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