Joaquim Coll, 11 November 2021
Historian and Columnist
A teacher teaches her students at the Escola Catalonia in Barcelona.EFE
A campaign of anguish for the future of Catalan is stirring. As now there are no more prisoners, the sovereignists cry for their language. In reality, alarmism is not supported by any empirical basis: the number of Catalan speakers has not decreased, nor is there any data that indicates that they are in danger of extinction. Another thing is that young people socialize more in Spanish than in Catalan. Today many accept that the independence debate harmed the Catalan language, because it associated it with a certain option. But what is still not recognized is that the monolingualism practiced by the Generalitat has turned Catalan into a language of imposition and sometimes even unpleasant.
Catalan society is bilingual, it has two official languages, as stated in the Statute of Catalonia, and both the school and the public administration should respect this principle, as well as the linguistic rights of everyone, including Spanish speakers. And that is clearly violated, sometimes in the name of cohesion and others arguing that Catalan is in danger.
“The monolingualism practiced by the Generalitat has turned Catalan into a language of imposition”
A different matter is that the Catalan language needs promotion and support in some areas, particularly in the audiovisual field. It is very good that it is guaranteed that there is content in all Spanish languages on platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Prime Video, Disney +, etc. The defense of multilingualism is a duty of the State, which in general does so with good marks, as recognized by the Council of Europe. There is nothing to criticize the agreement between ERC and PSOE so that a minimum of 5% of the dubbing is in Catalan on these large platforms. But the Generalitat when it cries on this issue is hypocritical. Since 2010 there is a law that allows 25% of the films shown in theaters in Catalonia to be dubbed or subtitled in Catalan. Right now it does not reach 3%. The pro-independence governments have been unable to develop the regulations and put the necessary means to do so.
The obsession of nationalists is always the school, where they insist on imposing monolingualism in the name of cohesion. But language immersion is a triple failure. It violates individual rights because it excludes Spanish as a vehicular language. It is unconstitutional and that is why the TSJC always agrees with families who ask for a minimum of 25% in Spanish. And, finally, it doesn’t get young people to speak more Catalan either. Now the Government wants to send linguistic commissioners to schools to denounce teachers who use Spanish in their classrooms, and also to monitor that children play in Catalan in the courtyards. Delirious. Language policies are only good if they add up, not when they pursue or exclude.