1 JUL 2019 – 09:12 CEST
The spokeswoman of the Catalan Government, Meritxell Budó, on June 11. On video, the moment when she refuses to answer in Spanish. Europapress
Perhaps because of a sudden nostalgia for my journalistic beginnings, in which I became the first woman to enter inside the Barça dressing room (between the cries of Cruyff and the scare of players who covered themselves as best as they could), I decided to see a few days ago the commemorative report of the Recopa played by Barça in Basel. It was 40 years ago. With their white hair, hobbled by so much kick received, appeared three idols of my youth, Asensi, Reixach and Sanchez. Proud of their raids, they remembered that time. They laughed and talked, straight as an arrow, mingling Catalan and Castilian.
The same year in which they won the Recopa (1979), Catalonia got the transfer of competences in language policy. The aim was to put an end to diglossia, the preponderance of one dominant language (Castilian) over another (Catalan) that since 1939 had been condemned to the private environment. Four decades have passed since the Recopa and the transfer and we are walking towards the opposite diglossia. Today they want to transform us in a country which ceased to exist in the sixteenth century, in a monolingual Catalonia.
The Government of Torra, committed to the citizens losing a language and a culture that is ours, wants to impose Catalan as a single language, demonizing the use of Castilian; it is difficult to explain that the spokeswoman of his Government, Meritxell Budó, refuses (in Catalan) to answer questions (in Spanish) because “they have not been put before in Catalan”. The reasons are as convoluted as my previous sentence.
In 1983, the Parliament approved the Law of Linguistic Normalization, with 105 votes in favor, none against and one abstention, that of the Carlist from Lleida, Joan Besa Esteve. The citizens of that time thought that the objective was to save Catalan from its process of disappearance, to ensure that it was co-official and to teach it in school to our children. Besa, with whom I spoke years later, confessed to me that he never believed that he would be the only one in discord. “That law,” he told me, “has been the great political success of Jordi Pujol to nationalize the country and advance, through education, towards independence”. I thought he exaggerated.
Time has passed and the linguistic immersion of our children and grandchildren is absolute. All the classes of the public or concerted school, with the exception of those that teach “other languages”, are in Catalan. In Spanish, there are two hours a week during primary school and, theoretically, one more in secondary school. All those born after the eighties have been “normalized” in Catalan.
My learning of that language, in the sixties, was absolutely informal, with the collection of the magazine Patufet that my grandfather kept and singing, with my grandmother at the piano, the Cant de la Senyera and the Rossinyol which go to França. One afternoon she sang so loud that the concierge, Mrs. Carme, called to let her know that a neighbor had complained, fearing that we would get into a mess. We did not. She continued singing in the language she preferred.
In spite of the normalization, 99% of Catalans understand Spanish and 96.4% speak it without any problem, we are bilingual; perhaps because Spanish is still the mother tongue of 55% of Catalans, while Catalan is the mother tongue of 32%. The number of absolutely bilingual people continues to increase, it does all over the world, where words have no digital borders. And no, English will not be our second language no matter how hard some dreamers of independence try to convince us.
The mother tongues, those that are learned and filled with accents, expressions and experiences in childhood, are not removed from our brain or our feelings, whatever the many laws dictated by dictatorship or democracy; nor do we forget the words of those who left nor the stories or poems read in their original language.
Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer who wrote in the only language of his monolingual country, said that his homeland was Portuguese. My homeland is two languages, Spanish and Catalan, learned from parents and grandparents in a park in Albacete, on the beaches of Castelldefels, in schoolyards or at Christmas tables where words have always been mixed without rules or complexes. I will continue talking so that my interlocutor understands me, because I can and I know, without converting a language into a weapon or political assignment. And I will reject the dismissal of a citizen or the closure of his bar, his life, by addressing a client in Spanish or Catalan. We cannot go backwards and become linguistic inquisitors.