CATALAN: THE COMMON LANGUAGE

In Our World

Some of you may wonder why I decided to make Catalan the language spoken in most of the other world.

 Maybe you did not realize that Beyond the Dream is a translation from Més enllà del somni, written in Catalan. Well, Catalan is my language and I wrote the book in my language. Later it was translated into English by the Canadian author Caroline Roe.

Now, perhaps, you may want to find out about this language. What language is Catalan?

click the book!

Catalan is one of the Western Romance languages -as is French or Spanish or Italian- and is spoken in Catalonia and other Catalan Countries since the Middle Ages. By the 12th century Catalan was spoken in Catalonia (north and south of the Pyrenees). During the 13th and 14th centuries it spread its dominion throughout Valencia and several areas of the Mediterranean, particularly the Balearic Islands. Although the first written documents appeared in the 12th century, Catalan literature flourished from the 13th century onwards. It is a language actually spoken by around 10 million people; clearly not a minority language. Furthermore, literature written in Catalan encompasses thousands of works and is of a very high standard. Many of these works have been translated into other languages, some of them in English. Below you have a couple of exemples.

Mercè Rodoreda is considered by many to be the most important Catalan novelist of the postwar period. Her novel La plaça del diamant (“The diamond square’, translated as The Time of the Doves, 1962) has become the most acclaimed Catalan novel of all time and since the year it was published for the first time, it has been translated into over 20 languages. It is also considered by many to be best novel dealing with the Spanish Civil War. (click the book for more information)

Written from a totalising perspective, Espriu’s work has taken on the form of an “encyclopaedic summa”, of the classical epics and great contemporary authors: Eliot, Pound, Joyce, etc. Perhaps the most important virtue and, ultimately, originality of Espriu has been his capacity to reconcile, in the same unitary work, the spiritual problems of man, with metaphysical resonances, with his fate as a member of a group subjected to social and political tensions, while posing the great questions of justice and liberty. (click the book for more information)

In the Other World

Although you now know about Catalan, you may still be asking yourselves why I chose it as the common language for the other world.

I just explained that Catalan is my language and that I wrote Beyond the Dream in this language, therefore it stands to reason that I chose this language and not another. But why does the other world need a common language anyway? Well, because it is easier to develop the novel, to avoid boring and endless explanations and to mantain a sort of logic througout the story.

Before writing the novel I was thinking about how I could create a story where the characters in another world would be from many different countries and should understand each other. The answer came almost at once: a common language! And that language should be, of course, Catalan.

I also needed this common language to be understood by the main character from our world. In Beyond the Dream, Anna, the main character, knows Catalan. Although Anna is from English Canada, her parents were born in Catalonia and she speaks this language with them. Her classmate Alison, who also travels to the other world, learns Catalan in order to understand the people there.

The readers of the novel may remember that another language is present in the other world: English, spoken only by the inhabitants of Gelgel. This addition was useful for allowing Anna and Alison to better understand their new surroundings. It also gave a bit of linguistic diversity to that world.

In our world Catalan is well known by the people of the Catalan Countries but not as well by other people, while English is a very strong language and everybody knows at least of its existence. Ironically, in Beyond the Dream Catalan gets the upper hand by becoming the common language of the majority of a whole world.

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About Shaudin Melgar-Foraster

University professor and writer
This entry was posted in Beyond the Dream, Catalan and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to CATALAN: THE COMMON LANGUAGE

  1. vermelldelx says:

    Dear Shaudin:

    I would like to thank you personally for all you do for Catalan culture and language. I live in Elx at the far south of the Catalan-speaking countries and like you Catalan has always been my home language. I was born in France (Marseille) and grew up in Sydney (Australia). I majored in English translation and interpretation, which included French, Italian, Spanish and, of course, my Catalan.
    I have been back in Elx for many many years and I now have children who are youg adults. Our home language is Catalan since my wife is
    also a native Catalan speaker from Elx. I’m definitely a Catalan language activist.
    I work in the tourism trade and I now live on the coast near Elx at Guardamar. The town happens to be the southernmost point where Catalan is spoken by the locals.
    At least 25% of the local population is now British since the place is very popular for mainly older residents whi have chosen the area, with direct flights to GB from Alacant Airport. We also have many others Northern European residents.
    I have also done a lot to make them understand that Spanish is not the only language in the country and that we are still pretty much alive.
    Than you again!

    • Hello,
      Et responc en català perquè em sento més còmode que escrivint en anglès. Tanmateix, si alguna altra vegada que escriguis un comentari t’estimes més que et respongui en anglès, ja m’ho diràs.
      Em sap greu haver-te fet esperar per una resposta, però aquests dies se m’ha acumulat la feina (em passa tot sovint).
      Celebro molt que siguis un activista de la llengua catalana. És una llengua que en necessita molts d’activistes. I si saben anglès i altres llengües i tenen contactes amb persones d’altres països, com ara tu, molt millor. S’ha d’escampar l’existència del català.
      Gràcies per la teva tasca de difondre el català. Thank you!
      Shaudin

  2. vermelldelx says:

    Em sap greu a mi també no haver-te respost abans. Et vaig escriure en anglès perquè l’entrada és en anglès i pensava que anava adreçat a un públic anglòfon. Comprendràs que no és cap problema escriure en qualsevol d’aquestes dues llengües. També podria fer-ho -al mateix nivell vull dir- en francès o castellà. Em consta que fas una tasca impagable i et vull donar les gràcies per això.

    Salut i Terra!

    • Tens tota la raó, el bloc va adreçat a un públic anglòfon, i és ben lògic que escriguessis el comentari en anglès. Tanmateix, jo amb els comentaris i respostes no m’hi fixo tant pel que fa a la llengua. Si és evident que la persona que comenta no sap català, responc en anglès, altrament responc amb la llengua que em sento més còmode. I alguns m’escriuen directament en català. Els articles sí que són sempre en anglès, naturalment. Potser ho hauria de fer tot en anglès, no ho sé.
      Salut i terra, sí senyor!

  3. RitaS says:

    Hi Professor,
    i know nothing of the catalan language, but loved hearing it while i was in Barcelona. Everyone there was so friendly, and the few people that spoke English were more then willing to engage in friendly conversation, which i loved. I found having my iphone handy as i used it to translate what i needed to say from English to Catalan, and if i couldnt fully pronounce the words, i handed my phone to the store patrons so they could read the words i was struggling with. i did come away learning that french fries are “patatas bravas”.
    i am considering taking a Catalan language course during my time at York but am slightly intimidated by it. Do you have any thoughts on this?As i mentioned in class, i felt it did sound somewhat similar to my fathers Sardegnian dialect. After you mentioned in class the area of L’Alguer, i researched on the internet and realized this is area I am accustomed to hearing as Alghero (in italian), which is in the province of Ozieri, where my family is from. I found it to be a very exciting connection.
    I look forward to more of your lectures :)

    Rita

    • Hi Rita!
      Thank you for leaving a comment, and a long one!
      Everything you’ve said is quite interesting, especially the part about Alghero.
      You shouldn’t be intimidated by Catalan! Not at all. Let’s talk about it tomorrow, OK?
      See you in class and thank you again.

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