Hayden's Ferry Review


Foreign Tongues: Catalan

HFR publishes contributors from all over the world, in languages and from places that some people (we're not pointing fingers) have never heard of. This recurring post Foreign Tongues will give you a little culture and a little history, a way to better understand the background behind some not-so-familiar peoples and languages.

Josef Piera is a tough guy to research because he hasn’t done very much work in English. He has not been featured in Hayden’s Ferry Review, but I wanted to focus on Catalan, a language most people don't seem to be familiar with. Piera is a poet and essayist. He speaks multiple languages including Spanish, Catalan, and Arabic. He has even translated some of his works into Arabic. Born in Beniopa, a province of Valencia, he is renowned for his poetry and essays in Spain. He is most famous though for his biography of Ausias March, a poet of the 13th century. Piera says about his poetry: "Poetry is what is left after you have had the good times. You eat the apple and are left with the core: that is poetry."

Before beginning this series of posts, I didn't realize Spain had so many cultural groups. Unlike the Basque people (who I wrote about here), Catalans are not of mysterious origin. The earliest known reference to Catalans as a group is in 1120 in an Italian epic poem. Most Catalans are from the region known as Catalonia although there is a large population in southern France. Catalonia is part of Spain though it is an autonomous community, and has been since Franco died. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona.

About 7 million people in Catalonia speak Catalan, although most are either bilingual in Spanish or trilingual in Spanish and another language. The roots of the language are Latin so they share many similarities with the other Romance languages. They are a mixture of Italian, Spanish, and French. Although Catalan is most similar with Occitan which is another romance language in the region. On a side note, some famous Catalonians you may have heard of include Salvador Dali the surrealist painter, Antoni Gaudi the architect, and Catharine of Aragon the first wife of King Henry VIII.

Here is a link to some of Piera’s poetry.

KafiyahForeign Tongues, Poetry