I am watching Merli on Netflix. Merli is a TV series in Catalan, a coming of age story. I am a citizen of Spain and have been in Spain on and off for 22 years but until tonight, I had never watched any video content in Catalan. What happened to me during the episodes binge was magical. I wish all language learning was like that. On episode one I was constantly reading the Spanish subtitles and could not understand much. Catalan sounded very foreign. But by episode four I wasn’t reading the subtitles anymore. When I realized this, I took the Spanish subtitles off and now I am watching the rest of Merli in Catalan! I wish all Spaniards did the same. Catalan is as easy to learn as Brazilian Portuguese is for Argentines (Argentina is my native country), but while most Argentines I know understand Portuguese I don’t know anyone from Madrid who understands Catalan. This may be because as many problems as South America has, nobody wants to break their own country using their language as a weapon and Argentines just find it fun to learn Portuguese. Portuguese for Argentines is not loaded with politics, it’s just fun vacation time in a happy country.

I wonder how Catalans would react if every high school student all over Spain learned Catalan. Especially if it was done watching a story as beautiful and well told as Merli which would be perfect to keep their interest up. I think that just watching Merli at 15 with the help of a Catalan teacher over 60 days would do the trick.

Love and appreciation would be a small price to pay to save Spain. At first sight Catalan feels like a wall. Merli is a ladder to climb it step by step. Catalans feel there is no respect for their language in the rest of Spain, all Canadians or Belgians study French, why not Spaniards studying some Catalan.

Te recomiendo hacer lo mismo. Fes com jo. If you speak Spanish you are at most 90 days away from understanding Catalan. Having said this there is a paradox with Catalan. If you want to learn Catalan those from Madrid will have a big advantage over those from Mexico or Argentina. As I discovered watching Marli there are many many expressions in Catalan that come from Madrid, or from the Spanish spoken in Madrid. Catalan say words like matxacar, or mola that are meaningless to Latin Americans but very easy to understand for people of Madrid, because that is where those words come from. What helped me understand Catalan was speaking French and using not the Argentine in me but the Madrileño in me.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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