Open Democracy’s Alessio Colonnelli has a nice article examining the role of trabnslation in ensuring the survival of minority languages, starting from the exceptional case of Catalan.
The oldest profession in the world is….translation. That’s what Catalan-language writer and poet Francesc Parcerisas tells us in a delightful book entitled Sense mans. Metàfores i papers sobre la traducció (No hands! Metaphors and papers on translation).
In the past, state ambassadors used to heavily rely on translation. Today, in a world perpetually connected, everybody uses it; often resorting to quick, error-prone methods. That is, Google Translator’s way: really fast and since translations are truly indispensable, the automatic translator has finally managed to combine necessity and practicality. Hence its success. The traditional version, i.e. the good old editorial one – created almost by hand and with the aid of dictionaries (often still paper ones) – is a rather slow, delicate, painstaking activity that feeds on shades of grey; one that doesn’t allow for syntax errors.
Take for instance a region of Europe which has sparked much debate in recent years, Catalonia, of which Parcerisas is a native. The region is the historic cradle of Catalan, a language spoken by roughly one out of four citizens in the Kingdom of Spain (it is also used in the region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands). A language that has been able to resist intimidation and repression. They say it’s in excellent health, according to the official language academy Institut d’Estudis Catalans: the small publishers popping up everywhere testify to this, along with its widespread use on social media. It’s never been in better shape, really, at least since the fall of the Franco regime.
One could almost argue that instead of losing a language, Europe has celebrated the comeback of Catalan. A grandee of the Continent’s age-old cultural heritage – Catalan was indeed born in the early Middle Ages. Not a dialect of Spanish, as many believe, but one of the evolutions of late-empire Vulgar Latin. An astonishing linguistic recovery. Those who care about diversity in general of any kind can’t fail to be happy about it. Diversity is good. Mankind embodies diversity. Fellini, who knew a thing or two about visions and wide angles, said that each language offered a unique point of view on the world. Surely, the renowned Barcelona-based London journalist and author Matthew Tree would also agree with that. Trilingual, he’s been writing professionally and successfully, mostly in Catalan, for over thirty years now.