Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

No Sabía - More Than a 300-Year Long Language Struggle (Part 1)

Barcelona During our stay in Barcelona  a couple of years ago, we realized that - In Barcelona Learning "Spanish" is not enough.

Since then, we've been following the recent developments in Catalonia with interest. (Left, view from Antonio Gaudí's Parc Güell)

Jordi, our friend in Barcelona, has continued to educate us about the historical background of Catalonia's differences with "Spain." And I certainly did not know - no sabía - that this struggle, has its 300-year anniversary this year.

Here is an excerpt from one of Jordi's recent emails:
"When 'Spain' was founded by joining Catalonia and Castilia, each of the kingdoms kept its own laws, its economical and social systems, political structures, internal hierarchy, and its traditions.

All this was destroyed in 1714, when King Felipe V of Castilia invaded Catalonia and eliminated all the political, economical, and cultural systems of Catalonia. The language was part of this process, and Castilian, proclaimed as 'the Spanish', was imposed as the only language accepted, even in the private sphere.

For the last three centuries, Catalonia has tried repeatedly to recover the institutions of a free country but has been violently attacked by 'Spain' each time. The 'Catalan Republic', for instance, has been proclaimed five times. The last one, in 1934, ended when the dictator Francisco Franco invaded Catalonia, with the help of Hitler's and Mussolini's armies.

Since 1714, we Catalans have never been asked by the Spanish whether or not we wanted to be part of Spain. After the Franco period and 40 years of dictatorship, the new winds of democracy gave Catalonia some hope for change but, sadly, after more than 30 year of transition between dictatorship and democracy, the real democracy is still not here.

Besides, not only have the 'autonomy' and recovery of the Catalan institutions not gone ahead, but Madrid’s government is implementing a new plan of extinction of the Catalan culture, subtle but persistent."

If you google the Economist article "How to Make a Country for Everybody," you'll find some excellent information about the Catalan language and how other countries are dealing with language issues.

The article's final comment makes a lot of sense: "The cheapest solution is merely an attitudinal one: all Spaniards should treat Galician, Basque and Catalan not as regional languages. They are languages of Spain, full stop. Treating them as such, and not as a bother, would go a long way."

In Part 2 we'll let Jordi explain his view of the Catalan/Castilian language struggles and how the current language policies play out in Catalonia and Spain.