Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Meeting Language-in-Education Policy Aims: Catalonia in the Twenty-First Century

Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Meeting Language-in-Education Policy Aims: Catalonia in the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In recent years, the Catalan language in Spain has gone from receiving no institutional support under the Franco dictatorship (1939-75) to being the chief language of administration and education. Indeed, during the school year 1999/2000, 94% of primary education and 85% of secondary education was either Catalan-medium or predominantly Catalan-medium (Vila i Moreno 2008: 34-5). This near-complete change in medium-of-instruction from Spanish to Catalan in the space of a few decades will be the focus of the present article. Such a volte face has been possible in part due to a comprehensive range of language revitalisation policies introduced since Spain's transition to democracy after Franco's death. But to what extent have the aims of these policies been met?

The next section will detail the aims of Catalan linguistic legislation, culminating in a pertinent research question. Section 3 will provide a theoretical framework by addressing the debate surrounding language testing (which will be shown to be of importance in the context of this article), and illustrating how the regional government of Catalonia evaluates language skills. Section 4 will then outline an innovative fieldwork experiment, and based on the findings of this experiment, the effectiveness of the Catalan language-in- education policies will be debated in section 5.

2. Sociopolitical context: Catalan language policy aims

The aforementioned Franco dictatorship was characterised by the oppression of all those viewed as enemies of the state. Franco's slogan of España: una, grande y libre ('Spain: one, great and free') dismissed as anti-Spanish anyone who was deemed to promote the values of regions such as Catalonia. Thus, by the time Franco died in 1975, the status of Catalan had been greatly weakened. However, this is no longer the case today:

The vitality of civil society has turned [Catalan] into one of the most creative non-official languages in Europe. Today it is used in all domains, it is a scientific language with a continuously expanding output of neologisms, it has a rich literature, it is the main language of theatre, arts, universities and television, and it is making great inroads in the movies, as well as in the daily and weekly press. All of this was unthinkable not many years ago. (Conversi 1997: 266)

This turnaround in institutional support for Catalan has been achieved with the aid of a comprehensive set of policies, covering language use in a wide range of domains. As a result of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Spain was divided into 17 administrative entities known as "autonomous communities" (comunidades autónomas). Each of these regions is largely responsible for its own linguistic legislation.

Catalonia's first autonomy statute was ratified in 1979, its third article declared Catalan Catalonia's "autochthonous language" (llengua pròpia), the mission statement of the policy given as follows:

The Government of Catalonia will ensure the normal and official use of both languages, will take the measures necessary in order to ensure knowledge of them, and will create the conditions making it possible for them to achieve full equality in terms of the rights and duties of the citizens of Catalonia. (Catalunya 1979)

Such early democratic legislation set the tone for the type of Catalan language policy which has been emblematic of the last 30 years, namely status planning measures that focus on what Haugen's standardisation model terms "acceptance", since they aim to create greater opportunities for the use of the Catalan language (Haugen: 933). Importantly, when considering language-in- education policy, article 15 of the 1979 statute transferred all responsibility for education to the Catalan regional government, the Generalitat de Catalunya. When viewed in conjunction with the document's opening statement declaring Catalan as the autochthonous language of Catalonia, it can be inferred that future legislation was to be concerned with the spread of Catalan through the school system. …

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