Blog: On the Catalan Language
hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Jul 16 13:58:45 UTC 2007
On the Catalan language
One of the big points for debate here is language. Here - as in many other
places around the world - language often seems inextricably linked to
culture, politics and identity. The issue of Catalan versus Castilian
Spanish is probably the most abused and over-discussed issue in Catalonia.
I'm not really interested in prolonging this pretty irritating debate but I
would like to try to clarify a couple of the key sticking-points.
First, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) - the Catalan Republican Left
- and their language policy. ERC are the fourth biggest party in Catalonia
(and third partner in the regional government, la Generalitat) and their
policy is pretty much totally dictated by nationalism. Culture and language,
of course, play a major role in their strategy. And from time to time, they
propose policies or laws which are frankly unbelievable. Take, for example,
the proposal that it should be illegal for teachers to speak in any language
but Catalan while they're on school premises. That's a ridiculous policy
which regularly earns the well deserved moniker 'fascist'. It is clear that
their policy is directed against speakers of Castilian Spanish and thus
anyone who is 'non-Catalan'.
As far as I see, ERC consists of several different movements. I have some
sympathy for the 'republican/left' element of the party because I'm a
left-winger and would rather live in a republic than a kingdom.
Unfortunately, the dominant front in ERC is extremely nationalist and
sometimes verges on the racist. I get the impression that they probably
wouldn't much like me as a member, because I use the odd Spanish word when
speaking Catalan. I'm not from here, remember.
The crazier of ERC's policies are reminiscent of laws passed by Francisco
Franco's fascist dictatorship in Spain. Under the Generalissimo, the country
was reinvented as the home of Catholicism, empire and homogeneity. Of
course, this was revisionism gone mad. Spain has always been an
amalgamation of different kingdoms, peoples and cultures. Passing laws to
cancel that out has never worked.
This is another sticking point. If you read other English-language blogs
from Catalonia, you might get the impression that the story of Catalan being
banned under Franco was made up by Catalan nationalists. This is completely
untrue. Certain bloggers seem to have a perverse interest in undermining the
history of Catalan, Catalonia and the repression during the Franco years.
Make no mistake: under Franco, hundreds of laws and judgments were passed
which effectively outlawed the use of the Catalan language. At best, the
blogs which promulgate this myth are disingenuous. I reckon that they're
aiming for an audience-pleasing tone of contrariety, which is, after all,
the natural tone for successful blogs. Doesn't make it true, though.
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