January 03, 2013

Lingua España

Minutes before the clock struck midnight (GMT+1), I landed in Barcelona. I caught a bus to Plaza Catalunya, the epicentre of the city. My hostel was less than fifty meters from where I was standing, but no one had a clue when I asked them for the street on which it was located. The English skills were painfully lacking, mirroring the level found in China and South Korea. 

However, there were some people who spoke English to me that night. Among them were the hostel staff, African guys offering to sell me drugs, and Pakistani guys offering to sell me everything else. All the inhabitants of Spain are not monolingual though, as many languages are in use within the country. 

In Barcelona, Catalan is the language of choice. The majority of the nation speaks Castinal, which is what is commonly referred to as Spanish. Both these Romance languages are easy to understand, or at least to read, for a man of my linguistic capabilities. By combining my vaunted English skills with the rudimentary French I had learnt in school, it was simple enough to make out what was written on the signage.

Bilboa is Basque country. The Basque language, Euskara, is completely unrelated to the Romance languages. It is a language isolate like Korean, as no identifiable ancestor language from which it could have descended from has been pinpointed so far. There are tales of Viking marauders leaving behind traces of their language in the Basque region, but many other theories about its origins are also in circulation. 


"You have the same birthday as me! You must be a good person." - Portuguese beauty staffing the hostel check-in counter