¿Sería aceptable la independencia del Reino de Aragón?

Ayer leí que el embajador español ha dicho que Escocia y Catalunya sean completamente diferentes:

Los antecedentes históricos y constitucionales de los dos casos no tienen tanto en común como puede parecer a primera vista. […] Escocia era una nación independiente y ha sido parte del Reino Unido desde el parlamento escocés decidió libremente a unirse en el siglo XVIII. Por el contrario, Cataluña era parte del Reino de Aragón y en general ha sido una parte integral de España desde su creación, hace más de cinco siglos atrás.

Escocia también ha sido una parte integral de otro país desde su creación, y por eso no estoy seguro que la diferencia es tan importante como dice el embajador.

Pero si el problema para los unionistas españoles es que Catalunya no fuese un reino independiente al tiempo de la formación de España, me pregunto si aceptarían la independencia del Reino de Aragón, es decir la independencia conjunta de Aragón, Catalunya, Valencia y las Islas Baleares.

No creo que esto es lo que quieran los catalanes ahora, pero me interesa si esta solución sería aceptable al estado español.

Viviane Reding on Catalan independence

Viviane Reding’s recent words about Catalonia’s continued membership of the EU has attracted a fair amount of attention in Scotland (see for instance the SNP’s press release).

However, this is important enough that it’s worth going back to the source. It appears she made her comment in an interview with the Spanish (not Catalan) newspaper El Diario de Sevilla. Here are the interesting bits together with my translation:

[DdS:] Cataluña plantea actualmente la posibilidad de independizarse. Pero si lo hace debería abandonar la UE y negociar su ingreso. Además, desde su salida habría un agujero en la libertad circulación de personas y bienes en la Unión. [Catalonia is currently raising the possibility of becoming independent. But if it goes ahead, it would have to leave the EU and negotiate its entry terms. Moreover, as soon as it left there would be a hole in the freedom of movement of people and goods within the Union.]

[VR:] No querría inmiscuirme en asuntos de política española, pero no pienso ni por un segundo que Cataluña quiera dejar la UE. Conozco a los catalanes desde hace mucho tiempo, he sido una de las pocas personas no catalanas en recibir la Cruz de Sant Jordi, y sé que su sentimiento es profundamente europeo. [I would not want to interfere in matters of Spanish politics, but I do not think for a second that Catalonia wants to leave the EU. I have known the Catalans for a long time, I was one of the few non-Catalan to receive the Cross of Sant Jordi, and I know that they feel profoundly European.]

[DdS:] No le pregunto por la posibilidad de que Cataluña quiera o no ser parte de la UE, sino por el proceso que se abre cuando dejen de serlo. Lo dice la Convención de Viena: el Estado resultante de un Estado matriz abandonará todos los organismos internacionales en los que la matriz esté representada. [I am not asking whether Catalonia wants to be part of the EU or not, but about the process that begins when Catalonia ceases to be a member. The Vienna Convention says this: the state resulting from a parent state leaves all international organisations in which the parent is represented.]

[VR:] Vamos, hombre, la legislación internacional no dice nada que se parezca a eso. Por favor, resuelvan sus problemas de política interna en España. Yo confío en la mentalidad europea de los catalanes. [Come on, international law does not say anything like that. Please solve your internal political problems within Spain. I trust the European mentality of the Catalans.]

I’m finding the leading questions by the Diario de Sevilla almost as interesting as Viviane Reding’s answers. If they’re typical of the Spanish discourse outwith Catalonia, it’s clear the Catalans are facing a monumental struggle to become independent.

Update (18/10/12): It seems the European Commission under pressure from Spain have been trying to deny Reding said this. Read the full story and listen to the actual interview (which was conducted in English) here.

Language learning in Scottish schools

Marcel started Spanish this year (S3, i.e., the third out of the six high-school years), and he asked me to give him a few extra lessons, given that I speak Spanish and he isn’t too impressed with what he’s learnt at school so far.

His class don’t seem to be using a course book – they’re just using photocopies and the like – so I couldn’t just ask him what he’d learnt already. (As a parent, it would really be much easier if kids were given one book in every subject! Not only is it much harder to help them with homework if you don’t know what they’ve learnt, but it also makes it impossible for them to catch up if they’re off sick, and revision becomes dependent on good note taking in a way it didn’t use to be.)

I therefore decided to ask him some really easy questions, and I started by asking him to tell me the present indicative of the verb ser “to be”. I had expected him to quickly say “soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son”, after which I would have proceeded to some harder verbs or tenses.

However, he really didn’t know the answer. It wasn’t a problem with the terminology – I tried to ask him how he’d say “I am”, etc., but he didn’t know the answer. He claimed the teacher had shown them the forms once, but that he hadn’t had the time to copy them into his jotter.

I asked him what they were doing instead, and he said they were just learning words.

If it’s true, it’s absolutely ludicrous! Language learning is primarily about learning structure – the words are easy to add on later.

However, this episode suddenly made me understand an article I read six months ago and that I had dismissed at the time. It was an article in the Guardian about learning Mandarin in two days (hat-tip: Sabine Citron), and I thought it was just telling me things I knew already. The advice in that article is absolutely right for language teaching in Scottish schools, though: ‘The narrow set of nouns and verbs is an integral part of Noble’s technique. “One of the worst things you can do with language teaching is teach someone a massive number of words. It’s back-to-front – teach them to speak and then add to their knowledge. You have to become very fluent in a very small amount of the language.” Many students, he says, are led astray by learning numbers, colours or days of the week before they’ve learned any kind of framework with which to use them. “The nouns are almost irrelevant. That’s stuff you can learn yourself.”’

I don’t agree with everything in the article (amongst other things, I don’t think grammatical terminology is a hindrance so long as it’s used to convey structure rather than a goal in its own right), but the bit I quoted here I could almost have said myself.

If language teaching in Scotland has become a case of learning words but no grammar, they really need to go back to square one and start all over again. Their current approach just does not work.

Multilingual blogging

Som en del af la Journée européenne des langues, today is the Day of Multilingual Blogging.

Para la mayoría de los bloggers no es difícil, ?????? ??? ??? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ??????, och alla läsare förstår genast att det inte er vanligt, kiam ili skribas en nekutima lingvo.

Men hvis jeg havde blogget på spansk eller tysk, hätten alle wohl gedacht che sia completamente normale.

???, co jsem mohl d?lat? ?? ?????? ????: !??? ??? ??????? ???? ????????? ??? ???? ??????

Problem solved!

Mi tío bisabuelo Niels Peter que desapareció en Argentina

¿Qué pasó con mi tío bisabuelo (el hermano de la madre del padre de mi madre), un hombre que se llamaba Niels Peter Sørensen Smidt (o Schmidt) y que nació el 18 de enero de 1878 en Vrinners (o Vrinders) en la parroquia de Rolsø (Mols herred, Randers amt)?

(El hombre en la foto es su padre, mi tatarabuelo, Søren Sørensen Smidt.)

Se casó el 8 de febrero de 1900 con Ane (o Anna) Mikkelsen (n. el 13 de marzo de 1879 en Agri, Mols, Randers).

Parece que emigraron los dos después a Argentina, pero no sabemos si se quedaron allí.

Tampoco sabemos si tuvieron hijos.

He tratado de trovarlos en el web, pero sin suerte.

La mayoría de los daneses que emigraron a Argentina vivían en Tandil, en el campo entre Tres Arroyos y Coronel Dorrego, o en Necochea, pero no hay registros disponibles en el web.

Además es un problema que es posible que cambiaran sus nombres. Quizás Niels y Ane se convirtieran en Nicolás y Ana. ¿Y el apellido? ¿Sorensen? ¿Schmidt? ¿Sorensen-Smit?

Si sabes algo sobre mi tío bisabuelo, ¡por favor escríbeme!

Amaia Montero

One of Phyllis’s old uni friends lives in Spain, and when he heard we had named our daughter Amaia, he said that of course Amaia was now a common name in Spain because of the singer, but he hadn’t realised she was now also famous in the UK.

The truth is, of course, that we had never heard about the singer before, but she’s readily available on YouTube and Amazon:

It’s funny – she seems to have studied chemistry at Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, which is where I learnt Basque, and she’s from the town Irun, which was also where my teacher (Nekane) lived. It’s a small world.