thebadPoll – should everyone understand Catalan?

I’ve been planning to add a polls feature to thebadrash for quite some time. Then South of Watford and Iberian Notes did it, so I thought I’d better hold off for a bit. Anyway, here’s the first one, and I’ve chosen a topic which has come up, yet again, in the Catalan news.

The Constitutional court in Madrid is deliberating on potential changes to the Catalan statute of autonomy, approved by referendum here about two years ago. One of the clauses that might be removed is the bit that says that people living in Catalonia should know Catalan. It’s basically copied from the Spanish constitution, which makes a similar demand in support of Spanish.

So my question is simple: in your opinion, should people living and working in Catalonia be able to understand Catalan? You can vote below in this post, or at the top of the sidebar to the right >>>>

UPDATE: By the way, I’ll try to run at least one of these each week, so it’ll be a regular feature. Of course, as well as voting, you are more than welcome to comment on the question or your response using the traditional comments system. Let me know if you have any problems voting, too.

33 thoughts on “thebadPoll – should everyone understand Catalan?

  1. While Catalan should be part of Catalunya, ie official bi-lingualism (is that the word I’m looking for?) why should people from the rest of Spain be excluded from living and working there becuase they can’t speak Catalan?
    Especially when Barcelona is Spains’ second city. Go down this route and only Basque speakers can work in Pais Vasco; or Portuguese speakers in Galicia. Etc.
    At this rate, Spain will just be Andalucia, Madrid and the 2 Castillas.

  2. Can we have a bit of clarification before casting our votes? What does “should” mean in the question – does it mean it would be a good idea if they learnt the language or is there a hint of obligations? Maybe we need to have a third option to vote for – “Depends”.

  3. Graeme, you win. The question is taken directly from 324, the Catalan news station. I saw it yesterday morning and 90% answered ‘Yes’ despite the survey being framed in such a murky way that your answer depends entirely on your kneejerk reaction.

    Of course 90% of respondents on 324 think that everyone ‘should’ speak Catalan: they’re watching a TV news station which actively promotes the Catalan language. And of course we’d see a different result on thebadPoll because our readership, while slightly smaller than the number of people watching 324, is more likely to live outside the reach of the Catalan media.

    So should I now retire this poll and come up with a better question?

  4. I’ve added the ‘It depends’ option, as I feel that fits with the slightly ignominious and vague beginning this new feature has had.

  5. Don’t know Tom, as I’m against Catalan as a language being shoved down our throats I tend to agree with a mate of mine at The British Council – he says if it ( the Catalan language) wasn’t too in yer face sort of thing he would learn it! I make him right-I mean I’ve been here a while now and speak ubelievably good Spanish 😉 and I understand a lot of Catalan. I like to think of myself as an Aznar type Catalan speaker – hablo Catalan en la intimidad y con amigos – lol

  6. The Catalan language may appear to some to be ‘too in yer face’ simply because Catalonia isn’t an independent country and so they naturally assume the default option to be Spanish, much the in the same way as is the case with English in Wales. This is the option viewed as ‘natural, neutral and intrinsically non-ideological’, anything else is thus ‘artificial, ideological, nationalistic imposition’ etc.

    Bulgarian and Danish -taken at random-, are much more “in yer face” in Sophia and Copenhagen respectively than Catalan will ever be in Barcelona, yet hardly anybody would take issue with that. The difference is that Bulgaria and Denmark are independent nations with an internationally recognised, unchallenged status.

    Things start to get somewhat more interesting when stateless languages refuse to die the slow and natural death scripted in the age-old screenplay of the classical European nation-state and hence begin making trouble by demanding equal rights…with hitherto unchallenged state languages, see Quebec and Catalonia.

    A classic of social science may help cast some light on the complex topic of nation, state, language and nationalism: Billig, Michael (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage Publications. Available from British Council libraries, too.

    With Estonian, Maltese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovene and Slovak now enjoying full language rights as fully-fledged members of the EU it is rather unrealistic to hope that 21st century Catalans will be willing to be penned up in Gaeltachts, using their language only on national holidays to charm busloads of tourists while donning barretines…

  7. I can hardly voice my opinion with more eloquence than David, above.

    I can only add a side note; the fact that somebody working in The British Council (allegedly) feels that Catalan in “in yer face” in Catalunya only makes me wish it was even more so. It is time that people who cannot speak Catalan and live and work here feel the same embarrassment as they would feel living and working in London, in the German Council perhaps, without speaking English.

    Finally, I heartily wish a better future for Catalan that the state of Irish in Ireland outside the Gaeltacht, and even within these enclaves. It should act as a history lessons for the Generalitat and a reminder that even an independent state is no elixir for a minority language, and it deserves and requires judicious defence.

  8. “At this rate, Spain will just be Andalucia, Madrid and the 2 Castillas.”

    ha, ha, ha,

    Spain IS just Andalucia, Madrid and the 2 Castillas.

    Spanish STATE is the whole thing, that is, in democracy, I mean.

    But by the force (economics, tools of state, public investment and bla, bla, bla) and 40 years of dictatorship David Jackson feels that the “will just be” is the proper answer. bye, bye catalonia, catalan and all the staff.

    David Jackson doesn’t worry…

  9. why should people from the rest of Europe be excluded from living and working there becuase they can’t speak Spanish?

    an state laws?
    for instance

    no cultural point of view…

  10. Imagine if oil engineers in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq were suddenly forced to learn Arabic or aid workers in Somalia forced to learn Somali at gunpoint!?

    “Should” is integral in the question…as it leaves us with the option of, “Of course they should”…but excludes the very distasteful, “You MUST!”

  11. Aye, they should.
    It’s a matter of common courtesy. If you refuse to learn Catalan, it means that every time you talk to a Catalan speaker, they won’t be able to use their language to communicate with you. And this, in their homeland, is unkind and a total lack of respect, pure and simple. It’s alright if don’t plan to stay, or if you’re still learning. But it’s not acceptable if you just don’t care. If you can’t bear learning Catalan, you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. There’s plenty of countries in the world where Catalan is not spoken! Why did you choose to come here precisely? It’s totally illogical. If you don’t want to learn French, don’t go to France. If you don’t want to learn Catalan, please don’t come to Catalonia.

  12. I think the comparison of Catalonia to countries like Denmark is very misleading – and it’s this kind of discursive device that leads to so much contention amongst people. If I always see banners that say Catalonia is not Spain, why don’t I see banners that say it is not Denmark? Why the comparisons -when convenient – to countries like Denmark, Slovenia, etc?

    It’s also misleading to say that Catalonia is like Denmark, but without independent nation status. Sorry to knock about a truism, but they are just two different realities, with two different demographics. Like it or not, everybody here understands Spanish, but not everybody understands Catalan.

    I don’t think anyone is asking Catalans to become a quaint tourist attraction. In fact the label Catalan itself is misleading, because when you get into these kinds of debates it can often be misconstrued as ethnic prejudice to be “against” Catalan nationalist politics. The red herring in this constant discourse is always that being against enforced bilingualism is somehow being anti-Catalan (with all its racist overtones). It is impossible to argue with emotive and misleading arguments like that. I work with a Catalan nationalist who will only speak to me in English because Spanish is so demonized by certain nationalist factions that anyone speaking it is automatically labeled a fascist. And frankly, that is just infantile.

    That said, the above poster nailed it. People should learn Catalan out of respect if they plan on living here. But – watch out – it is also misleading to say coming to Catalonia and not learning Catalan is like going to France and not learning French. Again, you speak Spanish here and you can communicate with everybody.

  13. I mostly agree with UH!! I think bi-lingualism is complex. Having lived in a few bi-lingual nations/regions…it has always made for interesting living. I have to admit, I have not always been able to speak/understand both languages. But my most recent experience in Wales meant that myself and my girlfriend (who is Welsh) had to leave due to the fact we could not speak Welsh and meant not jobs

  14. Uh

    “everybody here understands Spanish, but not everybody understands Catalan.”

    false, many old people don’t understand spanish, they have not dead, yet. It’s a drama when they go to an hospital and talk with a non-catalan people.

    when you say “everybody”, you should say, “everybody like me” or “everybody that I know”.


  15. “I don’t think anyone is asking Catalans to become a quaint tourist attraction.”

    of course, yes!!!!!!!!!!

    One is asking this, exactly.

    Spain is doing. Open your eyes.

  16. >> “I tend to agree with a mate of mine at The British Council – he says if it ( the Catalan language) wasn’t too in yer face sort of thing he would learn it!”
    Steve, this sounds like someone I met in Barcelona; he said exactly the same thing. In his case, it turned out that this was just his cosy little stock answer he rolled out whenever he was asked if he spoke Catalan. He was thus relieved of any need to learn Catalan, is his own mind at least.
    In my view, if you live in a country (or region), you should learn the local language.

  17. I think sometimes bi-lingualism can have the negative impact of losing skilled workers due to jobs only being available to those who speak both languages. Well this I think is the case in Wales. I think some flexibility is needed.

  18. “everybody like me” – Albert, I have lived here for eight years and I have yet to encounter anyone who can’t speak Spanish. That’s being all over Catalonia, in small towns and big towns, talking to elderly and young people.

    But do people exist that can’t speak Spanish? You know, you can probably find that one exception and say ah ha! That proves my point! But everybody outside of the choir you’re preaching to will see the lack of rigor in your argument.

  19. Actually, Catañol -hispanicised Catalan- is pretty old hat. It used to be known as ‘Catalan light’ back in the 1980s, a term coined by philologist Xavier Pericay, who decades later became a figure head of a Spanish nationalist party based in Catalonia, Ciudadanos de Cataluña. His opinion columns can now be found on a regular basis in the Madrid right-wing press: ABC, El Mundo, La Razón.

  20. Pericay advocated the adoption of ‘Catalan light’ as a new normative code better equipped to cope with the massive inflow of Spanish speaking allophones to Catalonia since the 1950s than classic ‘Fabrian’ Catalan as is taught today throughout the Catalan-speaking territories.

    At the time, most of his opponents maintained that conferring official status to ‘Catalan light’ was tantamount to stripping the language of its rank as a language of culture by effectively severing the link to its age-old literary tradition. Hence, Pericay’s ‘Catalan light’ would virtually give rise to an altogether new language, not unlike Spanglish in the States, ushering in a ‘patoisation’ stage that would pave the way for the ultimate demise of Catalan as a full-fledged independent language.

  21. Arguments tend to become ‘neverending’ whenever human conflict arises and can be articulated in words. There was no ‘neverending’ feud over the use of Catalan under Franco’s boot, rest assured, or over Spanish in Catalonia, for that matter.

    As to ‘Endlösungen’ ie final solutions ‘to solve everything’, I suppose history has spoken clearly on their intrinsic foolhardiness, noxiousness and futility.

  22. I have no problem with bilingualism but I think that is the first step (over hundreds of steps before) to unify at the end Spain as a monolingual and monocultural state (like France).

    We must to balance the right to speak freely and the right to not be cultural encroached by anyone.

    Said this, it is obvious that all cultures are alive in the interwoven of relations, change of words, contact of borders. There is no culture that can survive isolated.

    There is a solution: democracy. Referendum. Easy. Civilized.

    But you, Uh don’t know (that is as your wording) Sapin. I am not saying that it is evil. Of course not but it is so far that be a democracy and a mature society.

  23. I don’t understand the problem and never have:
    Catalan is a Romance language, enormously similar to the other Romance languages, as such, if you speak one, it’s esay to learn another. I learnt French at school so learning Portuguese later, then Catalan, then Spanish, was easy. Languages are to be learnt…….about whom are we talking anyway? If someone with a university education from Toledo really has a problem learning Catalan once she or he is here, s/he needs to go back to school. A language is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity….you learn it, i està.

  24. @David Jackson: “Go down this route and only Basque speakers can work in Pais Vasco; or Portuguese speakers in Galicia”
    Galician is not Portuguese and Galicians can get just as worked up as Catalans about language issues.

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