Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I am not a Catalan Prussian Pig, Mr. Hunold!

Some of those who landed in my blog recently may think that I would want to have Catalan as the only language spoken in Catalonia, and I would like it to become second language of choice in USA and China. Nothing further from reality, my approach to language is a very pragmatic one, based on trilingualism for all residents in Catalonia. I am not for segregated schools based on language or any other reason, a single trilingual education system for everyone. You can read a 2 year old summary on my position on language if you click here.
I am a businessman and know that localization is a real pain in the lower back. The ideal situation for businesses is “one size fits all”, global market, single language: English. This reduces costs, accelerates the product roll-out and maximizes the profits. However, there are three reasons why at the end, many companies localize their products: competition, regulation and in some cases, a genuine desire for customer satisfaction.
Languages without a state have it very difficult to reinforce their customer requirements through regulation. For example, Kosovo, that was recognized by Germany and USA as a sovereign nation, three days after their independence proclamation, can now regulate that all products and services rendered in its territory need to be in Albanese, that if products are not labeled in Albanese, they cannot be sold locally, and companies need either to comply or go.
With Catalan, there are several reasons that make the adoption rate of companies much lower than that of other languages with only a fraction of its speakers:
· The fact that all Catalan speakers are bilingual
· The fact that Catalonia is not a sovereign state
· The lack of central government support (unlike other bilingual countries like Malta or Ireland)
· The lack of self-respect of a big portion of the Catalan speakers (around 50%), who would rather go for the cheapest option, instead of paying more for a product where their language is taken into consideration
· The cartels among companies to avoid that if one uses Catalan, the other ones will need to follow to maintain the market share , since the 50% who do care about language, would massively switch to the company which uses their language.

The conclusion is that if you want products or services in your language, you need an own state and ever better, to have a substantial portion of monolingual people. It sounds crazy, but this is the pure reality.
The alternative to that is, on one side, use the market mechanisms to favor those products and companies which use our language, and second have some institutional support to lobby and educate the companies in our territory plus provide legal protection to whistleblowers who expose cartels.
That’s what happened when the Balearic government sent a letter to Air Berlin politely encouraging them to use Catalan in their interaction with its Catalan speaking customers.
Air Berlin could have reacted in many different ways. As for example:
· Saying that they were a low cost carrier and they could not afford it
· Saying that they already have 38 Catalan speaking employees in their offices and that customers could always refer to them
· That they are willing to install pre-recorded announcements in the flights if the Balearian government is prepared to foot the bill
· That the Catalan speaking customers are so smart that they always have a good command of one or several of the languages offered on board
All those would have been acceptable answers, respectful, logical.

However Air Berlin’s CEO, Joachim Hunold decided to make a political statement in the editorial of his inflight magazine, a statement full or inaccuracies, lies and errors, mocking at the Catalan culture, ridiculing its pronunciation (does platja sound so much worst than Achtung?) and inferring that the Balearic islands are where they are today thanks to the European Community and that the Catalans would have never been able to make it happen.
Rajoy, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, could have not done it better, with the only glitch of the implicit pan-Catalan assumptions that Hunold made in his article.

As a Catalan customer of Air Berlin, I did not take the editorial well and I decided that when next time I want to hop from Germany to Barcelona (as I do a couple of times a year), I will use other airlines.
However, what got me furious, was the little cartoon that illustrated the editorial. I got really upset of being called Catalan Prussian Pig, that even though there is not yet consensus whether the Bavarian expression means either Catalan scumbag or Catalan fascist (a euphemistic way of saying the German N word), it is clearly not the way I like to be addressed by a service provider (and Catalonia had, at that point, nothing to do with the whole thing!).

Mr. Hunold showed lack of tact, disrespect, defiance, conceit and vanity, but this did not stop the non Catalan speaking part of Spain, and especially the far right, to applaud and cheer Hunold’s wanton attack.

Today, I just want to say to Mr. Hunold that despite the fact that I love my language with all my heart, no matter how it sounds, and I would have cried of joy if in just one of your flights, one stewardess would have addressed me in Catalan for 5 seconds (in my February flight from Shanghai to Munich with Lufthansa there was a Catalan speaking steward and they announced it), Mr Hunold, I am not a Catalan Prussian Pig. Herr Hunold, ich bin kein Saupreissische Katalaner.

Since last Thursdays, the shares of Air Berlin are down by 30%, what has shaved more than 125M Euro in market capitalization. Today the president of the Air Berlin’s Iberian branch has vaguely committed to implementing Catalan somewhere in the future.


Nuri said...

I've also spoken about these Schweine in my blog... It's a good example of why we nationalists are nationalist.
I'm luckier than you though: I never flew with them. ;)

Jack said...

Bavarians call "Saupreiss" all Germans outside Bavaria. It's like "guiris", "yankees", "franchutis", "krauts" or "tommies".

The differences between Bavarian and standard German are similar like between Catalan and Spanish. Get now used to learn Bavarian when travelling to Munich.

PS: "Saupreiss" means btw "female prussian pig"

ian llorens said...

I speak German (I spent part of this week in Germany) and I know that "Sau" means female adult pig or sow. I simply thought that the title was more catchy using pig.

I have been in Munich several times, 5 or 6. I have never been exposed to Bavarian, just some heavily accented German that I managed to understand more or less and many people speaking very standard Hoch Deutsch, but I do not doubt that there are big differences between High German and Bavarian. Personally I hardly understand Swiss German or Alsatian.

My position regarding languages is always the same. If I go to Bavaria as tourist or customer, they should try to suit my needs and speak High German or English or Spanish. If I am there as a supplier, trying to sell something, I should adapt to what is needed by the market and if Bavarian is a requirement, I will find ways to offer my products in that language and if I am there to stay, I will definitely learn the language that my neighbors talk, as I learned Suzhouese in addition to Mandarin.

Regarding the connotations of the word Saupreissische, I would like to refer you to the blog of my good friend boynamedsue There Alcinous, a native German speaker, gives a lesson on what the term means. Here a short summary:

"Now, on the meaning load of the term Preussen, preussisch, etc., this is used in Austria mostly to taunt (northern protestant) Germans, Bavarians excepted, while Bavarians use it to nickname anything between Ruhrpot scum and East German tards, more or less encompassing Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Pommerania. However, 'Prussian' here has nothing to do with red tape, as it is mostly used to mock something 'martial', 'authoritarian' or 'nationalistic' avoiding the taboo n-word. (Explanation by Alcinous)"

boynamedsue said...

Hi Ian.

There is a reason we avoid the use of Nazi for anyone not peddling racial hatred (which Hunold was not), which is that the crimes of the third Reich were so monumental taht it is not a term to be used when one merely means "Authoritarian".

There is a difference between this term and nazi, which is why the use of the term to describe Hunold is unacceptable to me.

I don't agree with the boycott, but it is a perfectly moral stance for people who wish to achieve certain aims. However, the use of the word "Nazi" and the image of the Swastika is offensive to the victims of the Third Reich.

boynamedsue said...

Sorry, re-reading I forgot to include my main point....

Alcinous said that Saupreissische meant authoritarian, not nazi. He specifically said nazi is taboo, I would add that it is only used when talking about extremme right groups.

ian llorens said...

It is funny that you accuse other people of using the n word when referring to Mr. Hunold, when you used it on Catalans, by placing a swastika on the Catalan flag (even if it is the independist flag) and that's what triggered my comment on your blog

The n-word referred to Mr. Hunold is not used in its literal meaning, but as the ultimate insult to a German who displayed totalitarian, imperialist and a total lack of respect to minorities.

He should have devoted his time to take Air Berlin out of the red instead of mocking at some customers and creating risk for his shareholders. Or maybe he is very smart and he wanted to give a boost to his declining market share in the rest of Spain. I do not know.

I also want to remind you that I did not call for any boycott (as you see, they sponsor my site now), I just will not fly again a company, the CEO of which insulted me. There's other choices and I have the right to chose.

I assume that if he had called you West Yorkshiren Prussian sow, you would have run to purchase 10 return tickets to London. Knowing you, most probably you would have.

Jack said...

Boycott: The act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some other organization as an expression of protest. (Wikipedia)

You are now boycotting Air Berlin, Ian. There's no other way to put it. If you boycott others, they may boycott you as well now. Stop crying, everything else is hypocrite.

Bavarian is spoken by 12 million people (3 mio > than catalan). Therefore it's their right to claim from catalanists to label their caganers in Bavarian from now on as well. Rest of Germany with their almost language-like dialects might follow (but only for Catalonia).

To determine Bavarian by law as a language just takes a few microliters of black ink. Linguistically, it has enough attributes to be a language, like Swabian, Hessian, Frankian etc...

What do you think Catalan companies prefer? Label just in standard German, right? Well, get used to be treated as you treat others.

California CAT said...

I think there is a great deal of mis-information on both sides of this story. The stories I’ve read so far have had varied and discrepant accounts of events concerning the Mallorcan government and Air Berlin. Looking at it pragmatically, it makes business sense that Air Berlin would choose not to include Catalan when all the passengers speak one or more of the German, Spanish, or English languages, and a polite refusal would have or should have been sufficient. I do not know the language the Balearic government used to request that Catalan be included in flights, but I do think the reactionary words from Mr. Hunold were unfair, and these unfortunate words ignited another irresponsible reactionary response from the former Catalan politician Mr. Cordon, who was the one who made the Nazi references. Unfortunately, we are looking at the actions of a couple of irresponsible individuals who are dragging everyone else down with them. What could have been a simple dialog concerning the possible inclusion (or not) of Catalan in flights has been blown into a spectacle that makes everyone look bad.

Garci said...


I already left my opinion on the forums of Avui, and frankly, am not in the mood to repeat them here now. I don't really know why I write on those forums, if even people like you (an autoproclamed nationalist) are tilted as "botiflers" by a vast majority of people making comments (for example, yesterday).
My personal opinion is that mild, or "rational nationalism", if you like, only leads to extreme nationalism, and that all those people were born in the cradle of "rational nationalists" like you. While the intentions of those were others, they have unconsciously bringing up what I saw yesterday in the Avui forums.
Of course, those of us who claim to be unattached to nationalism, can probably see better why Avui and the COPE are channels that have crossed the line long time ago. Unfortunately many of the "rational nationalists" still do not agree with that statement. "Cria cuervos..." que dirian en mi tierra.

California CAT said...

The comments section of the Diari Avui is useless; there is so much vile hatred being thrown around from all sides of the debate that any sane voice is just overwhelmed and there is little chance of dialog.

Patrick said...

¿Do you have the editorial written by Joachim Hunold? I'd really like to read it, been reading bit and pieces everywhere but I can't find the whole article. Where can I grab a copy of this text?
Thanks for your help

Nuri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nuri said...

Hi Patrick, I've posted the editorial with a translation on my blog: (see the June posts).
Garci, as you can infer from CaliforniaCAT's comment, yes, there is such thing as nationalists who don't like AVUI! :)

Patrick said...

Gracias Nuri!

ian llorens said...

Mr. Free Enterprise wants governmental help:

Dienstag, 05.08.2008 - 11.20 Uhr
Air Berlin-Chef fordert staatliche Hilfen

Der Chef der Air Berlin, Joachim Hunold fordert staatliche Hilfen für Fluggesellschaften, falls die Ölpreise weiter steigen. Wie die Webseite berichtet, sagte Hunold: "Wenn die Mobilität durch monopolistische Strukturen wie die der OPEC gefährdet wird, muss der Staat eingreifen - und ich bin wirklich nicht jemand, der schnell nach dem Staat ruft."