Vicente Serrano, Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Signatures for a bilingual schoolPhoto: Gorla Loinaz/Araba Press
Immersion is dead, long live bilingualism
When the Franco regime gave its last rattles, it was confirmed that the 40 years of dictatorship were a failure: the Francoists were few and here in Catalonia it was the workers (mostly Spanish-speaking) who took to the streets shouting “llibertat, amnistia i estatut d’autonomia ” (freedom, amnesty and Statute of autonomy)
Those workers understood that the Francoist project of marginalizing Catalan culture was inadmissible, and that is why they asked for “el català a l’escola” (Catalan in schools): because they perfectly understood that children from Catalan-speaking families had the right to study in their language and , especially, to learn in it to read and write (what would now be called the acquisition of literacy skills). With this, however, those Aragonese, Andalusian, Murcian or Extremaduran workers who had come to live and work in Catalonia, and as fully-fledged Catalans, were not giving up their own language – Spanish or Castilian, the common language of all Spaniards-, nor did they accept the exclusion of this in any of its areas.
Learning Catalan did not imply ceasing to learn Spanish, nor should learning in Catalan imply that Spanish should be relegated to the domestic sphere, but that both should be languages for the transmission of knowledge and culture, languages in which to fully live and coexist . Of course! That is to say, they wanted what the Constitutional later called the Linguistic Conjunction School System, and what others have called Additive Bilingualism.
Now, after 40 years of national-secessionism governing the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, we are experiencing the failure of a model very similar to Franco’s in its conception and implementation: the Linguistic Immersion School System, misnamed Linguistic Immersion. Both used the language in a process of acculturation to try to create uncritical subjects, national-Catholic in the Franco regime and national-Catalanist with Pujolism and its sequels.
The failure is served despite the efforts of PSOE and PP to agree since the beginning of the 80s with nationalism the distribution of territorial power in Spain. “You support my government and I let you do what you want on your plot.” What has come later, you already know… from those powders these sludges. Everyone knew it, but the short-term vision and the armchairs pulled more. That now Casado is breaking his clothes on whether children are allowed to pee only when they ask for it in Catalan is an interested and momentary pose… That already happened with Aznar and Rajoy, and they always kept quiet. And, furthermore, that is only the visible part of the iceberg: the submerged area is always more difficult to see.
40 years of linguistic immersion and now they have discovered that the system generates rejection in young people. Their incompetence is such that, instead of analyzing and looking for the causes, they practice that very Spanish thing to maintain it and not amend it.
Francoism failed and national-Catalanism has failed: the judgment of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia and the non-admission of Catalan government’s appeal by the Supreme Court make it mandatory for all schools in Catalonia to carry out center projects guaranteeing that there is a minimum of 25% Spanish, and also Catalan. And furthermore, the problem is not solved by adding a weekly class in Spanish, but the percentages of one or another language will depend on the sociological environment of the school and the pedagogical needs of the students. And this is not something that parents should claim, unless the cloisters and the directors of the schools break the law -the judicial sentences are interpretations of the law and, therefore, of obligatory compliance-: in a state of Law like ours, the crime is punishable, and more serious, if possible, in those who have public responsibilities: be they directors, teachers or public officials.
Actually, the TSJC is quite lax: establishing a minimum of 25% seems little, both for Spanish and Catalan. The ideal would be 40/40/20, that is, 40% in Spanish, the same in Catalan and 20% in a foreign language. If you want to give flexibility, a certain autonomy to the centers, we could establish a minimum of 35% and a maximum of 45% for both languages, reserving between 10% and 30% for the foreign language. Respecting, yes, that the first literacy is acquired in the language that the family considers its own language, from between the two official ones (that is where the 75% makes sense), and even opening the possibility that this first literacy could be acquired in another language, if there is a significant percentage presence, in the educational center, of students whose family language is another language other than the two official languages. That is, what is defended by the Progressive Citizen Alternative as Additive Bilingualism and by AIREs – The Left in its Political Program
In any case, the increasingly less massive demonstrations in defense of immersion demonstrate this national-Catalanist failure. We cannot separate the current hysteria from those who affirm that they want to put an end to Catalan fatigue due to a Procés that has stressed Catalan society to the point of social, economic, cultural and political exhaustion; the extremely high absenteeism in the last regional elections, which paradoxically gave the majority to secessionism when it had less support, is paradigmatic.
Immersion, submersion, was a clear commitment to the cultural assimilation (acculturation) of the nouvinguts (newcomers), of the xarnegos (derogatory word for citizens coming from other regions of Spain). Pujol’s fear that the Andalusian (the emigrant, the charnego) would be in the majority is confirmed demographically, so the solution was either assimilate them or condemn them to being subordinates, which comes to the same thing. Perhaps the one who understood it best was ERC and for this reason they signed Gabriel Rufián, a posh Marsetian, willing to carry out the work of attracting grateful charnegos who can, when the time comes, act as “kapo or ODmans” of the ghetto to signal to the ” bad Catalans”. You just have to go to Meridiana avenue (main entrance of Barcelona cuted daily by pro-independentists for more than 365 days) to criticize those from Meridiana Resisteix movement (from ANC-National Catalan Assembly franchise) and be marked as a “Spanish fascist”, as if they were invaded ultracorps.
In any case, and although I title this article with the funeral of linguistic immersion, the reality is that we still have a long time until the coffin enters the niche. After the “pyrrhic defeat” of the Procés come times of rearmament of national-secessionism, and in that the battle for language is key. I have always said that the Procés was a strategic error, since it was launched at a moment of weakness for the Catalan Government, which accelerated its pace after feeling harassed by the demonstrations against the cuts that ended with the demonstrations of 15 M movement (“the outraged”) in the surroundings of the Parliament. It was not the time, but stage fright made then Catalan President Mas accelerate a process that was planned for fifteen or twenty years later, when identity assimilation, through control of the media (TV3 and subsidies to the press), the hegemony in the universities, the linguistic immersion in the school and other pseudo-state apparatuses, would have achieved their objective. Now they are withdrawing, but without relinquishing power, thanks to a trashy 155 that did not dismantle the nationalist mafia and a National Government that clearly sympathizes with those who want to kill it. They withdraw and rearm: for this reason, giving up immersion is impossible, and for this reason there is talk of 25% in Spanish, when the TSJC speaks of a minimum for both languages. Focusing the debate on whether to give one more weekly class in Spanish is another scam.
The road is long and, if we fall asleep, “they will do it again.” But there is hope: in 2017, the silent, non-nationalist majority took to the streets. Surely, the constitutionalist parties, since then, have disappointed enough; but, from the left -because nationalism must be defeated from the left- there are people who are working to equip ourselves with a tool that, from class positions, fights for equality for all, wherever they live. Fighting against immersion, for bilingualism, is more than defending a language: it is defending a plural vision of Spain but, above all, egalitarian.
Vicente Serrano. Secretary of Organization of AIREs – The Left