The Catalan language deserves a new opportunity
BarcelonaCatalan is everyone's heritage: it signifies cultural and communicative richness. Every language is a treasure and expresses a plural universe. To lose a language is to diminish humanity, just as to lose an animal or natural species is to impoverish the planet. The value of languages does not depend on the number of speakers they have. For those who speak it, theirs is the language that shapes them, that connects them to their origins, that gives them comfort. Languages usually have a reference territory. In the Catalan-speaking territories, after a few years of recovery with the advent of democracy, Catalan has once again regressed, especially in the last 20 years. Specifically, in 2018 only 36.1% of Catalans said they had Catalan as their habitual language, while in 2003, 46.0% of citizens did.
This decline is particularly marked among young people, especially, for instance, those in the capital. In Barcelona, only 19.6% of those aged between 15 and 29 have Catalan as their habitual language. According to sociolinguistics, a language is in danger when less than 30% of its members use it in a community. Therefore, this means that there are grounds for concern. There are reasons to get down to work, without unnecessary alarmism and without falling into the trap of the language war that has been tirelessly promoted by those who have sought to problematise Catalan and victimise Spanish.
In a globalised world and in an open society such as Catalonia's, the wealth and plurality of languages has never been, and still is not, a problem. On the contrary. Helping the historically persecuted minority language to regain its place is a noble and just cause. This is how it was understood during the Transition to democracy. Today, with new foundations, a great consensus must be recreated to put an end to the absurd and artificial account of the confrontation. Despite persistent media poisoning, linguistic coexistence is good. Spanish is neither persecuted nor in danger. The evidence from the street says that the language that needs to be helped is Catalan, which is suffering the effects of diglossic bilingualism, with the consequent decrease in the number of speakers, and of state legislation that relegates it to the background.
It is a question, therefore, of recovering a space of comfort and of being seen and valued as what it is: a wealth to be shared. It is a question of depoliticizing the language, of making it useful and present in all fields: work, justice, media, culture, education. In the end, if young people do not adopt it, it is because adults do not make it their own either. They are communicating vessels. There are, without doubt, obvious deficits in the audiovisual and youth culture, in networks, music, graphic novels... And we must also rethink Catalan in schools. In short, we need to place the reality of the Catalan language back on the table, without prejudices or taboos, but also without fear.