Washington, D.C. – Finally, the State Department of the United States seems to have understood the situation in Catalonia about the coexisting of the two legally official languages, Catalan and Spanish. In the just released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 (Spanish chapter), the Department of State shows a more independent point of view than in previous reports, less politicized, and more accurate when it referring to the Catalan language.
The Catalan society is mostly bilingual. Almost 95% of its citizens understand Catalan and 99.9% Spanish, but only a 35.6% uses Catalan as their everyday language in front of a 46% that uses Spanish.
Historically, the Catalan has been the common language of Catalonia; however, since Spain returned to democratic rule in 1978, the different Catalonian governments (from diverse political ideologies) have all actively promoted the recovery and use of the Catalan language. This was due to the language’s fragile situation in the late 70’s after being banned for more than 40 years during Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975). Today, even though the strength of the Spanish language (and the threatens to a minority language like Catalan in a globalized world) society manages the use of both Catalan and Spanish in an exemplary manner, and only is put in question —for political reasons—, in very isolated cases; and precisely, those cases are the ones that found echo for the same political reasons in some Madrid-based newspapers with high influence in other parts of the Kingdom of Spain (and until now, it seemed also among the U.S. officials).
In previous U.S. Department of State human rights reports, those isolated cases were reported in a biased manner, highlighting a conflict that did not match the reality in Catalonia but matched the Madrid’s delusional conflict which alleges a supposed Catalan language imposition. This time, however, when you read the Spanish chapter of the 2011 Human Rights report, the reader only finds one paragraph dedicated to this linguistic conflict — it is located at the end of Section 6, Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons and under the subtitle of Other Societal Violence or Discrimination. The length of the paragraph is less than five lines, and just talk about the willing of the Catalan government to disregard a judiciary decision (that ruled in favor of making Spanish a vehicular language in Catalonia’s public schools) and its defense of “the current educational model”.
It is highly surprising that even though this supposed ‘human right violation’, the report does not cite a single case of discrimination. Furthermore, and to make things more interesting, the paragraph ends highlighting the point of view of advocates of the Catalan immersion model which “cited studies showing that Catalan public school students performed as well as their counterparts in other parts of Spain on Spanish language proficiency tests”.
In my opinion, the U.S. officials have finally understood that there is no real conflict in Catalonia even though the Madrid-based newspapers ‘cases’. Nevertheless, since in past reports they wrote about this fictitious conflict, this year’s report had to have at least one small paragraph about the language ‘conflict’.
I really hope that the 2012’s report will focus on the real human rights issues that sadly still occur in Spain and Catalonia, and will avoid contributing to the made-up language conflict that never existed within the Catalan society.