Seven communities, one language
The Catalan language is spoken by close to 11 million people in four countries: Spain, France, Italy and Andorra. In each State the language has varying degrees of legal status, but in Spain in particular, Catalan is treated differently in each Autonomous Community where it is spoken.
If we look at Catalonia, the community with the highest number of Catalan-speakers, the Statute of Autonomy establishes that Catalan is the language of normal and preferential use in Public Administration bodies and in the public media of Catalonia, and is also the language of normal use for teaching and learning in the education system. In addition, the Spanish Constitution declares Catalan and Castilian (Spanish) to be the co-official languages of Catalonia, and although many critics see this as a conflictive situation, in reality both languages peacefully co-exist.
As the recent ruling on the Catalan Statute in July 2010 has shown us, however, the laws that govern the use of Catalan in public administration, the media and other sectors are more fragile than many people think. Following the ruling on the Statute, this article was declared unconstitutional. And this happened in Catalonia, the territory that most fiercely defends the linguistic rights of Catalan-speakers. In many of the other communities where Catalan is spoken, the situation is even more precarious. Catalan is a language that should be able to co-exist with equal rights and conditions as a vehicular language, yet many people across the Catalan-speaking territories still find it impossible to live their lives fully in Catalan.
According to UNESCO, “Half of the 6,700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends.” With close to 11 million speakers, Catalan is not in danger of disappearing just yet. But in those communities where its situation is less stable, positive discrimination in favor of Catalan is still needed. Languages express “ideas, emotions, knowledge, memories and values. Languages are also primary vehicles of cultural expressions and intangible cultural heritage, essential to the identity of individuals and groups.”(UNESCO) Catalan is no different.
In the second installment of InTransit we have put together an issue with articles written from many different perspectives on topics ranging from contemporary Catalan literature to the recent initiative Televisió sense fronteres. These articles offer a glimpse of the Catalan language’s many different realities throughout the seven communities where it is spoken.