Friday, December 16, 2011

Google Maps invents own Spanish names of Catalan streets, rendering the program useless (and incredibly offensive)

This morning on Twitter, I saw that Google had decided to replace Catalan placenames with crazy, sometimes random, translations into Spanish. The hashtag #googlecat has quickly become a TT (trending topic) on Twitter as people around Catalonia are outraged that Google has decided to call Catalan places however they like.

Pretty incredible. You, dear non-Catalan reader, might think it's much ado about nothing, really, how much difference is there between "Plaça Catalunya" and "Plaza de Cataluña"? Who cares? But there are very large issues here, which I hope to address one by one.

First, the names of streets, squares, and roads are all in Catalan in Catalonia. If you're looking for a street, the only street sign you will find will be in Catalan. Google Maps won't do a fat lot of good to you if it's giving you a translation into Spanish. For example, one of the streets near my apartment is “Carrer de Sant Domènec" (or Saint Dominic street) but Google has it labeled as "Calle de San Domingo".


(Then, there's the added weirdness that you can't actually say "San Domingo", it would be "Santo Domingo".) There are many, many other bizarre translations. Things like "Verga María" [Cock Mary] (and I don't mean roosters) for "Verge Maria" [Virgin Mary]. Or changing the name of the town, “Sant Boi de Llobregat” into "San Baudillo de Llobregat".

Think it won't matter, that Catalan and Spanish are "close enough"? Try "Calle del Oxidado" instead of "Carrer Rovellat". Or "Rambla de la Colina" instead of "Rambla del Turó". Let's just say I wouldn't rely on Google Maps to get around Catalonia any more.

Carrer Rovellat

Vilaweb was finally able to get a first explanation from Google Spain about the problem. “The problem has to do with a database that was supplied by a third party and the technicians are working on updating it."

Ultimately, to Catalans who are continually feeling mistreated by the Spanish government, who will not stand up for the Catalan language in Spain, the European parliament or anywhere else, it feels like a crass political move by Google. Perhaps it's just a technical error, but I just don't have that faith anymore.

Interesting that names in English have not been translated into Spanish, as in Plaça John Lennon, which turned into "Plaza John Lennon" but not "Plaza Juan Lennon".

Check into Twitter and follow #googlecat to see egregious examples and anger. Follow Vilaweb for the latest news.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Catalan Government to bring Spain to court

The “Generalitat” or Catalan Government is insisting that Spain pay the 759 million euros ($1 BILLION US) in promised infrastructure budgets now refused by the Zapatero government

The spokesperson for the Catalan government, Francesc Homs, announced that the Generalitat will take the Spanish government to court for not paying the 759 million euros in infrastructure that it owes Catalonia, that is part of the Third disposition of Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy and was included in this year's budget, prepared by José Luís Zapatero's government. It is an extraordinarily grave issue, one of the gravest of the democratic era concerning the institutional relationship with the State. "This is an unprecedented situation," declared Homs.

Today, Homs, in a morning interview on Catalunya Ràdio, explained some of the "grave consequences" that not paying the 759 million euros would engender. Homs has had to ask for “understanding and confidence” to the administration's suppliers and workers, due to a possible delay in paying bills and salaries. “It's not going to be clean and up-to-date like in years past," Homs said.

“This is a clear attack against the self-government of Catalonia, because they know how much it will hurt us. They're not paying, not because they can't, but because they don't want to," complained Homs. According to the spokesperson, there is an air of "vendetta" towards Catalonia. And he wondered, “Why are they doing this? Haven't we kept our commitments more than anyone?"

Salgado says Spanish government has no obligation to pay the 759 million euros

The Spanish Vice-president for Finance, Elena Salgado, says that the state budget includes the payment of 759 million euros in keeping with the third disposition of the Statute of Autonomy, but that it is not required to pay it. Thus, she says the Generalitat has no good reason for bringing the state to court. Originally published in Vilaweb, Tuesday, December 13, 2011, Translated and republished with permission.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Association of Municipalities for Independence to Hold Constitutional Convention Wednesday

Note: I have not posted news articles for many months, but things really seem to be shifting in Catalonia, and as much as time permits, I will do my best to translate the news here for English speakers.

More than 100 towns have already signed up. 

The "Association of Municipalities for Independence" [Associació de Municipis per la Independència], spearheaded by the mayor of Vic, the Christian-Democrat Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal, will hold its constitutional assembly on December 14, in Vic, the capital of Osona. So far, 116 municipalities have joined this initiative that seeks to bring together that greatest number of Catalan towns in favor of independence and to create the foundation of an upcoming official referendum on sovereignty, from the city government.

On December 14, an executive board will be proposed for the association, as well as statutes that will govern it, the content of which will be ratified in a second assembly that will take place two or three months later. In addition, it foresees the possibility of bringing the proposal to the city government of Barcelona, who rejected entering into the association a few weeks ago, as well as to the Generalitat.

Among the municipalities that have already joined are several county seats, including Vic, Manresa, Olot, Berga, Ripoll and Banyoles. In addition to Vic, the first towns to join were Arenys de Munt, the first town to celebrate a referendum on independence, and Port de la Selva, who was the first to declare itself "morally excluded from the Constitution". Important towns like Girona have also expressed a wish to join the movement.

Vila d'Abadal and the leader of UDC, Josep Antoni Duran, have always disagreed on the independentist question, and the mayor of Vic even acused Duran of exaggerating his rejection of independence "because of his friends in Madrid", as well as not relying on those people who don't share his ideology.

Originally published in Vilaweb, Thursday, 8 December, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A normal country

Editorial originally published in racócatalà on 19 January 2011

When the debate is centered on the cost of doing what is just, then you know it is irrevocably twisted.

In the Spanish Senate, one can now use Catalan in an official capacity. Not to mimize its importance, which is notable even though it's more symbolic than useful, it's pretty frustrating that it is now easier to get someone to understand you in Catalan in the highest Spanish chamber than in many stores, just to give a single example. Meanwhile, the “Spanishists”, led by Mariano Rajoy (PP) and seconded by the Spanishist media, have called into question the agreement because of the additional cost it will suppose. The leader of the PP even went so far as to say that using Catalan in the Senate "does not belong in a normal country". Yowza. But as others have already responded, what is not normal is precisely Spain, given that in countries with similar linguistic situations, like Belgium, Switzerland and Canada, they've been letting people use whatever official language they liked in their legislative chambers for many years without worrying about the cost.

But how do those "normal countries" do it? Well, for example in Switzerland, a real federal state, each canton dictates its own linguistic policies without interference. And of course, in the federal Swiss Parliament, you can use any of the four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. It's been a while since the official Swiss money, the Swiss Franc, has been printed in all four official languages. It's been a while since each canton has used its corresponding language as the language of instruction in their schools, whether it be German, Italian, French, or Romansh. Or take Belgium, where in Flanders school is taught in Flemish and in the Walloon Region, it is taught in French (in addition to the other language being taught as a secondary language). And in the Belgian Parliament one can naturally speak in Flemish or in French without anyone wondering how much it will cost.

Because if we're talking about money and normalcy, what is the cost at the European Parliament of having 23 official languages, where every speech in a session by a European MP may be made in any one of these languages, while there are 22 teams of translators simultaneously converting that speech into the other 22 languages? And the cost of having to translate all of the documents generated by the European Union into 23 official languages? 23 languages that, one should add, are limited by state, creating cases as absurd as Maltese, with only 330,000 speakers and which is official, and Catalan, which with 11.5 million speakers (according to Ethnologue in 2009) is not.

Would Spain be disposed to renounce that its European Parliament members participate in Spanish in order to reduce costs? No answer is needed, it's so obvious that they would not. Why don't they do everything in English at the European Parliament? Wouldn't it be more practical and wouldn't it reduce translation costs considerably? Or even just English, German, and French, the three majority languages? But which states in the EU would accept that their language be the one neglected one for the "good" that such a savings would suppose? Would Italy accept such a thing? Spain? Portugal? Poland? The Czech Republic?

That out of certain newspapers and certain Spanishist sectors the "quid" of the debate is the cost of the translations and not if it is "fair" to be able to speak in any official language in the legislative chambers indicates to what point the argument is ideologically perverted. A cost that by the way is 11,950 euros each week, which was not added to the cost of the Senate, but rather was obtained after distributing the total yearly budget of the Spanish high chamber.

The debate is then the cost or whether something is fair? Because if the debate is the cost, then we could get rid of the whole Senate and then we'd sure save a bunch! And the Congress. On a demagogic roll, we could get rid of the health care system and public transportation and we'd save a bundle more. But now, what would be fair?

Is it fair that the Head of State in Spain is a monarch, and that the Royal Family in Spain has a yearly budget of nearly 9 million euros? Not to mention that if the Spanish state became a republic instead of a monarchy, the cost of electing a Head of State and all of the cost associated with a President of the Repubic would probably be higher than that of the current Royal Family. Would that mean that it would be preferable having a monarchy over a republic because "it would cost less"? Obviously, no.

Well, then, what are we talking about? Spain is going broke over 12,000 euros a week? The economic crisis takes the blame for being able to speak in Catalan in the Senate? Look, actually, Catalonia could perfectly well take on that budget item of 144,000 euros per year if, in exchange, the fiscal deficit [difference between taxes paid to Spain and services rendered in Catalonia], disappeared. 22,000 million euros. 22,000,000,000 euros in exchange for taking on the 144,000 that it would cost to translate the Senate speeches into the 3 official languages.

Just to be clear, if Catalonia didn't lose those 22,000 million euros each year due to the fiscal deficit, it could pay those 144,000 euros 152,777 times a year.

And meanwhile, that guy is saying speaking Catalan "isn't normal". What's not normal, sir, is Spain.