I came across this [business-oriented] profile of the Spanish in a UK newspaper yesterday. I offer it without comment. Or responsibility. But with admiration for the diplomacy displayed. As readers will know, this is well beyond my capacity . . .
Introduction: Spain is one of Europe’s oldest countries and she dominated European politics and Catholicism for centuries. Remember that there are several Spains (Castile, Andalucia, Galicia, Catalonia, the Basques). Make sure you know where people’s allegiances lie.
Working hours: The working day is not an unbroken period of concentrated effort in the sense of the northern European or North American day. Coffee breaks with fellow employees, non-work conversations with colleagues and long meetings that shade into social affairs are all seen by the Spanish as valid parts of the working day.
Concept of time: Spaniards are classically multi-active, not linear-active. That is to say, the more things they can do or handle at the same time, the happier and more fulfilled they feel.
Body language: Spanish body language is among the most overt of all cultures. Flashing eyes, exaggerated facial expressions, extensive use of hands, arms and shoulders are typical. Eye contact is along with the Greek, the strongest in Europe.
Listening habits: Spaniards are not dedicated listeners. They read less than any other people in Europe and pay little attention to the content of presentations. They do, however, watch you carefully and sum you up by observing your physical characteristics, your mannerisms and your willingness to participate in the congenial and jocular socialising which will inevitably follow.
Motivation factors: Socialise as energetically (and as late) as possible. Relationship building in Spain is nearly always associated with eating and drinking.
Manners and taboos: Entry into the EU has obliged business people to align their waking and working hours with the rest of Europe and the siesta tradition is dying fast.
How to empathise: Deference to a Spaniard’s dignity, respect for his station, personality and soul, is the key to his co-operation, alliance and affection.
Galicia - Nationalism and Gallego
Those who read the comments posted to this blog will know there’s been something of a debate on these issues recently. I’ve said I dislike nationalism for its divisiveness and because I believe in freedom of linguistic choice and regard imposition of language quotas in schools as interference of the worst kind in a free society. Whether this is done from the Right or the Left. I know there are good intentions out there but I regard these as, at best, naïve and, at worst, culpably negligent. Perhaps it’s because I’ve witnessed the destruction of the British state education sector through the doctrinaire imposition of ‘progressive’ dogma. And, on that note, I close the debate from my side, leaving you with this translation of an article from yesterday’s Voz de Galicia. For my nationalist/ Nationalist readers – Please keep reading and sending your comments - they won’t be moderated. But I have said my last word on the subject. Honest.
Not so long ago Gallego was marginalised but was the vehicular social language. The majority of people used it naturally and to these was added a growing and active minority which made linguistic freedom part of its struggle for civil liberties. Then came democracy, the amnesty, the Constitution and the Autonomous State. Everyone could exercise their right to express themselves in any way they liked. Pure Utopia. Then the new guides of political correctness got to legislating, obliging, regulating, reconstructing history and turning over the language omelette. Once again two Galicias, but this time with the correlations of force inverted. Now it was Castellano [Spanish] which would be marginalised.
Gallego lost sweetness, sonority and the prestige of being an emancipator. Now it was no longer a language of liberty. Spoken by the new VIPs, it dressed itself in harshness, artificiality and an excess of imperatives. This certainly brought subventions and perks, and educational presence and recognition in the entire official galaxy. But at the same time it lost its ‘popular’ character, its appeal to the young, and its status to its followers as a superior university course.
But the Xunta of Galicia believes it can oppose the freedom to chose one’s way of expressing oneself and is tightening the shackles of the defenceless pupils. The opposition, with historical burdens, accepts the ample minimum quota of 50% - increased according to the correlation of force – in the hope that a guarantee of initiation in a child’s maternal tongue will attenuate the interventionist determination of those in power. An agreement to be ignored.
We will continue with the nonsense of children learning science and social subjects in Gallego who, on leaving the school, will change to chatting about House, Rebelde Way in Castellano or about their private matters in an extra-official jargon. And we will continue with the hypocrisy of the rulers, whether nationalists or social-progressives, sending their kids to elite private schools, with their heavy component of high-demand foreign languages. An official diglossia* – education for the clever and education for the ‘parvos’ [runts? neglected?], for those well equipped and for those condemned to undervalued work through a lack of preparation. And a lot of student indifference.
Everything is possible in schools without the freedom to teach and where parents lack the freedom of choice. No one will be able to control the effective provision of teaching – either in Gallego, in Castellano or in Esperanto. We won’t know whether our children are receiving good, bad or mediocre education. We will suspect not but will stay quiet, in case things are made worse. We will only know the marks given by the same agent of the imposed educative process. No one will evaluate the students or the evaluators.
Education is an official franchise, a regulated ivory tower. And in the future perhaps it will be a nightmare and a focus of interminable disputes. Until the next swing of the pendulum
* Diglossia: A sociolinguistic phenomenon in which complementary social functions are distributed between a prestigious or formal variety and a common or colloquial variety of a language, as in Greek, Tamil, or Scottish English.