“Catalan on the road to extinction”

More panic-mongering from the linguacrats: Carme Junyent, director of the low-activity Group for the Study of Threatened Languages at Barcelona University apparently believes that UNESCO says that any language with less than 30% social use is on its way to extinction, and that since the social use of the official language of Andorra, Catalan, is now 29%, this means that Catalan is on its way to extinction.

  1. I don’t know where the 30% figure comes from, but Junyent doesn’t seem to have read relevant UNESCO literature, which establishes nine criteria for determining language vitality, of which the proportion of speakers in the total population is only one. I happen to believe that most of what UNESCO publishes on the issue is scientific bollocks designed to elevate the rights of languages above those of humans, but that’s by the bye.
  2. Andorra is only nominally independent and borders on a principally Catalan-speaking region of Spain. Saying Catalan is endangered on the sole basis of Andorran stats is a bit like saying that Spanish is doomed because its position is under challenge in US states bordering with Mexico.

Where do they find these people?

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  1. I can appreciate ‘accidentally stumbling’ on something but how does one accidentally read something? Especially if one’s experience is that it is regularly ridiculous. Why waste your time?

  2. @Anthony: Shame you haven’t got any counter-arguments.

    Afaik Carme Junyent is only respected in terms of her efficacy as a tool of the Generalitat’s language policy. I don’t think she’s got an academic reputation to defend, and her observations on public policy are downright stupid.

    There was the glorious occasion when she suggested replacing Spanish with an obscure African language in Gerona schools because the latter, according to her, was spoken more there than anywhere except the Gambia.

    And there’s her absurd belief that the language most common amongst immigrants to Cataloonia is not Spanish but Berber (the Latin Americans all secretly speak Indian languages, you see, and the Andalusians probably all secretly speak Ladino or Arabic). This belief is in hilarious conflict with her insistence that Spanish is driving out Catalan.

    Mad or a moron? Take your pick.

  3. @Trevor: You will probably find that the “UNESCO” figure was made up in Barcelona. The deal between UNESCO and the Catalan government was as follows: You give us money (we’re broke) and free advertising on Barça shirts, and we’ll pretend you’re a country and tolerate the B.S. you publish on behalf of the oppressed Catalan culture, as long as it’s in Catalan so no one else can understand it.

  4. @Anthony: Junyent believes people from other parts of Spain are immigrants. She certainly doesn’t classify them as fellow citizens.

  5. Anthony, I think it’s time one of you “left-wing” Americans went to the voters of Arizona and said, “Sorry guys, but people were speaking Uto-Aztecan dialects here a long before you immigrants got here. We’ve invented a standardised form of Uto-Aztecan, and to protect it you’re going to have to use it in schools, in government, blah blah. Be fair: English is the official language of X sovereign states worldwide, and Uto-Aztecan deserves some kind of chance.”

  6. See, here’s the thing: I would never go somewhere and tell people how to live, especially in their own home. I do my part and vote whenever and wherever I can. If the Tule Indians in my region of California still spoke their language, I would be all for teaching in schools but, unfortunately almost the entire population in my home town is monolingual, so that’s not realistic. Here on the other hand, the vast majority of people have never stopped speaking Catalan. Besides, when I left home and moved to Catalonia, I did as the Catalans do and learned both, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’re really that intelligent suck it up and quit your whining. Although comparing an entire language family like Uto-Aztecan, just as diverse, if not more so than the Slavic languages for example, to one language like Catalan, proves you’re not really that intelligent at all.

    And, for the Nun, I don’t know where you came up with the proof that Junyent doesn’t consider Andalusians ‘fellow citizens’ but it obviously wasn’t the interview our friend Trevor cited because she doesn’t even make a single reference to Andalusians. I really wish people knew what they were talking about before they start rambling.

    The fact of the matter is that people like you are the same junk as the radicals who say Catalans are the new Jews in Spain… It’s all the same garbage to me.

  7. Anthony, outside Ciudad Vieja Latin americans outnumber Morrocans, especially if we include all the Voseo-using “Italians”.

    The idea that Catalan is an endangered language in Andorra or Spain is simply ridiculous. In Italy and France it is not far short of extinct, but that’s a different story.

  8. BNS – not quite so sure about that. Every summer we go to Tarragona, where my wife was born. Every year it gets harder to order food or drinks in Catalan. I guess it might just be that Catalan is is endangered among waiting staff in Tarragona but I reckon this is symptomatic of something bigger going on.

  9. Because you said so? It would be nice if people put real facts and statistics rather than just their opinions. For example, a study by the Fundació Jaume Bofill stated:

    Per nacionalitats, predominen els marroquins (21%), els equatorians (10%) i els romanesos (6%).

    In other words, even your supposed voseo-using Italians, which I’m assuming you’re referring to Argentines, don’t even account for 5 percent of the immigrant population in Catalonia. Let’s be realistic, I can’t even afford a place in most neighbourhoods outside of Ciutat Vella here in Barcelona (Where is Ciudad vieja, in Madrid? Why not just call things by their name instead of making up another one? I could understand something like “Old town” as a literal translation but writing “Ciudad vieja” in English makes about zero sense), and the vast majority of Latin Americans who can, don’t permanently establish themselves here. They’ve got enough money back home and have no need to leave everything behind… although, I have to admit… there’s no data on that but it has been my experience. Almost all of the Latin American friends I have made here who could be considered ‘middle’ or ‘upper middle class’ end up going back home… quite sad for me actually.

    I will agree that Spain is a lot more favourable environment for the Catalan language than other European states, like France. I personally have no real complaints about living here. I just get frustrated with people who make a mountain out of a molehill, no matter what side of the debate they may be on. The situation in Andorra does worry me. I work regularly in Alghero because I handle all the press and promotion for a singer who’s from there, and the use of Catalan has almost become more folkloric than anything. Is it the end of the world? No. But, it is quite sad.

  10. Time to send Narcotics round to the Bofill Foundation and Carme Junyent, because Latin Americans way outnumber Moroccans in both Barcelona and Cataloonia.

    The figures for Barcelona 2007 http://www.bcn.cat/estadistica/catala/dades/tpob/ine/evo/evo204.htm give 13,000 Moroccans against 30,000 Argentines, Peruvians and Chileans, along with 86,000 from the rest of the Americas.

    The Generalidad http://www.idescat.cat/cat/idescat/publicacions/anuari/aec_pdf/aec-cap2.pdf?20080626 says there are 308,000 South Americans (ie excluding Central Americans) in Cataloonia while all the Africans counted together only amount to 253,000.

    I can’t be arsed to work through the Generality’s stats, but immigrants from the rest of Spain continue to outnumber those from the rest of the world in the Barcelona numbers, and they all speak Spanish.

    Carme Junyent’s idea that Berber is more spoken among immigrants than Spanish is just so mad and stupid that that’s all you can sensibly say about it. However, just as with Spanish, if enough parents in a particular district were to demand that Berber be made the language of instruction at one or more local schools, I’d be in favour. If you pay taxes you should be entitled to make that kind of choice.

  11. Thanks for that Trevor. It’s great having your own personal fact check monkey.

    Tom, I suggest that the Tarragona data merely indicates something I’ve known for a long time.

    a) Catalans consider waiting tables beneath them.

    b) The many advantages received by Catalan speakers in the labour market (enchufe, “positive” discrimination etc.) mean they rarely have to wait tables.

    They then write angry letters to Avui complaining that they are being discriminated against when a Peruvian waitress mispronounces Orxata.

  12. Okay, I won’t drag this out much longer because I didn’t intend for this to last this long in the first place…

    Obviously Spanish speakers from other regions in Spain outnumber the rest of us immigrants here in Catalonia, but I think it’s totally contradictory how you call them “immigrants” when it backs your arguments up, then criticise the ‘Cataloonies’ for supposedly doing the same thing. According to the stats you posted, there are 211,475 Moroccans in Catalonia, not to mention the Algerians, versus 269,867 immigrants from both North and South America together. Although they are undoubtedly the largest collective group of immigrants in Catalonia, I will admit that assuming the majority of them speak Berber is a stretch…

    So, I wonder… why are the only people who have a problem with this sort of thing the people who don’t speak Catalan? Is it some sort of inferiority complex? According to your logic, there will be school districts in London teaching in Spanish and Italian, and German will become the official language of Mallorca.

    You might try spending all the energy you invest into this blog criticising the land that took you in and try something that tends to make everyone feel a bit better: integrating.

  13. The claim I refuted is not that Moroccans are the largest collective, whatever that means, but that Berber is more widely spoken than Spanish amongst immigrants. Whether one takes the figures under 2.14 or 2.28, Carme Junyent was clearly talking complete and utter nonsense.

    I don’t think you’ll find me protesting that people who move to Barcelona from Gijón or Girona are referred to as immigrants. That’s just simple semantics. What I do object to is the way many of them are treated.

    In London German parents send their kids to German school on Saturdays, but it is very unlikely that any significant number would want to opt for German-language schools within the British state system. That’s because English is far more useful. If parents in Barcelona were given the choice, Catalan-language education would virtually disappear overnight, because Spanish is far more useful. That’s the choice I think they should be allowed to make.

    If you read the local press, you would be aware that significant numbers of mother-tongue Catalan speakers do have a problem with the current system. Personally they may profit from it, but they recognise that it is morally wrong and economically disastrous for Catalonia.

  14. BNS – you’re probably right.

    It could also be that immigrants are more likely to work for demeaning wages because they have to, but I guess you factored that into your point.

    I guess the other side of it is why, then, not learn Catalan? I’m an immigrant and though my Catalan is pretty weak, I’ve made the effort to learn enough to get by. I’m not trying to say that this makes me better than anyone else because it doesn’t.

    Anyway, have a good weekend.

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