Marked Rise in Catalan Language not Without its Implications


If you have ever visited Barcelona before and were taken aback by the lack of Spanish present in the city, you aren´t alone.  As Barcelona belongs to the region of Catalonia, the native language is Catalan, not Spanish. To many first time visitors, it can come as a bit of a surprise in regards to the somewhat absence of the Spanish language.

When Franco imposed a strictly Spanish-only education system in the 1970´s, the Catalan language was essentially put on a temporary hold by the general public, and was spoken solely in homes among family members and friends.  However, in 1978, when Spain restored democracy, the Catalan language was revived and it was once again practiced openly.  As an effect, after a period of time it began to be integrated in the schools and eventually led to certain schools teaching all subjects in Catalan.

Because of the history that this Romance language has endured, the majority of native Catalan speakers are passionate about preserving the language.  As a result, many believe strongly in the importance of keeping education strictly in Catalan.  Many public schools in Barcelona receive students from primarily Spanish-speaking homes, but upon entering the school are spoken to exclusively in Catalan.  The posters on the walls, media, textbooks, and activities are in Catalan.  However, select parents are concerned that minimal class time, only about 2 class periods or 3 hours per week, is dedicated to learning Spanish.  They have complained that their children are acquiring a below-average, and in some cases, deficient Spanish level.  University professors have noted that some students have not acquired a high enough level of Spanish to keep up with the pace of the courses.

A little one looks onto Catalan vocabulary terms. Many parents remain restless about the lack of education of the Castillian language.

A young girl looks on over a protest encouraging the rise of education in Catalan

Demonstrations are frequent for Catalan residents amongst those who send their children to public schools. They are fighting for the education to continue primarily in Catalan to preserve the endangered language.

With Spanish being the second most commonly spoken language worldwide, it is with due reason that some families rest uneasy.  However, others are hardly preoccupied, as most of the children end up being bilingual anyways.  Today, the younger generations are exposed more than ever to a plethora of external influences that lead to the development of a second language (television, music, friends, and so on).  With that being said, many believe there lies a higher necessity to defend it, as it remains vulnerable to disappearance, contrary to the Spanish language.

As Catalan has become the language of the local government and businesses, the past decade has been marked by a notable increase in government campaigning to promote businesses, restaurants and shops displaying products and items unaccompanied by Spanish.  A new law has passed that requires Catalan proficiency as a prerequisite for public sector jobs.

In continuation, coming along with the desire to protect the language is the succession movement currently trending in Catalonia.  As found in recent polls, about half of this region in Spain wants to separate from the rest of its country for a variety of reasons — one being to preserve the language and the identity that comes along with it.  A vote will take place in November just shortly after Scotland takes its vote in its desire to seperate from Great Britain.  Hopes are not high for the vote, as it is predicted that the Spanish government will deem it an unconstitutional action.  In regards to Catalonia´s education system, time will tell as to what the future holds for its bilingual standards and public expectations.


Photo Credits: Ramon Oromi Farre, Somescola, Kiko Alario Salom

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