Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“No one forces you to speak Galician”

I always try to avoid conflicts that are condemned to gridlock from the start. But sometimes when I hear absurd things I have to respond to them.


I’m not against any language or nation, but I can’t stand hate speech and absurd phrases that are put in the heads of simple-minded people. The maxims they repeat later, even if they sound funny, can be dangerous.

Even though the following conversation I had with a Galician is pretty common, it still makes me think about things a little:

Someone approached me and asked me a question that I didn’t understand. He seemed to be a normal guy and really seemed to have a question. I could not have known that he was Galician. I guess that’s not something that I could guess by looking at his hairstyle or the way his lips moved when he said certain words, because I’m not Sherlock Holmes.

I politely told him that I hadn’t understood him and I asked if he could repeat his question. Without thinking, I asked him this in Catalan, because it’s the language I usually use around here. It had never crossed my mind that the words I spoke out of politeness were rather like bait for a fish—a fish full of hate and frustration toward the culture that this man was in the midst of.

“You make me speak Catalan,” he started to shout. “In Galicia we don’t make anyone speak Galician and here you always make everyone speak Catalan.”

“Who makes you?” I tried to figure out where his problem was coming from, but the man was just shouting and it was impossible to have a fruitful conversation.

“Speak to me in Galician or Mandarin if you know it, because the more languages we know, the richer we become.” I tried calming him down but there was no way to communicate with him, because he just kept repeating the same words. Finally, I shrugged my shoulders and I left, so we wouldn’t waste our time.

I regret not having pressed him to give me an answer to my question about who was making him speak Catalan (all Catalans, I guess...) and how exactly they were pushing him around to speak it. I surmise that neither the obligation nor the pressure to speak Catalan were very onerous, because this Galician man didn’t seem to know a single Catalan word, not even for a courteous gesture or a rude insult.


Anita Janczak



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