalan language. Extremadura and Canary Islands do still worse than Catalonia, whereas the Basque country, Navarre and Galicia are the ones which rate best. So language alone cannot be blamed for the failure.
It is worth noting that the percentage of foreign students in the Catalonia schools has gone from 3.1% in 1998 to 17% in 2005. Do not you think that this may have something to do? Worth analyzing.

The Catalan education is badly managed, under-funded (the expenditure per student in Catalonia was €3500, €4100 in Castile-Leon and €5400 in the Basque country, chapeau to the Basques!), there is no special effort made in the low income belt around Barcelona (psychologist, sociologists, tutors, mentors, social workers, ..). All this needs to be changed. I also think that the language issue should have a special treatment for new comers older than 6 years old (one day I will explain my proposal).

Regarding the Castile-Leon diaspora, my experience in Asia was very different. If we exclude the people working in consulates and embassies (where no Catalan was to be seen), 50% of the people working abroad were Catalan, in my town in China, the three unrelated Spanish families who lived there were Catalan, I had never spoken more Catalan than in Asia.
Castile has lots of intelligent people but you are still suffering the consequences of the American conquest and the fact that almost all investments have been centralized in Madrid.

Garci said...

My data, from external (international) evaluation comittees (taken from the web) for December 2007 and 10 autonomous communities (including Catalonia, Galicia, Basque Country and Navarra): Mathematics. 1. Castile and Leon (followed by Basque Country and Catalonia). Interesting is to know that this trend is almost reversed when one looks at percentage of students in private universities (1. Basque Country, 2 Catalonia, 3. Castile and Leon). Regarding increases in public expenditure in education, higher in places like the foral communities, the Canary islands or Catalonia...for the first two ones, the correlation is obvious, since usually better grades are correlated to per capita rent, which in this case is obvious due to the fiscal system. In the Canary Islands, public expenditure is way higher than in other places. In Catalonia, you have to add the individual rent to the costs associated to bilinguism (I am not saying that this is bad at all, I am only trying to offer reasons).

ian llorens said...

Alex did you have a look at this?
Infrastructures Madrid-Barcelona
Crummy infrastructures in Madrid? Maybe, but a lot of progress in the last 15 years.

Alex said...

Ian -- agreed, at the Spanish level, Madrid gets the lion's share of capital investments, no doubt about it. I think it's a shame that there's no high-speed train linking France to Barcelona (last time I did Paris-Barcelona by train a year ago, it took forever), or that El Prat isn't more connected and/or in a better shape. Nevertheless, I judge Madrid's infrastructure by international standards (I live in Canada), and as such, I am not impressed. The education system appears to be in a sorry state in Madrid schools as well. Madrilenyos don't speak English or French or anything other than castellano (because visibly, school hasn't taught them to do so).

Garci said...

What a coincidence! we were talking about results by communities and here arrives the PISA report (see El Pais today). Castilla y Leon, the first one in Sciences together with La Rioja!. So I guess my argument gets reinforced...unfortunately..

George said...

Having just come across your blog, I have been moseying around and have posted one comment already. I am particularly intrigued by your self-description as a "non-orthodox Catalan nationalist".

I have two points to make:
1. If you are a non-orthodox Catalan nationalist, what is an orthodox one? From what I can see, you tow the anti-triparty line as well as any CiU acolyte.
2. Your non-orthodoxy seems much more socio-economical, and I would agree you have become "too American". In fact, you seem to have become an orthodox US Republican (you are not even what many in the States might call a "God-damn liberal"). I mean, that's fine if you want to join the GOP, but no if your secret wish is to become, one day, a catalonIAN politicIAN! ;-)

ian llorens said...

I define myself as a non-orthodox nationalist because I am for real bilingual education (bilingual in primary school moving towards trilingual in middle and high school), I am not pancatalanist, I do not like the name Països Catalans, I do not dislike Spain, I like Spanish as a language and I admire the Spanish literature, I think that Spaniards would make great neighbors and i do not blame Madrid for all our misfortunes.
Politically, you are right, GOP (market economy, small government, tough on crime, no welfare society for those who are healthy), but still impregnated of European liberal values (gun control, pro-choice, pro-gay civil unions, safety net for the needy, children, old people and sick people, etc.). Due to those liberal values, I will vote Democratic in the next election.
I think that the politicians in the tripartite are idiots, with very low IQ (seriously), incapable of governing a farm of pigs, needless to say a country. CiU politicians are botiflers, ambiguous, undefined, “ni chicha, ni limoná” and PP and Ciutadans are anti-Catalan.
As you see, lots of opportunities for me, although my non-socialist views may seriously hamper my possibilities in a country where, unfortunately, the Hispanic values of living without working are becoming part of the culture.

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