Friday, 6 June 2008

Ironia perduda / Air Berlin's Irony Lost on Me

Es diu que la gent dels Països Catalans vol productes i serveis amb descripcions en Català. En part és veritat això, però encara més volem tots gastar el menys possible. Per poder reduir els preus com ho han hagut de fer les línies aèries cal evitar tot que no incrementi la rendabilitat d’una empresa.

Parlar-los en Català als passatgers d’Air Berlin, que majoritariament són alemans, afegeix poc valor comercial ja que tampoc entenen els missatges en castellà que l’empresa ha de presentar per complir les exigències mínimes de l’Estat Espanyol. Així hauria pogut respondre en senyor Hunold al govern balear, quan no li va agradar la carta que li havia enviat.

En comptes d’això va publicar un article en aleman a la revista per als passatgers de la seva línia aèria – una mida que es pot qüestionar pel fet que la revista es llegeix per gent que no coneixen la situació d’aquí i per tant, pot ser, creuran que tot el que escriu un director general és correcte. Clar, ell pot defendre el seu texte per assenyalar que hi ha un dosi d’ironia, però què esperem més d’empresaris del seu nivell – que mostrin sensibilitat amb la societat on actuen o que siguin humoristics com columnistes?

Actualització: Esperem que les mesures que prendra la Plataforma per la Llengua es presentin d'una manera tan constructiva com l'iniciativa del Govern Balear.
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One of today’s main news in Catalonia is about Air Berlin’s managing director Joachim Hunold. Recently, he was upset when receiving a letter from the regional government of the Balearic Islands asking his company to address its passengers in Catalan as well as in Spanish. Instead of writing back, saying that Air Berlin already follows Spanish law and currently does not see the commercial benefit of training its staff in Catalan, Mr Hunold decided to comment on the letter in the airline’s inflight magazine.

In his article, Mr Hunold arguments against the creation of small, medieval style, nation states. I can only agree and that is why I consider it so important for existing states to recognize the role of regional languages and why I am disturbed by the fact that Mr Hunold ignores the linguistic reality of North Eastern Spain. "There are towns in Mallorca where the children do not speak Spanish any longer. In the schools, Spanish is just another foreign language”, he points out and some tourists might believe that he is right.

I do not have the details about the Balearic Islands, but to the parliament of Catalonia, almost 90% of the voters choose parties which are in favour of the current school system, where Catalan is the first language and Spanish the second one. The objective is for all students to speak both languages equally well not when they enter but when they leave compulsory school. Tests on the state level regularly confirm that students from Catalan schools master Spanish just as well as those who have studied in other parts of Spain. Compare that with their level of English and it becomes sadly easy to see that Spanish is not “just another foreign language”.

Mr Hunold must have had the intention to entertain when he wrote his article, if not I do not know how to interpret his comments that Platja de Palma does not sound as nice as Playa de Palma when pronounced by a German. The problem is that the irony was lost on the government of the Balearic Islands and that many Catalan speakers now feel offended. Can that really be in Air Berlin’s interest?

Up-date: And today, Friday, the Plataforma per la Llengua announce that they will take action to prove the commercial value of Catalan to Air Berlin.


David said...

I'm so sorry "Platja de Palma" grates so awfully on oversensitive German ears. I'd have thought they were somewhat hardened and hence could withstand the impact of the harsh Catalan tongue after decades of being treated to "Vernichtungslager", "Führerprinzip", "rassische Überlegenheit", "gnadenloser Eroberungskrieg", "Standartenführer" and suchlike

Anonymous said...

Qui t'escriu els comentaris en català, ho fa molt bé.

ian llorens said...

Mr Hunold received a polite letter from the Balearic government asking him to consider to incorporate Catalan in the Air Berlin flights to the Balearic islands. Instead of answering that it is not economically viable or that they already have 36 staffers who speak Catalan or that they will incorporate pre-recorded announcements in his flights from or to Mallorca, the guy replies with an editorial, full of lies and misrepresentations which mocks at all Catalan speaking people.

Anyway, we all know that some Germans know how to deal with minorities pretty effectively.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi David,

Personally I've always liked the German language, but you are right, my affection does not stem from its "softness".

Hi Ian,

I'm quite against stereotyping of today's Germans based on what happened in their country 70 years ago. But you have a point, because of the country's history I would have expected a person like Hunold to be extra senstitive.


Erik Wirdheim said...


El que escriu en català sóc jo mateix. Si a vegades resulta bé deu significar que tinc molta sort!


ian llorens said...

In the AirBerlin inflight magazine, there is a cartoon next to Mr. Hunold's editorial where the phrase "saupreissische Katalaner" is used to refer to Catalans (who, by he way, had nothing to do with this episode).

"saupreissische Katalaner" or Prussian Catalan pigs (porcs prussians catalans) is a euphemistic way to refer to nazis.

Do you think that this is the way a CEO of a company should refer to his customers? Do you think I lost the sense of humor? I have flown AirBerlin several times and I will never fly it again, unless I receive an apology.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Ian,

I think that already my original entry reveals how disappointed I am with Hunold's editorial.