Misc 22/06/2016

Getting your teeth kicked in for the sake of Spanish? Four charts about language and discrimination

In Catalonia half the population has Spanish as their language of choice, 87 instances of discrimination against the Catalan language were recorded between 2007 and 2015, including 11 cases of physical assault.

Auri Garcia Morera
2 min
Albert Rivera, líder de Ciutadans / ACN

Barcelona“Back where I come from, you literally get your teeth kicked in for arguing that all Spaniards are equal and should remain united. For saying that an Andalusian and a Catalan are equal. To be allowed to speak Spanish, as well as Catalan. Or to watch [Spain’s national team play] a football match [on a large screen] in the street”. This statement by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera at a campaign rally in Sevilla have stirred controversy in the last few days, prompting some to respond to Rivera by actually providing hard data on language and discrimination.

Catalonia’s Institut d’Estadística (Idescat) conducts surveys on language use among the population of Catalonia. Their figures indicate that over half the people in Catalonia use Spanish as their go-to language on a daily basis. In 2003 there was almost a tie between Catalan (46 per cent) and Spanish (47.2 per cent). But in 2013, the last year for which data are available, the Spanish language had a 14 point lead on Catalan, with 50.7 vs 36.3 per cent, respectively.

Out of the ten areas surveyed, the only one where Catalan dominates is interaction with school mates, where 42.9 per cent reported to speak Catalan or mostly Catalan, whereas 30.8 per cent spoke mostly or only Spanish. Out of the other areas, service encounters in banks showed almost a tie, with Spanish leading by only one point. The gap between the two languages broadened when respondents were asked what language they spoke at their workplace or when shopping. In larger retail areas, 48.7 per cent of the people in Catalonia speak only or mostly Spanish, while only 33.6 per cent speak only Catalan or more Catalan than Spanish.

With regards to language discrimination, a report by Catalan NGO Plataforma per la Llengua —a copy of which was delivered to the European Parliament by several Catalan MEPs— records 87 instances of language discrimination by the administration between 2007 and 2015. Forty-four occurred in Catalonia, thirty in Valencia, 12 in the Balearics and 1 in the Catalan-speaking eastern strip of Aragon. 2015 saw the highest number of complaints: 13 in Catalonia and 4 in the other Catalan-speaking regions.

Of the cases reported where Catalan was discriminated against by public officials, Spain’s various police forces were involved in more than half, with the judiciary taking second spot, with 17 complaints between 2007 and 2015. “If you speak to me in Catalan, I’m calling off this trial”, were the words uttered (in Spanish) by a judge in one of the cases reported and it went on to be picked as the title of the NGO’s report. The document also states that, among the 87 instances of language discrimination, members of the public were physically attacked in 11 separate incidents.

In 2014, shortly before the mock independence referendum on November 9, Ciudadanos and UPYD complained to the European Parliament about the alleged discrimination against the Spanish language in Catalonia. They did so by holding a conference with independent experts from different areas —some of them would later join Ciudadanos— who slammed Catalonia’s school system (where Catalan is the main language of instruction). On the other subject which Rivera alluded to —football—, on Monday the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalonia’s police force) arrested two men in connection with the assault and threats against three activists who were rallying in Barcelona in support of Spain’s national football team.