Joaquim Coll – 16/08/2020
The magnificent Report on linguistic coexistence in Catalonia (March-July 2020) prepared by the Catalan Civil Society (SCC) shows with new and interesting data that the axis of the division of the debate on this bitter matter is not located in the greater or lesser social promotion of Catalan, support and dissemination that hardly anyone disputes, not now or at least since the reestablishment of democracy and self-government. No, the axis of fracture is the exclusion of Castilian / Spanish that nationalists practice from the autonomous institutions under the umbrella of the “linguistic normalization” of the Catalan language. In other words, the complaint is not about the public presence of Catalan, but about the claim, sometimes implicit and others clearly shameless, that the Spanish language is seen and treated in Catalonia as something strange and inappropriate.
The confrontation, therefore, occurs between those who advocate the monolingualism of “only in Catalan” and those who defend the structurally bilingual character of Catalan society and rebel against a very clear violation of the linguistic rights of more than half the population . The monolingual imposition that nationalism seeks is also harmful and counterproductive for the Catalan language because it makes it unpleasant, divides and polarizes, and instead of adding, it subtracts, as the linguist Mercè Vilarrubias explained a few years ago in a memorable book.
Now, that the real axis of the linguistic debate is not the greater or lesser social promotion of Catalan but the institutional marginalization of Spanish when it is denied the right to also be a vehicular language in compulsory education, or its use is limited by administrations to exceptional situations, it is not something yet evident for an important part of the citizenship. For many years, the policies of normalization of the Catalan language in social, cultural, labor, economic life, etc., were unanimously supported because they appeared as a way to achieve bilingualism, to underpin a language with fewer speakers and a minority. under the Franco regime. However, once this normalization of Catalan was completed in almost all areas by the mid-1990s, the monolingual phase of the nationalist project was launched under the argument that Catalan could not survive and progress long term with the presence –always seen as threatening- of the Castilian.
However, this desire to exclude was not made very explicit at the beginning, so that many people continued to support proposals such as linguistic immersion in good faith, believing some mantras repeated a thousand times such as that of “school only in Catalan”. For all young people to master their “own” language and Castilian marvelously, “as well or better than in Valladolid or Salamanca” it was stated without any blush. Indeed, the propaganda and magical thinking of nationalism have confused many bona fide citizens who, when asked openly in polls, reject monolingualism and opt for social bilingualism and educational trilingualism. Even today they continue to close their eyes to the abnormality that supposes that the Generalitat and most of the local administrations systematically interact with citizens only in one of the two official languages of the autonomous community.
One of the advantages that the procés has had is that it has exposed the political project of nationalism, its hispanophobic and supremacist character. In the linguistic field, it has made evident his lack of pedagogical arguments and the propaganda and ideology of its proposals. That is why a rational and calm debate on this question is impossible. But at the same time it has made many Catalans, also quite a few Catalan speakers like the one who signs this column, aware of the need for other language policies based on the rights of citizens, the duties of administrations towards the speakers of both languages and equality of treatment to all.
Only the praxis of institutional bilingualism in Catalonia and multilingualism on the part of the General State Administration, which has already been practiced for many years although still in need of some improvements, are the correct path towards democracy and linguistic equality.