Catalan: A Minoritized Language

On February 22, I created a LinkedIn post to commemorate Global Language Advocacy Day — a worldwide event designed to inspire a change of attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs around language rights and linguistic justice.


I chose Catalan because, even though it is not a minority language, it is subject to policies that minoritize it and limit its speakers’ rights. The lack of international recognition for political reasons is particularly worrying in the European Union (EU).


Despite being the 13th most spoken language in the EU, Catalan is not an official EU language.


Here are some facts about the Catalan language:



WHERE IS CATALAN SPOKEN?


Catalan is spoken in four European states — Spain, France, Andorra, and Italy.


In Spain, it is spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, part of the Valencian Community, the eastern strip of Aragon, and the Carxe area of Murcia.


It is also the only official language of the small Pyrenean state of Andorra, which is not part of the European Union.


In addition, Catalan is spoken in most of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in France and the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia.


USE OF CATALAN


According to estimations of linguistic use in Catalan-speaking areas, over 10 million people speak Catalan.


The linguistic scope of the Catalan language covers an area that is home to nearly 14 million people, and more than 12 million people understand it. That makes it comparable to other European languages of similar demographic weight, such as Norwegian and Danish.


LEGAL STATUS OF CATALAN


Despite being a plurilingual country, Spain only recognizes Spanish as its only official language. Therefore, Catalan cannot be used in the Spanish Parliament, unlike other multilingual states. And, because of that, Catalan cannot be used in the European Parliament.


Spanish laws impose the obligation to understand Spanish and restrict or nullify the obligation to know Catalan in Catalan-speaking regions where the language has been made co-official. Additionally, other rules impose the exclusive use of Spanish in different areas, such as labeling and official documents.


In its last report published in 2021, the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages stated that Spain is failing to fulfill its commitments concerning the rights of Catalan speakers.


Every year, there are numerous discrimination cases against Catalan speakers by the authorities. Most of these cases (e.g., court hearings, healthcare settings, interactions with the police forces) involve Spanish government bodies and are neither investigated nor prosecuted.


CULTURAL PROJECTION OF CATALAN


Over 10 000 books are published in Catalan every year, and it is the 22nd most-translated language in the world. Additionally, Catalan ranks 26th in terms of translations from other languages.


During the 2019-20 academic year, 158 universities taught Catalan language and culture studies outside the Catalan native area. The countries offering the most comprehensive choice are the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy.


Despite being home to most Catalan speakers, Spain only offers Catalan studies at eight universities outside the language’s native area.


Catalan movie Alcarràs has recently won the Golden Bear at the 72nd edition of the Berlinale. It was the first Catalan-language movie to do so.


CATALAN ON THE INTERNET


Three out of the ten most visited websites globally have a Catalan-language version. And, of the top eight social networks, only Instagram and LinkedIn are yet to launch a Catalan-language version.


Catalan is the 24th most used language on Twitter and the 17th most used language on Wikipedia.


ADVOCATING THE CATALAN LANGUAGE


Plataforma per la Llengua is an NGO that seeks to:


  • Articulate Catalan as the common language of social cohesion and interrelationship between all the people of the linguistic area.

  • Guarantee and promote the use of the Catalan language in all these areas.

  • Promote the linguistic and cultural rights of people who speak Catalan and of those who live in Catalan-speaking territories regarding this language.

  • Stimulate and collaborate in campaigns of linguistic normalization of the Catalan language.

  • Address problems that affect the Catalan-speaking society, always and especially when they contribute to improving the use of Catalan.


Do you speak a minoritized language?


Let me know in the comments below!

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