Xavier Vidal-Folch / 16 November 2020
Three-year-olds in a Catalan class at a school in Barcelona. CARLES RIBAS
Political battles with a linguistic excuse tend to be miserable. Because they often appeal frivolously to deep feelings, elevate anecdotes to category and insist on dividing citizenship.
But also because they distort reality. The coexistence of languages in Spanish democracy is a great success.
Cases of conflict — though minimal, none deserve contempt — are rather episodic or anecdotal. And the Castilian or Spanish has finally and dignifiedly emerged from the attempts to use it as a spearhead of the aggressive and centralist nationalism that the dictatorship sought.
And in the case that absorbs more periodic controversies, Catalan language, the same thing happens: never as today have more people spoken and written in this language; its language has never had more prestige; school has never been so successful in offering it to all users, and Catalan students have never shown such mastery as their counterparts in the knowledge of Spanish. And with very few quarrels. Of the 5,027 schools in Catalonia, counted with the fingers of one hand those that have experienced significant friction.
Both the decline or disappearance of Spanish in Catalonia (which tried to fight Juan Ramón Lodares and other philologists) and the irreversible trend in the disappearance of Catalan (predicted by the victim manifesto of Els Marges in 1979 and by the xenophobic and skeptical of Koiné in 2016) are fictions which are not based on data.
For decades, there has been an intense parallel between two processes, autonomous but contemporary — something that will have to do with the architecture of the democratic state of the autonomies — the expansion, also international, of Spanish. and the normalization and extension of the knowledge of all the languages of the Spaniards. 483 million people have Spanish as their mother tongue, 580 million use it and almost 22 million study it as a foreign language (2019); 94.63% of Catalans understand Catalan (2013), more than 80% speak and read it; more than 60% write it, which quadruples the 1980 figure. This parallel suggests that both expansions work without mutual prejudice, that there is no zero sum, that both languages — and, above all, their speakers. – they are winners.
Everything admits improvement. But nothing from malice, contempt, ignorance, or superiority syndrome.