All entries for Tuesday 19 December 2006

December 19, 2006

Catalanism: The Language

Catalan nationalism“Utilitza la llengua”, “this university discriminates the language”, “en Català”. They are but a few signs of fierce militance around my university´s campus which to me come across as grossly exaggerated.

After three months and a half here I feel I can speak with at least some expertise on matters of society here in Catalunya. After all, it´s a matter that we, Erasmus students, come across with all the time, and discuss even more.

Militant Catalanism seems to express itself mostly in constantly claiming and reclaiming language-rights for the Catalan-speaking majority. Not such a bad thing, I hear you say, and in principle I agree. The point, however, is that bilinguality rights are continually marginalised, not such a great thing for those who speak really only one of the two official languages, Spanish.

My Argentinean housemates don´t have a single good word for the language. They find it ugly and go around speaking only Spanish, managing to do so with a little force here and there. I chose to take a semester of (freely offered) language classes, nonetheless making only small progress.

Despite my good-will and attempts, however, I encounter fairly little understanding. When I do group work in my class, there are still students who send me (and only me) emails in Catalan, which I just can´t understand completely. My housemate Mario, who has a Catalan girlfriend, complains that his girlfriend´s social circle doesn´t make the least effort to accommodate his lack of Catalan by changing the language. This contrary to us, he argues, who all spoke English when a friend of mine came to visit. Fair enough to me, even more so because Spanish is not nearly as drastic a language change for Catalan speakers.

Classes at the university are taught in two languages, some in Catalan, others in Castellano. Still, at times a Castellano-speaking teacher, in the heat of a debate, turns to Catalan. Meanwhile, students, as a standard rule, address their professors in Catalan.

So, in this context: why all this unnecessary militance? Why this great hatred of biligualism? One voice in my head says that locals are just not very interested in foreigners here, another says that can´t be generally true. Then, do they all hate speaking Spanish? After all the time I´ve spent here, the Catalans still owe me the answer.

Photo: Catalan nationalist marches in February of this year.


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