Posted on by Peter Rettig

No sabía - Language Learning in Catalonia: Castilian vs. Catalan (Part 2)

GamesforLanguage-school children Sabía (I knew) - that Scotland recently voted to stay part of Great Britain. It should have given Madrid some confidence that letting the democratic process play out may in fact be the right idea.

Or maybe Madrid already "knows," (sabe) how Catalonia would vote, if they were allowed to do so. A recent article in The New Republic, Spain is Learning All the Wrong Lessons from Scotland's Referendum, analyses Madrid's position and actions.

In an earlier post we had excerpted a portion of our friend Jordi's e-mail in which he traced the political conflict back to 1714.

Here is Part 2, in which he describes his view of the ongoing language struggle.
"There is no problem with the level of the Spanish/Castilian language in Catalonia. All the statistics show that the current Catalan educational system - which is in fact bilingual - provides the students with a higher knowledge of both languages - Catalan and Castilian - than the monolingual Spanish system.

The knowledge of Castilian in Catalonia is above the average in Spain and even higher than in many parts of Castilia itself. There is not a single person in Catalonia that knows only Catalan and not Castilian. However, for many residents of Catalonia, the opposite situation is true. 

What the people that ask for 'more Spanish' really want is 'less Catalan' in Catalonia, asserting 'the right' to be ignorant of the language of the country they are living in. In fact, they deny the existence of Catalonia as a country.

On the other hand, it is worth knowing is that, for the period of 2013-2014 only five (yes, 5) families asked for an education in 'Spanish only' - in a population of about 7.5 million people. For the current period of 2014-2015, there is not a single family yet asking for 'Spanish only' education.

This, in spite of the fact that Mr. Wert, the Minister of Education in Madrid, has decreed that the Catalan Government will pay for 'Spanish only' education of students that ask for it.
In the Valencian County, thousands of families have been asking the Government for new schools where the functional language would be Catalan, which is their mother tongue.

The response of Minister Wert has been to close many of the Catalan schools and to increase the number of schools in 'only Castilian.' There have been many demonstrations against that decision but the policies of education don’t change.

In the Balearic Islands, where there is the same system of immersion in Catalan as in Catalonia, a new law allows schools to hold only 30% of the classes in Catalan. There has been a long strike of about two months, in which more than the 90% of teachers, and children with their families, participated. Eventually the teachers decided to return to work but not abide by that rule.

So, as a matter of conclusion, I would say that there is no 'language problem' in Catalonia, but only policies for the 'cultural genocide' of Catalonia that Spain tries to implement."

Those are strong words by Jordi, born out of frustration with the often heavy-handed educational policies decreed by Madrid, but not isolated ones. We recently met a Spanish college professor who has lived in the US for many years, but is following the events in Spain with great interest. Growing up in the northwest of Spain with a Basque father and a mother from Catalonia, she knows the language issues well.

She told us that her nieces and nephews in Catalonia are all participating in the many demonstrations for a referendum. And while they all support the independence of Catalonia from Spain they also are quite pessimistic about the outcome of a vote - assuming that Spain's Supreme Court would even allow such a referendum to proceed in the first place.