The rest.

I have turned two pieces of toast into charcoal this morning and I have scraped the burnt bits off of the next two. But, you know, I was in bed at like 8:30 last night, falling asleep, waking up, reading, falling asleep again, and I had the luxury of getting out of bed at 8:30, so I’m not going to complain. (Though I do think my roomies may occasionally wonder if I’m I shut in. The midday heat combined with the hangover of all of last week’s activity just zoinked me. So. That’s that.)

Okay. So three quick things about my course last week


(Okay: There are 4 things. Number 4 is that someone had a selfie stick).

The Welcome

HOLY GUACAMOLE. (Or Holy PA AMB TOMAQUET). The Institut was so happy to have us. On the first morning, we walked into the library to find two perfectly arranged note pads-one large, one small and chunky, a pocket dictionary, a pencil, a printed schedule, a 1,5l bottle of water (with nametags available to mark it as ours)…you get the picture. As they say in Catalan (I think), they were ready with all of the ets and uts. After introducing ourselves individually to whoever was standing around, lots of other people (or what felt like a lot-maybe 5-10), filled the cute, little, and gloriously refrigerated room where we are staying and welcomed us with smiles and kind introductions. Perhaps the funniest one was from the director, who basically said “You are the future of Catalan translation!” He must have been looking at the girls behind me because has he seen my translations?! In the coffee break room, they had boxes of Nespresso coffee waiting for us (which are delicious–if a little wasteful–coffee pods that make some dern good espresso) and chocolate cookies. Be still my chocoholic heart. In any case, it was so clear that they were ready for us.

Also: their enthusiasm was contagious. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve gone to a bookshop (or even a library), picked up a book to read for fun, and devoted my free time to that activity. I read for hours a day, sure, but it’s usually school-related or something short and easily digestible, like a NYMag article…basically, oatmeal for the brain. Meeting people who like and promote reading for fun, I thought that maybe I should try that again. (This is terrible to admit considering my profession is based on books.) So, on Saturday I decided to do a little experiment. I walked to a cute local shop in Gràcia, bought the kinda weird school book I needed, and opted for two collections of short stories, one older (1989) written by a woman, one newer (2015!) written by a man. I thought that it would be easier to commit to stories than a novel, and once I feel sufficiently warmed up, I can go for a novel. The only rules to my reading program are this:

1. I must finish the book before I buy a new one. Maximum two books at a time.

2. I get to buy the books (rather than take them out from the library) because that is slightly more fun and feels like Christmas in July.

3. I can’t pretend it’s a book for fun and actually pick a school book. It has to be actually just for fun. It can be in Catalan or Spanish to practice, but it must be for fun.

So far, I’m 60% done one of them and 10% done the other. I’ll let you know how it goes. Are you reading for fun these days?

As for organization:

I have kind of low expectations about the organization of courses over here. I think it comes from my own cultural prejudices. That said, every course I have taken so far, from last summer’s language course, to this translation intensive, to my cooking classes–all have been delightfully organized. We began and ended on time. We met with everyone who they said we were going to meet with. We had a mix of excursions in the city (3, to be exact) and speakers that came to us. I was very impressed! The only thing we haven’t received so far is our certificate of completion…hopefully that will be in the works soon.

Lastly, Catalan Normalization.

Catalan normalization is like baking soda in the fridge: it works. Post-Franco, the idea was that you take a language that was not allowed to be used or promoted in public, that was censored in audiovisuals and print, that was pushed out of institutions of education, signage, packaging…and then you reverse every single one of those policies and do the opposite. That is no small task. There are several big (and I assume, well-funded) public institutions that have taken charge of this task and in my brief experience here, they’re working.

Take my story, for instance. I first piddled around with the language on the free website and I learned a few basic conjugations. I started reading in Catalan with the free Catalan-language newspapers they leave on the train. I heard more at the school I worked at because it is the official language of instruction. I benefited from a publicly subsidized language school last summer. And this year, I came to this course fo free. Others in my group had spent time learning with language  professors at their universities paid for in part or whole by the Institut. Others had gone to the free estades lingüístiques, a three or four week in-person course designed to get you up to a decent working level. I’m not going to be a publicly-run prophetess, but I will say that I am surprised, and thrilled, by the efficacy of this program.

As per usual, I have rambled LONG ENOUGH.

Time go to the delightful coffee shop that has yet to kick me out for buying exactly one coffee and staying exactly two (…) hours.


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