## Spanish or Catalan?

An article in BBC News (7/21/16), "", begins thus:

While promoting popular online platform Tencent Sports, Puyol said "Soy Carles Puyol y soy espanol" ("I am Carles Puyol and I am Spanish"), prompting an angry reaction from many Catalans, Spanish sports website Sport.es reports. Although technically correct – Puyol won the World Cup playing for Spain in 2010 – it's been seen as an insult to his native Catalonia region, which has ambitions to become independent.

Fair enough, but it's the last sentence that threw me for a loop:

Whether recording the advertisement in Chinese – "Wo shi Xibanya ren" – might have made a difference is up for debate.

How would that help?  And why "Chinese" instead of German or Zulu or some other language?  In terms of its grammar, vocabulary, and phonology, the sentence is clearly Mandarin, and not one of the other Sinitic topolects (Cantonese, Taiwanese, Shangainese, etc.).  If they had written the sentence in characters (我是西班牙人), it might have been a bit more reasonable to call it Zhōngwén 中文 ("Chinese"); even so, it's Mandarin all the same.  But I still find it baffling that they would choose to end the article with this particular sentence — regardless of whether you call it Mandarin or Chinese — in light of the fact that the whole point of the story is about the tension between Catalan and Spanish, just as there is tension between Mandarin and Cantonese, etc.

"Speak Cantonese" (6/10/16)

and many other posts, including the next one from me.

[h.t. Matt Keefe

1. ### Coby Lubliner said,

July 21, 2016 @ 5:53 pm

Mandarin is "Chinese" in the same way that Castilian is "Spanish", isn't it?

2. ### RF said,

July 21, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

The rest of the paragraph, for context:

"In his defence, Puyol was promoting Spanish league football to a Chinese audience who would be largely unaware of Spanish-Catalan politics. He's an ambassador for La Liga and has carried out similar work in France, Sport.es says. Whether recording the advertisement in Chinese – 'Wo shi Xibanya ren' – might have made a difference is up for debate."

3. ### Matt said,

July 21, 2016 @ 7:18 pm

Presumably if he'd recorded it in Mandarin the Venn diagram overlap of "people able to understand it" and "people who care about the difference between 'Spanish' and 'Catalan'l would be much smaller. It's pretty vacuous as observations go, but the way journalism is going, there aren't many reporters left who can afford to take a 1-hour walk in the park to craft the perfect ending. Just throw together some vague "questions linger" parts and let the editor deal with it if she doesn't like it.

4. ### Michael Watts said,

July 21, 2016 @ 8:45 pm

And why "Chinese" instead of German or Zulu or some other language?

Obviously, because he was promoting Tencent Sports.

5. ### Keith said,

July 22, 2016 @ 4:06 am

Michael Watts is spot on. It was an ad for Tencent Sports, in China.

I've not seen the ad, but at a guess there would be famous players from various nations saying "I am ${name} and I am${nationality}".

The players will chosen as representative of the different leagues whose matches are shown on Tencent Sports. It seems quite logical for me that a player from Catalonia, holder of a Spanish passport, of Spanish citizenship, famous for playing in the Spanish League, speaking to people interested far more in La Liga than in the Catalan independence movement, should announce "soy español".

6. ### mollymooly said,

July 22, 2016 @ 7:13 am

In marketing El Clásico to most foreign audiences, it would make sense to have, say, Álvaro Morata of Real Madrid say "I am Spanish" and then Jordi Alba of Barcelona say "I am Catalan". However, the PRC's Tibet and Taiwan anxieties would preclude any such intimations there.

7. ### Carrie said,

July 22, 2016 @ 7:55 am

There's nothing that should throw you for a loop in that last sentence. The author probably doesn't know about the Mandarin/Cantonese situation. He/She was making an ironic comment that the controversy over whether Spanish/Castilian or Catalan should have been used could have been avoided by using another – and completely out-of-place – language altogether instead.

8. ### Victor Mair said,

July 22, 2016 @ 9:35 am

@Carrie

He/She was making an ironic comment that the controversy over whether Spanish/Castilian or Catalan should have been used could have been avoided by using another – and completely out-of-place – language altogether instead.

Well said! And that's why I mentioned Zulu and German.

9. ### john burke said,

July 22, 2016 @ 9:47 am

I don't know whether it accounts for (or helps account for) this particular case, but there's a convention by which "Chinese" is used when "as 'foreign' as possible" is meant: a critic of Ravel's String Quartet objected that it sounded "Chinese" and Cab Calloway fired Dizzy Gillespie for "playing that 'Chinese' music in my band."

10. ### Victor Mair said,

July 22, 2016 @ 10:03 am

@john burke

Could be; the "all Greek to me" syndrome.

11. ### Ellen K. said,

July 22, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

The article says he was speaking to a Chinese audience (see the article, and the comment above from RF quoting the full last paragraph). Seems to me THAT is the reason for mentioning Chinese and it's not at all out of place.

12. ### Victor Mair said,

July 22, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

I've seen this sentence all over the internet: "While promoting popular online platform Tencent Sports, Puyol said 'Soy Carles Puyol y soy espanol' ('I am Carles Puyol and I am Spanish')." I would be very grateful if someone could dig up the actual context in which Puyol made that statement, so we could see / hear what it sounds like and who was listening / watching.

13. ### Andrew said,

July 22, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

And that's why I mentioned Zulu and German.

As Ellen K says, it's because it's to a Chinese audience. If you're going to question why Chinese is brought into a seemingly unrelated story about a Spanish/Catalan footballer, it seems disingenuous to leave out the fact that it was in fact to this kind of audience.

14. ### Charles Antaki said,

July 22, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

The Spanish paper El Mundo don't give the whole of his script, but it starts off with "I'm a former captain of Barcelona Football Club. I've won six league titles …" (all in Spanish) and, according to the paper, goes on to list a few more achievements before ending not just with the phrase as above, but reversed (thus Soy Carles Puyol, soy español. Soy español, soy Carles Puyol). Just to rub it in.

If it was a sensation in the Catalan media, it seems to be over now – there's nothing about it today in, for example el Periodico or the Barcelona-friendly Mundo Deportivo.

15. ### Victor Mair said,

July 22, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

Mil gracias, Charles Antaki! The article in El Mundo provides a video of the ad, and your description of what Carles Puyol says (backward and forward) is excellent.

There was absolutely no disingenuousness on my part.

16. ### Bloix said,

July 25, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

In a roughly analogous situation, Andy Murray happily calls himself "British" but he is not "English." AFAIK Spanish doesn't permit that sort of distinction. Presumably it could – I recall meeting people from Chile who called the language they spoke "castellano" not "español" – but it doesn't.

17. ### John A said,

July 26, 2016 @ 2:17 am

Since Catalonia is not independent and Liga BBVA genuinely represents Spanish Football League I don't see any reason for this stupidity by these people.