Catalonia Calling! #29

For the Primacy of Catalan in Independent Catalonia - 17/04/2016

Catalonia Calling #29 is called For the Primacy of Catalan in Independent Catalonia and discusses the recent Koiné Manifesto on the role of the Catalan language in the independent republic.

The manifesto, whilst not specifically saying that Catalan should be the only official language of the independent Republic of Catalonia, definitely argues in favour of its primacy and has provoked negative reactions not only from unionists and monolingual Spanish speakers but also Catalans concerned about its negative propaganda effects at a time when the Spanish-speaking vote is very important for the independence cause.

I have to say that it all seems very reasonable to me.


The Only Official Language?

The first disagreement I had after I published my translation of the Koiné Manifesto into English was the title "Koiné Manifesto: In favour of Catalan as the only official language", which was actually taken from the article published in El Periodico from where I took the original text of the manifesto.


However, although at no point does the Koiné Manifesto use the term official language, the obvious implication of the text is that if the new Catalan Constitution chose to specify any language as the official language of the Independent Republic of Catalonia, this would definitely be the Catalan language.

Obviously, it is possible (although from what I hear unlikely) that no language would be given official status in the Catalan Republic, but as the majority of the manifesto rails against the noxious effects of bilingualism, it's pretty clear that the signatories are completely against Castilian having co-official status.

It seems that some of my friends are concerned about the negative propaganda value that making Catalan the only official language might have on the Castilian-speaking community here in Catalonia so in order to avoid complete disagreement, I've entitled this video "For the Primacy of Catalan in Independent Catalonia".

What's Wrong with Bilingualism?

The Koiné Manifesto gives a history lesson on how Catalan is the indigenous language of Catalonia and the Catalan Countries of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and French-controlled North Catalonia.

However, Castilian Spanish became the language of domination following the annexation of the Principality of Catalonia by the Kingdom of Castile at the end of The War of the Spanish Succession in 1714.

The manifesto makes it clear, however, that although it dominated the world of business, law and power, throughout the next two centuries, Castilian never managed to replace the vernacular use of Catalan amongst the common people.

This all changed when General Franco came to power after the Spanish Civil War in 1939, and he "completed this process of forced bilingualisation through the political and legal repression of the use of Catalan, obligatory schooling and the extension of new media, all totally in Castilian, as well as the use of the arrival of immigration from Castilian-speaking territories as an involuntary instrument of linguistic colonisation."

After the death of Franco in 1975, the Constitution of 1978 and the Statute of Autonomy of 1979 returned the Catalan language to the status of co-official language alongside Castilian and gave the Generalitat the power to introduce its own linguistic policies.

However, although bilingualism has been sold as "something natural, positive, enriching and democratic", these policies have failed to stop the rot and even amongst the so-called "immersion" generations, particularly in the densely populated areas of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and the other large cities, most people know Catalan but don't use it habitually.

Furthermore, Castilian is the language chosen when Catalans address someone they don't know making it effectively the default language in Catalonia.

What Does the Koiné Manifesto Suggest?

As the language of a country, particularly a new one, is the basis of its social cohesion, the manifesto firstly suggests raising awareness about the problem of Catalan and that the position of the language should be a central element in the debate surrounding the Constituent Process.

It specifically states that the new Constitution shouldn't favour bilingualism and so perpetuate a false linguistic problem and suggests a) the restoration of Catalan to the status of territorial language of Catalonia (and the same for Occitanian in the Vall d'Aran) b) the reversal of the practice of systematic and generalised subordination of the use of Catalan (or of Occitanian) to the use of Castilian and c) the progressive recovery of the genuine language.

It calls for the creation of a citizens' movement in favour of linguistic normalisation and suggest that Catalan should be the integrating axis of the Catalan Republic, "within a framework of the public acceptance of multilingualism as an individual and social asset, with all the necessary measures to guarantee that everybody feels recognised and included in the building of a normal country".

Does it specifically say that Catalan will be the only official language?

No, but it rejects bilingualism and makes it clear that the Catalan language needs to be given primacy in the new Republic.

This could be achieved by making it the official language in the Constitution or by Parliament passing a series of laws favouring Catalan in the early months of the Republic.

Either way, the implication of the Koiné Manifesto is that the primacy of Catalan must be guaranteed in the new independent state of Catalonia.

It Makes Sense To Me

One of the criticisms of the manifesto that I've heard is that the language you choose to speak is down to individual responsibility and that laws won't do anything to change this.

Apart from the fact that the Koiné Manifesto emphasises the importance of awareness raiding, I disagree because some minor changes will serve to give Catalan the boost it needs in many spheres.

A simple change like making Catalan a requirement for all civil service and government-funded jobs whilst treating knowledge of other languages, including Castilian, an asset would have quite significant effects.

The most immediate effect would be on the legal and judicial system, which is currently almost totally in Spanish as public positions such as judges and fiscals or public prosecutors are adjudicated by the Spanish state to candidates who have passed their official exams in other parts of Spain.

A simple rule emphasising the primacy of Catalan would tip the balance in its favour and, as the current generation of lawyers are all bilingual, there would be no risk of monolingual Castilian speakers not being attended to properly.

Hopefully, such a simple measure would spread to those who attend the public in hospitals, government offices, educational institutions and libraries, and Catalan would be the first choice of language rather than Castilian as it all too often is now..

If the Catalan Republic is to be successful, Catalan needs to be the default choice of language with the language rights and needs of speakers of other languages being protected at all times.

A Final Thought

Anyway, thanks very much for watching. Please subscribe, like and comment.

Also remember that I do all this completely free. So if you want to support my work and research, you can click on an ad, buy my book Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective on Amazon or make a donation a

That's it from me for this week. Viscal el Barça! Visca Catalunya! Look after yourselves.

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