Thursday, February 2

The Government launches the pact for Catalan to promote its use in areas such as business or health

First steps of the National Pact for the Catalan Language, the forum from which the Government hopes that the language policies of the coming years will emerge to promote the social use of Catalan. The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has chaired this Tuesday the first meeting of this space, which has the presence of all the parties except PP, Ciudadanos and Vox, and whose first horizon is a participatory process that will last until end of June.

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At the first meeting of the Pact, in which the Vice President Jordi Puigneró and the Minister of Culture, Natàlia Garriga -who leads this initiative- also participated, Aragonès has proclaimed that Catalan faces “enormous challenges and threats” and that the public debate that begins this Tuesday should serve to overcome them. He has reminded the leader of the Executive that for this this forum has the support of 85% of the parliamentary forces. In addition to those of the Government, PSC, CUP and Comuns.

The first contribution of the Catalan Executive to the work of the National Pact for Language is a report that has been commissioned from seven academics from different universities and which serves to x-ray the state of Catalan in different areas, from schools and universities to the audiovisual sector , going through the world of business, health or the internet. The study, coordinated by Isidor Martí and Miquel Àngel Pradilla, from the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, does not provide new data, but it does review all the literature published in the different fields.

In this sense, in a very synthetic way, their main conclusion is that Catalan is not in “imminent” danger of extinction, since it has a solid mass of speakers, but it does present some trends that they consider worrying. Many of them have to do with the “rapid and profound transformations” associated with globalization, and that affect areas such as demography, the economy or cultural production. “They have dramatically shaken the process of recovering the Catalan language that began in the 1980s, a process that was already particularly precarious and difficult due to the long periods of proscription, marginalization and subordination of the Catalan language,” they point out in the report.

Among other reasons for the decline of Catalan, the document points to purely demographic factors, with an aging Catalan population, a low birth rate and a wave of migration at the beginning of the 21st century that has not chosen this language as the language of habitual use, but rather Spanish. From 2003 to 2018, the academics point out, the average use of Catalan by the population has fallen from 48.5% to 41%.

In educational matters, the most controversial due to the judicialization of the immersion system, the report confirms that this model has achieved that students leave ESO with command of Catalan and Spanish and urges politicians and social actors to address this debate not in terms of percentages of use of each language, but of “linguistic training”. At this time, the Generalitat is running out of time to respond to the Justice on how to apply the current sentence of 25% of Castilian.

All in all, some of the flanks that attract the most attention in the Government and in those responsible for language policy are also the workplace or the health sector, where they believe that its use is in decline. As regards private companies, especially those dealing with the public, the report confirms the existence of a “vicious circle” whereby citizens cannot be attended to in Catalan because the staff do not have adequate skills -they are not required in selection. And this is due, they add, to the fact that there is no record of a demand to be served in Catalan. Waiting for what the participatory process illuminates, the Government wants to break that dynamic.

Something similar occurs in the health sector, where recently the number of professionals who come from other autonomous communities or from abroad, without mastering Catalan, has greatly increased. In 2020, 66% of the new members of the Col·legi de Metges de Barcelona were from outside Catalonia and the percentages in terms of MIR students are also high. Given this, the authors of the report consider it “essential” that the competence of Catalan must be accredited, although the Government still does not want to make these proposals its own.

As of April 1, the channels will be opened to begin the participatory process, which will include different deliberation sessions throughout the territory. Some debates will be conducted by the Government and others may be self-managed. Proposals may be submitted until June 30, when this part of the calendar will close. Results are expected to be presented in the fall.