Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Number of Catalan speakers rising despite adverse context

CNA / Pau Cortina

Barcelona (ACN).- The number of Catalan speakers has exceeded the 10 million people mark, according to the latest report on the situation of the Catalan language, issued on Wednesday by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (Catalonia’s Science and Language Academy, IEC) with data from 2012. This means that 72.4 % of the population now speaks the language in the various areas of the Catalan linguistic community. Moreover, 12.8 million people have a good understanding of the language, that is to say 91.7 % of the population of these territories. In addition, 7.3 million people can write in Catalan, meaning just over half of the citizens living in Catalan speaking areas (Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands, a small part of Aragon, the French Roussillon and the Italian Alghero). The study, conducted by the IEC’s Cruscat Network confirms last year’s trend, when the number of Catalan speakers just reached 10 million people. Paradoxically, this trend is occurring in an unfavourable context, with an “adverse socio-political environment” in Catalan-speaking territories outside Catalonia. According to the report, the political and judicial “offensive” against Catalan are the main threats to the standardization of a language, which however, continues “to progress”. The report refers to the Spanish Government’s Education Reform, Aragon’s Language Law, the Balearic Islands’ policy changes and many measures adopted in the Valencian Country.

This progressive advance of the language as a whole coincides with “regional unbalance” as underlined by the Catalan Language Observatory in their 2011 report. Differences, in the words of the authors of the report, are accentuated “by the political offensive against the Catalan language and the legislative siege” it is victim of. 

A constant growth in spite of a political “offensive” against Catalan

The Balearic Islands Government’s decree forcing schools wanting to teach in Catalan to submit a parental guarantee equal to or greater than 65%, the new name given to Catalan (LAPAO) in the Catalan-speaking area in Aragon, the new Spanish Government’s Education Law (going against Catalonia’s linguistic immersion model) or more recently the closure of ‘Canal 9’ (Valencia’s Public Television Broadcaster, which was in Catalan) are some of the measures that go against Catalan language. They all point out to what is considered “the anomaly of the Catalan language” which makes significant progress despite an unfavourable or even hostile socio-political context. So were the words of Òscar Escuder, the President of the Platform for the Catalan Language, which organised the study along with Omnium Cultural (the civil-society organisation in charge of promoting the Catalan language and culture). Escuder added that Catalan’s greatest obstacle was that “not only did it not have its own state to protect its best interests, but it had a state [Spain] working against them”. He was referring to the Spanish Establishment’s numerous attempts at restraining the Catalan language.

In turn, Miquel Àngel Pradilla, the Director of the ‘Xarxa CRUSCAT’, a research unit of the IEC, stressed that since 2011 the changes in leadership in the various regions of Spain and the Spanish Government itself had “broken the dynamics in favour of the Catalan language”. Two years later, “the arrangements of the new political force” have started to find other ways to manage the language. “This is where we find the current political offensive, especially against the regulatory status of the Catalan language”, concluded Pradilla.

At European Union level, Catalan ranked 16th in its number of speakers

Moreover, the report insists that the Catalan language is within average at European level. It is ranked 16th out of 27 European Union Member States in its number of speakers (with data from 2012). If Croatia is included it would still ranked 16th out of 28 countries. In addition, the constant growth in the number of speakers makes it the seventh language in its ability to “attract”.  The study also indicates that the Catalan language is ranked 19th in the world in its number of users on Twitter.

President of the Institute of Catalan Studies, Joandomènec Ros underlined the importance of such a report, explaining it enabled society to have access to “academic and scientific” information, “which allowed for a critical reading on the evolution of the language in different territories of the Catalan-speaking areas”.

  • catalan_language_report_2012_data

  • valencian_tv_building

  • The presentation of the 2012 Report on the Catalan Language (by P. Cortina)
  • The building and logo of Valencian Public TV Broadcaster, which has been shut down this November and had its contents in Catalan and (by ACN)