The language of others, by Rafael Jorba

The indicators on the use of Catalan concern the Government, especially in the school: if in 2006 67.8% of the students said that the group activities were carried out in Catalan “always & rdquor; or “almost always & rdquor ;, now only 21.4% say they use this language. The ‘prodigious decade’ of the ‘procés’ has not corrected this trend. I note, from the outset, that it is still paradoxical that, if in my adolescence we spoke in Spanish in class and in Catalan in the courtyard, now –with immersion– the trend is often the opposite.

It is undeniable that the new migratory waves have added more complexity to Catalan society, but it is also true that the identity tension it has broken the social consent that was forged in the years of the Transition among Castilian speakers. Now, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Assemblea de Catalunya, it has been recalled that a collective imaginary was built that combined national rights and social rights from a motor idea: “Catalonia, a single people”.

This bankruptcy of consent was produced by the passage of political Catalanism, understood as the common denominator of the majority of political forces, to sovereignty. It is not surprising that some of the children and grandchildren of that generation that embraced the unifying slogan of the Assemblea de Catalunya – “Llibertat, amnesty, Estatut d’Autonomia & rdquor; – have now taken refuge in the language of their parents. The breaking of consent helps to understand this trend, especially among a new generation trained in language immersion.

A decade ago I analyzed these risks, which are now confirmed, in my book ‘The other’s gaze. Manifesto for otherness’ (RBA, 2011). I summarize some of those reflections. An elementary fact should not be forgotten: Catalan is statutorily the language of Catalonia, but nowhere is it written that Spanish is an improper or strange language. Catalan complexity, which was seen as a brake, can be an added value. 21st century societies will be more complex, more plural; also more conflictive.

Bilingualism is not a deficit, but a surplus. We learn from an early age that the name of things is not confused with things – a ‘taula’ is also a ‘table’ – and, while we learn to read and write, we learn to have a plural, multidimensional vision of the reality. The normalization of Catalan should be more linked to the promotion of cold values –The rights and duties of citizenship– than that of hot values ​​–identitary and symbolic–. The axis of this citizenship pact, which includes the duty to know the Catalan language, is the social model that is offered to citizens.

We must not fall into the temptation of linking the future of Catalan to the fate of a certain political bet nor limit their destiny to the limits of a certain institutional ceiling. Catalan society is bilingual, and the normalization policy must integrate this reality. The Government of Spain must also promote Catalan as a Spanish language, based on a double principle: there are languages ​​that are ‘learned’, such as Catalan in Catalonia, and languages ​​that are ‘understood’: Catalan and its culture, as well as other Spanish languages ​​and cultures, in the whole of Spain.

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Thus, faced with the temptation to sponsor a monolingual model, he recalled some reflections of the Flemish writer Stefan Hertmans, in ‘Le Monde’ [18-V-2009]: “Nowhere in the world, insistence on the right to speak exclusively your own language favors integration; it only arouses aversion and misunderstanding (…). Belgium can save itself with only one thing: through of a policy of mutual respect. And this respect begins with a cultural gesture: learning the other’s language and speaking it out of respect for otherness –by democratic conviction– & rdquor ;.

“He who wants a unilingual culture, who refuses to speak a second language in this country, is already a separatist, whether he is French or Dutch (…). In the distant past, Cardinal Mercier, primate of Belgium, had said: ‘Belgium will be Latin or it will not be’. History has denied it: Belgium will be polyglot or it will not be “. Respect for the language of others is the intangible element of any policy of linguistic normalization. In Belgium as well as in Catalonia and in the whole of Spain.

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