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Studying Catalan

Batiscafo Katiuscas

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This is Batiscafo Katiuscas, a song by the Mallorcan band Antònia Font, one of the biggest hit-makers in the Catalan language. First of all, do yourself a favor, and simply listen to all of it. (The video is not official. A nice amateur person on YouTube made it. The images roughly follow the lyrics.)

It is a kind of a Catalan “Space Oddity”. Here’s my attempt at translating the lyrics:

Batiscafo monoplaça,
Es teu focus a s’abisme
De ses aigües insondables
Només tu les averigües.
Single-place bathyscaphe
Your focus is on the abysm,
Its profound waters,
Only you investigate them.
Batiscafo socialista
Redactant informe tràgic
“Camarada maquinista
A institut oceanogràfic.”
Socialist bathyscaphe
Editing a tragic message
“Comrade engineer
To the oceanographic institute.”
Batiscafo solitari
Dus un ruting planetari.
Solitary bathyscaphe
You are carrying planetary routing.
“Retxes de sol atravessen blaus marins,
Ses algues tornen verdes
I brillen ses estrelles, que ja s’ha fet de nit
I es plàncton s’il·lumina
I cantes ses balenes a trenta mil quilòmetres d’aquí.
“Rays of sunshine penetrate the marine blues,
The algae turn green,
And the stars sparkle, it’s the night already
And the plancton illuminates itself
And the whales sing thirty thousand kilometres from here,
Retxes de sol atravessen blaus marins,
Ses algues tornen verdes
I brillen ses estrelles, que ja s’ha fet de nit
I es plàncton s’il·lumina
I canten ses sirenes aproximadament per no existir.”
Rays of sunshine penetrate the marine blues,
The algae turn green,
And the stars sparkle, it’s the night already
And the plancton illuminates itself
And the sirens sing approximately for not existing.”
Batiscafo socialista
Redactant informe tràgic,
Catedràtic Yuri Puscas
A institut oceanogràfic.
Socialist bathyscaphe
Editing a tragic message
“Professor Yuri Puscas
To the oceanographic institute.”
Batiscafo Katiuscas
Fas un atles visionari.
Bathyscaphe Katiuscas
You are making a visionary atlas.

Some curious notes:

  • I don’t know where do the names Katiuscas and Yuri Puscas come from. My guess is that the author tried to make Soviet names. They came out more Lithuanian than Russian, but than can still be Soviet.
  • You can easily notice the es articles, commonly used in Mallorca – es teu, s’abisme, ses aigües, etc. Antònia Font use them quite consistently in their songs. The Catalan band Glissando* performed a cover version of this song with el articles: el teu, l’abisme, les aigües.

  • Another easily noticeable Mallorcan property is the pronunciation of aigües “waters” as aigos.
  • The spelling retxes for “rays”, which appears in the CD booklet, is quite unusual. It’s pretty certain that the author refers to “rays”, but the standard spelling would be raig in singular and raigs or rajos in plural. The spelling retxes is probably a colloquial Mallorcan variation, but I couldn’t find in any dictionary.
  • The author uses at least two Spanish words: “averiguar” to investigate” and “atravesar” to cross, penetrate”. For the second word the corresponding Catalan word is travessar without ‘a’, but it is nevertheless spelled in the Catalan manner with double-s. For the first word there’s no direct correspondence. There’s probably nothing too deep about it: Even though this band only performs in Catalan, it is not really purist, but simply uses words naturally as they come, “barbarisms” or not.
  • I don’t quite know what “planetary routing” is. It may even be translated incorrectly. The original word is ruting, which sounds like an English loanword, but could refer to a lot of things.

Most importantly, it’s a great song. The odd intro has disparate notes that collect themselves into an arpeggio over a minute, and this arpeggio becomes the songs main hook. On the CD the into is actually a separate track. The guitar climax in the second chorus, as simple as it is, is a wonderful rock moment.

Finally, I have a sweet personal memory of listening to this in a lesson in my 2010 Catalan summer course, right there in Mallorca – it was, in fact, part of the curriculum. Now that’s a good way to teach young people a foreign language: Rock’n’roll.


Written by aharoni

September 28, 2014 at 20:55

How to say toothache in Catalan

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When i want to write a quick email or a Facebook status update in Catalan and i want to check whether the expression that i want to write is correct and i don’t find it in a dictionary – or am too lazy to look for it – i google it.

I searched for “mal de dents”, hoping that it would be “toothache”, much like “mal de cap” is “headache” and “mal de panxa” is “stomachache”. And i found that it is, indeed, toothache – but in French! Even adding “amb” to the search didn’t help. Adding “amb” is a trick that i learned from the Esperantists, who often add “kaj” to every search.

I did find it on a few Catalan sites, but still wasn’t completely sure, so i overcame the laziness and checked a dictionary. UB English-Catalan dictionary suggests “mal de queixal”. “Queixal” is “molar” and it actually makes sense: I don’t remember that i ever had any incisor or molar ache.

Written by aharoni

December 20, 2009 at 21:32

Posted in dictionaries, Internet


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I returned from the VIII Catalan Language University Campus 2009 and i have a lot of things to write about it and i hope that i’ll have the time, but here’s a little and very important thing. Miquel Àngel Tortell, one of the monitors – group guides, whom you can see at the photo at the article linked above – gave me an excellent CD of a Catalan indie rock artist, whose name is Eduard Canimas. The album is called Noh iha crisi (sic) and it is one of the best albums i heard this year in any language and probably the best Catalan i heard ever.

Written by aharoni

September 2, 2009 at 11:31

Northern Catalan accent

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Look: NetTVCat Catalunya Nord.

They speak fluent Catalan, but the accent sounds French. I only started studying phonology this semester, so i can’t make further comments.

Written by aharoni

December 14, 2008 at 21:22

Catalan on Packaging

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“ATENCIÓ: Les bosses de plàstic poden ser perilloses. Per evitar el perill d’asfíxia, mantingui-les fora de l’abast dels infants.”

On packaging of consumer you can often find instructions, ingredients or warnings in various languages. La Troba Kung-Fú used this artistically, calling the booklet for their album a “manual” and having it written in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Japanese, Danish and some other languages. However i haven’t yet seen Catalan on real packaging until today.

I’ve seen it on the plastic bag of a Kung-Fu Panda doll from McDonalds’ kids meal. (No relation to La Troba Kung-Fú.) It was also the first time that i saw Maltese on packaging, but Maltese is the main language of Malta, although English is official there, too. Catalan, however, has equal legal status to Spanish in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, and Spanish also appears on the packaging, so—not that there’s anything wrong with that—why would they bother to add a line in Catalan? I can think of several options:

  • The government of at least one of the Catalan-speaking communities of Spain demanded Catalan on the packaging.
  • The government of Andorra demanded Catalan on the packaging. Andorra is the only official language of Andorra.
  • A Catalan speaker was involved in the production of the packaging. Curiously, the Spanish on the packaging was labeled as “Castellano”; usually it’s “Español”.

Written by aharoni

July 27, 2008 at 20:39

Recorda la llet

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Remember The Milk is a very nice service, which i started using today. It is available in many languages—English, Russian, Japanese, Latvian. Not in Hebrew, but that’s probably understandable—Hebrew has right-to-left issues in addition to the translation itself. It is available in Bosnian, but not in Serbian or Croatian, which is weird, but whatever.

But the weirdest thing is that it has no Catalan translation. Usually Catalan is one of the first languages to which websites and program that accept translations are translated.


Written by aharoni

July 6, 2008 at 20:43

Review – Diccionari Barcanova de la Llengua

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  • A monolingual dictionary
  • Purchased in FNAC Barcelona
  • Rating: 8.1

I bought it, because that was the only one-volume monolingual Catalan dictionary that i found in FNAC Barcelona that had etymology. The official IEC dictionary looked more professional, but it didn’t have etymologies. The etymology in this dictionary is far from perfect—quite a lot of words mysteriously don’t have any etymology instead of saying “unknown etymology”, a huge number of words give the Classical Latin word and add “mat. sign” = “mateixa significació” = “same meaning”, which is quite a waste of paper, and what’s worse—it says “mat. sign.” even in cases where deeper explanation would be beneficial, for example at the lovely word elucubració. It also has a concise grammatical appendix which is OK for quick reference, but very far from perfect, and a few pages of history of the Catalan language, though it doesn’t have a bibliography. The verb conjugation tables in this dictionary are rather puzzling and weird, and i strongly prefer those in DIDAC. Also, its coverage of Valencian seems to be patchy—it has hui and meua (today, my f.; avui and meva in standard Catalan), but not huit (eight; vuit in standard Catalan). Of course it is possible that it’s just my impression. Despite these shortcomings its definitions and examples appear to be more serious than DIDAC’s, and it’s the one that i use most of the time.

Written by aharoni

May 8, 2008 at 19:29