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Immersion, with the excuse of giving opportunities to Spanish-speaking children, to guarantee that everyone learn Catalan, what pursues is the dream of monolingualism

Joaquim Coll

Sunday, 07/07/2019 – 22:58

In tatters the dream of independence, the nationalists are pushing further with a new agonizing campaign on the future of Catalan. “A sick language is dying”, some of them exclaim; and all because according to a study by a secessionist entity (Plataforma per la Llengua), only 14.6% of the conversations in the schools’ courtyards are in Catalan. What do we do now?, they ask themselves. If with immersion they had managed to limit the use of Spanish to a few hours in school, it turns out that they sneak into free time and leisure even among Catalan-speaking youngs. But let no one be alarmed. The announcement of the linguistic apocalypse, which TV-3 fed a few days ago with a report, is just propaganda. The summary of all available data is that Catalan has never been better than now. So, why there is so much intoxication? First, to satisfy the psychology of the nationalist public in need of periodic doses of victimhood to keep the ranks and files tight. Second, to keep Catalan kidnapped politically. And, third, to close any possibility of opening a rational debate on the school language model.

Catalan language is not sick, but instead it is a vigorous and socially useful language that in the twentieth century has closed an authentic golden century despite the Franco regime. We, the Catalan speakers, are limited only by the demographic weight of a small language in a globalized world. Nothing very different from the problems that afflict other languages. The truly sick is not the language but the Catalan society, or at least a very substantial part of it. The evil should be named as reduction of the Catalan language to a single language and culture, while Castilian and all Spanish is considered a threat and Catalan-speaking Catalans are deprived of their linguistic rights. The outcome is a model of “Catalan school in language and contents” (it is always emphasized) living with its back to the bilingual reality, not because Catalan needs to exclude the Castilian from education but because for the nationalists the language of the half of the Catalans is a nuisance. For the same reason that the new batches of pro-sovereignty politicians are reluctant to speak in Castilian, language that in some cases, especially if they come from the interior of Catalonia, they dominate in a deficient manner. Immersion, with the excuse of giving opportunities to Spanish-speaking children, to ensure that everyone learns Catalan, as if there was only one pedagogical path to it, only pursues the dream of monolingualism.

Trilingualism in schools

However, the social debate is contradictory because immersion has become a salvific term, whose hidden face, the ideological exclusion of Castilian as the vehicular language, many find it difficult to recognize. Although no one claims to want a monolingual school and there is an immense social majority in surveys in favor of trilingualism, criticisms are often misunderstood. There are so many times when from the media, parties and teaching unions we have heard that the Catalan school was a model of cohesion and success, that many parents and teachers prefer not to ask uncomfortable questions. Is it normal to say that Spanish is already learned in the yard when a tutor is uneasy about its learning in meetings with school teams? Does it make sense that in Catalan-speaking environments they immerse themselves in Catalan instead of reinforcing the command of Spanish and English? Does school monolingualism not make Catalan a language too formal and even unfriendly among a part of adolescents? Why is it not accepted that both languages ​​are vehicular and that their proportion is variable according to compensatory criteria, always respecting a minimum?

The drama is that the Catalan left, although it does not share the monolingual goal of nationalism, does not want to give the sociopolitical battle and prefers to take refuge in the “flexibilization” of the model. Maybe it is not a bad strategy because rational debate is not possible and immersion has become a totem of Catalanness and a political taboo, reflecting a society trapped in the identity struggle. Socialists and Communs fear to be accused of buying the positions of PP and Cs, who defend bilingualism and the application of the rulings of the TSJC. The immersion could have made sense in metropolitan environments and for a limited period of time but not as a general and permanent model. The truth is the truth, say it Agamemnon or his swineherd.


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