Friday, 20 June 2014

50.7% of Catalans usually converse in Spanish and 36.3% in Catalan


Barcelona (ACN.) – Just 36.3% of Catalans use Catalan as their everyday language, according to a survey presented on Friday by the Catalan Ministry of Culture and the Catalan Institute of Statistics (Idescat). The survey examining language use in the population of 2013 found that 31% of the Catalan population had Catalan as their mother tongue but a slightly higher percentage used Catalan regularly as their main language: 36.3%. 55.1% of those surveyed reported having Spanish as their mother tongue, with 50.7% using Spanish as their main language. In 2003, 46% reported having Catalan as their main language, but this fell to 35.6% by 2008. Additionally, the report found that 94.3% of Catalans surveyed in 2013 could at least understand Catalan, with 80.4% able to speak it, 82.4% able to read it and 60.4% able to write in it.

The Catalan Ministry of Culture and the Idescat have conducted the survey, presenting information about the social use of Catalan. The survey has been carried out every five years since its inception in 2003, and involves interviewing nearly 7,500 people aged 15 and over. The geographical scope covers the whole of Catalonia, as well as Barcelona city (the results of which are awaiting publication), and the Val d'Aran County, a valley in the Pyrenees that has Occitan as their native language.

Commenting on the results of the survey, the Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, said that Catalonia "consolidates a diverse and multilingual linguistic model where Catalan tends to have complete normalcy." The Minister also stressed that "Spanish is not decreasing in Catalonia and all the things that are being said in this respect are false." Mascarell reiterated that "Catalan has stood the test of immigration, globalization and the denial of the Spanish State and has been preserved." He also noted that with the data in hand we can say that "the Catalan language model has triumphed."


94.3% understands Catalan while only 60.4% can write in it

Regarding knowledge of Catalan, 94.3% of those surveyed in 2013 indicated that they could understand Catalan, slightly down on 94.6% in 2008 and 96.5% in 2003. In 2013, 80.4% responded that they can speak Catalan, an improvement on 78.3% in 2008, but still less than the 2003 figure, which was 81.6%.  For reading comprehension, 82.4% said they could read Catalan in 2013; compared with 81.7% in 2008 and 89% in 2003.

With regards to writing in Catalan, 60.4% of respondents in 2013 indicated they could write, compared with 58.8% in 2003 and 61.8% in 2008. In absolute numbers, according to the study, there were 5,899,400 people aged 15 and over who could understand Catalan in 2013; 5,027,200 people who speak the language; 5,152,400 who can read the language and 3,776,300 that can write in it.

The first language at home

One thing that has stood out in the exposition of the survey is that almost three million people who do not have Catalan as their first language are now able to speak it.  The data, as explained, is the difference between people who can talk in Catalan (5,027,200) and the people who have Catalan, alone or shared with Spanish, as their first language or mother tongue (2,092,700). In fact, in Catalonia there are 1,940,000 people who have Catalan as their first language (ie, the language that they firstly speak as children), 3,448,500 people who have Spanish and more than 152,700 people who have both Catalan and Spanish.

According to the data, 36.4% of the whole population regard Catalan as their language of identification and 47.6% use Spanish.

Regarding the evolution of these figures, in 2003, 56.1% reported having Spanish as their first language, compared with 55% in 2008 and 55.1% in 2013. In 2003, 36.2% of the population reported having Catalan as their first language, in 2008, this figure dropped to 31.6% and in 2013, stood at 31%. In 2003, 2.5% responded that their first language was jointly Catalan and Spanish. In 2008, this increased to 3.8% and in 2013 fell to 2.4%.

The language mainly used

Additionally, in 2003, 47.2% of those surveyed responded that their main language was Spanish. In 2008, this number fell to 45.9%, and in 2013, rose to 50.7%. Meanwhile, in 2003, 46% said they mainly conversed in Catalan; in 2008 this figure dropped to 35.6% and in 2013, stood 36.3%. In 2003, 4.7% responded that they usually conversed in both Catalan and Spanish. In 2008, this increased to 12% and in 2013, fell to 6.8%.

In this context, the Director of the Institute of Statistics of Catalonia (Idescat), Frederic Udina has placed particular emphasis on the demographic context and its impact on the results of the survey. In fact, there are 3.7 million people who were born in Catalonia (58.8% of the population), 1.39 million who were born elsewhere in Spain (21.9%) and 1.22 million born abroad (19.1%). Also, in absolute numbers, between 2003 and 2013 there has been a growth of 384,000 people in the native population, a decrease of more than 236,000 people born in the rest of Spain and an increase of 701,000 people from overseas.

Furthermore, 56.5% of Catalans born in Catalonia use Catalan as their main language and 34% use Spanish. In contrast, 85.1% of those born elsewhere in Spain mainly speak Spanish with just 8.7% using Catalan. While 36.8% said they were interested in learning Catalan or improving their knowledge of Catalan, 54.7% said they were not interested.

Greater Barcelona vs. then rest of Catalonia

People living in Barcelona and Tarragona metropolitan areas are significantly less likely to have Catalan as their main language, the survey found. In Barcelona Metropolitan area only 27.8% of people mainly converse in Catalan, while in Tarragona metropolitan area and the Penedès County, 36% speak mainly in Catalan.

However, Catalan is the most common language in the Ebro Delta region, with 73.8% describing it as their main language. This is followed by 63% in the Central Counties, 61.9% in Western Catalonia, 61.3% in the High Pyrenees and Val d'Aran, and 51.5% in the Girona Province. In Barcelona metropolitan areas it is only 27.8% and Spanish is the main language for 60% of the population. Regarding Aranese Occitan language, 80.7% of the population of Val d'Aran understand Occitan and 55.6% can speak it.

English and French

The study also indicates that in 2013, 38.4% of the population understands English, with 31% able to converse in English and 34.7% and 30.6% knowing how to read and write respectively. Almost a quarter of respondents could understand French, with 16.4% able to speak it. Compared with 2008, knowledge of English has grown by more than 5 percentage points. Knowledge of French has increased slightly in terms of comprehension and reading, but has stagnated in terms of written and spoken production.

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  • The Catalan Culture Minister, Ferran Mascarell (centre), presenting the study (by P. Francesch)