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On European ignorance of Catalan language and culture


There he sat, in my flat, twenty-four years old, as well-informed a person as any to be found in Europe: he lived in a major capital (Amsterdam), had been through tertiary education, spoke four languages including his native Dutch, and regularly read the papers.
We met last year, not long before Sant Jordi's Day, which he'd heard of and wanted to know more about. Among other tidbits of information, I trotted out the fact that Catalan-language publishers sold over 30% of their books on that day alone.
He raised his eyebrows, frowned incredulously, leaned forward and finally said: 'Catalan is a written language?".
After having spoken Catalan for nearly a quarter of a century and having read a fair amount of Catalan literature dating from the 12th century through to the 21st, I take it so much for granted that I am living in a normal culture I sometimes forget that out in the wide world, the vast majority of people, even 'educated' Europeans, are so blissfully ignorant of things Catalan that, as far as they're concerned, all Catalan-speakers past and present (myself included) might as well have spent our lives stuffed away in cryogenic canisters.
It's no use explaining, for example, that Catalan is the seventh most-spoken language in the EU, the only one to be used in four different states and the nineteenth most-used language on the internet. None of this will convince uninformed foreigners that they should take Catalan culture as seriously as any other.
Many Catalans feel that this unilateral display of ignorance will only come to an end on the day when, upon being asked where they're from, they will be able to brandish a passport marked 'Catalunya' by way of an answer. Even my Dutch acquaintance would then realise that Catalan is, at least, a written language.

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programació: Nac -