Air Berlin against the use of Catalan when flying to and from Catalan-speaking regions -

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 9 15:28:46 UTC 2008

Air Berlin against the use of Catalan when flying to and from
Catalan-speaking regions - Where is the European Union language policy
based on "multilingualism" when one really needs it?

 Yesterday by  Indo-European

I don't like to write about 'domestic' problems, so to speak, and I
don't usually do it because I cannot be neutral, but I think this one
has transnational implications that go beyond Spain's language policy
- or, better, the language policy of Spain's Autonomous (i.e.
'slightly less than federal') Communities - to reach the very language
policy of the European Union, because this is what we are getting by
the current "be official or die" policy of the Union.

As I've written before, the language policy of the European Union, of
which language commissioners are always so proud, talking about
"multilingualism as an important asset of Europe", is just a fraud, a
disguise of the actual untenable situation that just help create
language predators in the Union, politicians looking for more and more
European public support for their languages and, consequently, less
for the others. How can a language like German (100 million speakers)
be officially equal to Maltese (300.000 speakers) before the Union,
while languages like Catalan (11 million speakers) or Basque (4
million speakers) aren't? How can we European citizens pay millions of
euros from our budget for translations from and into only some
languages (see El Mundo report or its English translation), while
others are left undefended by the institutions? How can we tolerate
that English be the unofficious actual language of Brussels, or that
any country holding the presidency decides to translate documents into
English, or English+French, or English+French+Latin according to their
will or frame of mind, while the institutions continue to sell this
false idea of 'multilingualism', for whose supposed implementation our
taxes are yearly wasted?

These are the latest news from some language predators looking for
their weekly pray: anti-Catalan and pro-Catalan politicians, along
with a "small" private company, looking to win one individual battle
here, no matter if it affects the whole European language policy
system - in fact, no matter if it's the very consequence of the EU's
language policy system! I have my view on this, indeed, and it refers
(as always) to the need of a common, only one official language
legally obligatory for all the Union, and then national or regional
support for other languages, but I'll let you judge from the news.
I'll just add that Catalan-speaking communities are already calling
for a Boicott on Air Berlin for the company's attitude towards the
regional language of the Balearic Islands, and that the words of the
(intended to be) funny cartoon to the right, "saupreussischer
Katalanen" is being translated, instead of "damn-Prussian", a common
Bavarian expression, followed by "Catalans", as "fucking swine
Prussian Catalans" in Catalan-speaking journals, to exasperate still
more Catalan language defenders…

Edit: I didn't see there are other comments of the Catalan blogger
community, as the early comment of one of Menéame's creators Ricardo
Galli (in Catalan) on this subject, which criticizes the "literal
interpretation" - I would say directly willing misinterpretation -
some Catalan-speaking journals gave to the cartoon, which he compares
to the overreaction of some Muslim media to Muhammad's cartoons. His
comment in English.

This is an automatic translation of one of the first articles on the subject:

"Today Spanish is no longer an official language", says blunt Joachim
Hunold, managing director of Air Berlin in the journal's editorial Air
Berlin Magazine, available to all users of the company during flights.
"There are towns in Majorca where children no longer speak Spanish. In
schools, Spanish is a foreign language," he added. With this letter to
passengers, Air Berlin, one of the major airlines operating in the
Balearics, denounced the situation, according to the airline, suffers
Spanish in front of Catalan.

The cartoon with which the editorial accompanies the article has
caused more trouble, and it translates "If they come to Bavaria, these
damn-Prussian Catalans, they'll have to speak Bavarian. Damn it!"

It all began when the director general of Linguistic Policy, Margalida
Tous, sent Air Berlin and other airlines to destinations in the
Balearic Islands, a letter urging them to also use Catalan in their
communications with their customers. "I am contacting you to express
the interest that the Balearic Islands Government has to ensure proper
use of the official languages of the archipelago in the communications
company that provides its citizens with Air Berlin who choose to make
their journeys," the letter begins.

"Do they have to give courses in Catalan by decree to my employees?
And those who fly to Galicia or the Basque Country who want to turn us
into Galician or Basque? Is it no longer speak in Spanish?", Hunold
wondered . "The partition of Spain in regional nationalism is actually
a return to the medieval mini states. So far I thought we lived in a
Europe without borders," finishes. The editorial accompanied with a
bullet which reads in a Bavarian German: "If they come to Bavaria,
these damn-Prussian Catalans, they'll have to speak Bavarian. Damn
it!" .

The Balearic Government does not explain the Air Berlin public reply
to his request for the company incorporates the use of Catalan. "We
regret that a letter made in a constructive spirit has taken this
misinterpretation", say from the general direction of Linguistic
Policy. "The president Francesc Antich is concerned about this issue
and surprised because there are correct relations with the company.
Think that has not played well the collaborative spirit of the letter
and talk directly with Joachim Hunold to restore the situation",

In fact, the letter urges Air Berlin to "ensure that customer service
is offered personally written documentation, Web, instructions to
passengers on board, etc., are made in Catalan, just as being made in
other languages. " In addition, it offers "the possibility of
establishing lines of collaboration to incorporate Catalan in response
to the company's customers."

Air Berlin insists on the fact that "the director has exercised his
freedom of expression," says Alvaro Middelmann, CEO of Air Berlin in
Spain and Portugal. He argues that the conflict between Spanish and
Catalan "is a reality" and puts an example that does not want to
"implement the third time Spanish in Catalonia." And states that
"Spanish is being discriminated against in certain parts of Spain."
"Air Berlin is a European company, to make it clear, and we must
ensure the common language of all Spaniards". That is why we believe
that the introduction of Catalan "would be a wrong comparison with
other regions and is inasumible."

The Department of Linguistic Policy states that at no time "the letter
spoke of punishing or compelling, but it offers the collaboration of
government to improve service to the company but he recalls that
Catalan is the official on the islands and has Baleares many
customers. " The same sources explained that so far no other airline
has been in contact with the Balearic government to complain about
their linguistic recommendations.
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list