The number of secondary school students who regularly speak Catalan on social media has dropped from 57% to 34% in eight years

Only two out of ten young people watch audiovisual content in Catalan, half as many as in 2013

4 min
A girl looking at the social network apps on her mobile phone.

BarcelonaNeither in classrooms nor in playgrounds. Neither on social media nor watching audiovisual content. The use of Catalan among last year students of compulsory education has fallen sharply in social environments. What was a widespread feeling has now been proven with two pieces of data: in 2013, 57% of young people expressed themselves mainly in Catalan on social media; in 2021, the percentage has fallen by almost half in 2021, and only 35% of students use it regularly. And as for audiovisual content – the heart of the recent spat between ERC and PSOE – 22% of students watch films, series or videos in Catalan (always or as much as in Spanish), when eight years ago twice as many did (46.3%).

The data, presented on Thursday by the Catalan High Council for Assessment during a Catalan School Council event on the use of Catalan, are another blow for Catalan, after a couple of weeks ago the government concluded that under half of the teachers always or almost always address their pupils in Catalan. "We don't want to get dramatic, but without an intervention in favour of Catalan, the language will not keep going", warned Jesús Viñas, president of the School Council. And he predicted that if no decisive steps are taken to increase the use of Catalan "in a few years we could reach a point of no return".

From left to right: TV (2013), Social Media (2013), TV, on-demand platforms and streamers (2021), Social Media (2021). From darker to lighter blue: only or mostly in Catalan, as much in Catalan as in Spanish, only or mostly in Spanish, only or mostly in other languages

The situation is critical and shows that the problem is not only at school or high school. In the audiovisual sector, Spanish is the majority option by far (62% of students use content only or mainly in Spanish), while there are as many young people who combine content in Catalan and Spanish (19%) as there are who consume content in other languages, such as English (16%). The most worrying thing, compared to the 2013 results, is that the combined use of Catalan and Spanish has fallen by half (from 41% to 19%), while the option of Spanish as the exclusive language has grown a lot (12 points more).

On social media, the situation is somewhat better, but in no case can it be considered good news. Catalan is the main language on social media for 9% of young people, while one in four combines it with Spanish (26%). The vast majority (58%), however, continue to express themselves only in Spanish on Instagram or Twitter. The percentages represent a sharp decline in Catalan in these environments, while students who only or mainly speak in Spanish have risen from 40% to 58% in eight years.

In this context, it is not surprising that, according to the study by the Assessment Council, half of students in compulsory education believe that Catalan will be used less in just five years' time. The report also shows that only 15% of young people want to speak more Catalan than Spanish in the future, half as many as in 2006, when 31.4% wanted to do so. To reverse the situation immediate measures are needed, but they must not be imposed: "There must be seduction and conviction," said Francesc Xavier Vila, Secretary for Language Policy, who has called for "commitment and activism" by administrations and teachers to increase the demand for the use and learning of Catalan.

At the Department of Education, the Secretary for Educational Policies, Núria Mora, said that Catalan is not in danger, but admitted that there is a lot of work to be done so that Catalan "is not seen as an academic language". And she has set herself some homework, such as reviewing university teacher training and providing more training for active professionals.

In the middle of a legal battle

In this sense, in its preliminary conclusions, which have not yet been approved, the Consell Escolar de Catalunya proposes to revise requirements to teach in Catalonia, demanding a C2 in Catalan from teachers and professors, a measure that is already included in the Catalan education law, but which has not been applied. In fact, they also propose reforming this law to protect language immersion, just a few days after the Catalan High Court ruling that 25% of classes had to be in Spanish came into force, after the Supreme Court rejected the Generalitat's appeal. The Consell Escolar wants to "specify the concept of vehicular language" and make clear whether it is the language in which teachers use in class or whether, on the contrary, it also includes non-teaching hours and communications with families. It also wishes to modify Article 14 of the law to give schools autonomy to set the percentages they deem appropriate for each language, depending on their context and their reality. This is one of the legal options that the Generalitat has on the table, but it would have to seek consensus in Parliament and, probably, overcome a possible appeal in the Constitutional Court.

Whether or not the Generalitat pays attention to the proposals School Council's proposals, Catalan Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray has guaranteed from Parliament that Catalan "is and will continue to be the classroom language". "Pedagogy cannot be in the hands of the courts; the courts cannot decide how to teach and how to educate", he insisted.