How much do we know about other places and their languages?
After three days on this Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain, I meet a woman who resembles neither the average local Mallorcan nor the average European tourist. She says that she is from Bolivia, and has been working here on Mallorca for eleven years. It’s a better life, she says, but she is going back to Bolivia this year to be with her family.
The woman asks where I am from. “De Canada.” “De Canadá,” she repeats, emphasizing the last syllable. “Qué idioma?” Which language? English and French, I say, but in my part of Canada mainly English. She makes a face like, “Huh, what do you know.” This is new knowledge.
Just as I am wondering how she could not know — What other language would we speak? — my travel companion sits down. I tell him that the woman is from Bolivia. “What language do they speak there?” my friend asks. Seriously? I try to keep my eyebrows level. “Spanish.” “Right,” he says. “And some indigenous languages,” I add.
But of course I can’t judge anyone. Until someone pointed it out, on my first night to be fair, I hadn’t noticed that people here in Mallorca were speaking not Spanish, but a variety of Catalán. Spanish is spoken with immigrants, visitors, and tourists. This quickly explained some place names with unusual consonant clusters — Andratx, Estellencs — and why I was confused by several signs.
Point taken: We are all ignorant, just in different directions.
Hasta la próxima!