60.2% of families with one parent born outside Catalonia use Catalan with their children and 27.5% of natives with both parents born outside use Catalan with their children, data from 2013 coming from the Language Policy Report 2014 shows released this week. Ferran Mascarell, the Catalan Minister for Culture, said that “Catalan health remains” and said that “Catalan has passed a phase that was complicated because there have been significant demographic changes,” along with technological changes and negative Spanish Government’s policies. Mascarell was firstly referring to the two waves of non-Catalan-speaking immigrants (first between 1950s-1970s and second between 1995-2010), the repression of the language during the Franco dictatorship and also to policies against Catalan language full recognition or development adopted by different Spanish Governments. Today in Catalonia, the majority of the population 15 years and older claimed to understand, speak, read and write in Catalan: 94.3% understood, 80.4% could speak, 82.4% could read and 60.4% could write. Besides, according to the same data, 48.1% of the population above 15 has a high level of Catalan in all language abilities. In addition, another 17.5% speak without difficulty, but have a low level of reading and writing; 7.8% can understand and read but have shortcomings in speaking and writing. On top of this, more than one in four people aged 15 and over (26.6%) have important deficits because they have no knowledge or very low knowledge of Catalan or have a low level in all skills (10.5%), understand and read a little Catalan but can neither speak nor write (5%) or do not understand it at all or only a little (11.1%).
Mascarell stressed that 750,000 people, 12.1% of the population aged over 15, had adopted Catalan in 2013, despite the fact they had other linguistic origins, mainly Spanish. In the case of speakers of other languages, Spanish has the most pulling power. Speakers of other languages said it was most important to know Spanish. Besides, 44.9% of the population has Spanish as their first language (2.8 million people), followed by Catalan, with 29.2% (1.8 million).
35.7% of the adult population was born outside Catalonia
The Minister of Culture also highlighted intergenerational language transmission, which is 60.2% of natives with native-born parents using Catalan with their children and 27.5% of natives with two foreign-born parents use Catalan with their children. Mascarell commented on other figures emerging from the study, such as that 35.7% of the adult population was born outside Catalonia: 17.2% abroad and the remaining 18.5% from the rest of Spain.
Catalan in the education system
Regarding learning Catalan, according to the study, 75% of secondary students have a high or medium-high level of Spanish and Catalan, and 96.3% of high school students use Catalan in university selection tests. The school population during the course of 2013-2014 was 1,295,196 students, 12.7% of whom were foreigners (164,877 students). In the university sector, the Minister said that the average use of Catalan is 76.5% and 56.8% for masters. Furthermore, Catalan universities have formed 1,815 language exchange pairs and 5,533 students have participated in activities to foster language and culture.
Adult foreigners have not had the advantage of learning the language through the Catalan public school system for children. However, a total of 14,231 adults obtained Catalan certificates in 2014 and there were 1,064 enrolled in Catalan occupational training courses and 1,465 in the restaurant sector. The Consortium for Language Standardisation have organised 3,229 courses with 67,465 enrolees in 155 municipalities and 61% of the people enrolled in basic and initial levels of the Consortium for Language Standardisation (CPNL) are foreign-born: 32,309 students.
Catalan in large cities
With data from 2011, the knowledge of Catalan in large municipalities from 1986 to 2011 is also cited. In Sabadell, Terrassa and Mataró, the percentage of the population who speak Catalan has grown continuously. One case is that of Barcelona, which went from 68% in 1986 to 78% in 1996 to 72% in 2011, as the city welcomed many immigrants from South America, Africa and Eastern Europe in the early 2000s.
Cultural consumption of the language is growing as well, and the study shows that the consumption of Catalan newspapers significantly grew, increasing from 35.3% in 2013 to 42.1% in 2014. In addition, the report shows the highest percentage of consumption of music in Catalan at 13.3%.
The survey also provides data on knowledge of Catalan according to professional profiles: nearly 68% of personnel in customer service, sales and medium managers know how to speak and write Catalan, and 85.5% of directors and independent professionals speak and write Catalan; administrators and technicians are situated at 80.4%.
“The health of Catalan remains”
In this context, Mascarell stressed that as Catalan continues to grow, the quality of knowledge is strengthened, and so too is its strength as an identifying language. “The health of Catalan remains in the field of knowledge and that of language as an element of identification,” he said, while he noted that “there was a very hard stage with different aspects to overcome.”
In this statement, he was most likely referencing the ban of Catalan during the Franco regime (1939-1977) followed by two different periods of migration to Catalonia, first from poorer areas of Spain during the decades leading up to democracy, and then during the very last years of the 20th century through the early 2000s when immigrants started coming in large numbers from South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. In both of these scenarios, newcomers did not pick up Catalan as a language because so many of them already spoke Spanish.
He stressed that the health of Catalan remains “the will of the citizenry that understands the language as a factor of enrichment that enhances community life through the use of Catalan. Not just those of [Catalan] origin, but those who have come.” He also felt that the things that have gone in the right direction “have to do with the policies deployed over time which have helped to correct trends and overcome some knots.”
The Minister of Culture went on to criticise Spanish policies that have hindered Catalan’s development. “Catalan, to be developed, must have the same support from the State as any other language. From the Administration of Catalonia, we work in favour of the language and the Spanish Government puts a wrench in the wheels,” Mascarell said.