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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Spanish just one of the 300 languages spoken in Catalonia?

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Mariàngela Vilallonga took office as the new Minister of Culture in the regional government of Catalonia on 25th March, 2019. Born in Gerona in 1952, she received a Ph.D. in classical philology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Despite her age and most probably because of her connections, she keeps her position as a professor of Latin Philology at the university of her hometown, nowadays a separatist bastion. Since 2015 she belongs to the Governing Board and the Advisory Council of the Institution of Catalan Letters in Barcelona.

From 2017 to 2019 Vilallonga was the vice president of the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC), also located in Barcelona, an academic institution in charge of standardizing the Catalan language, spoken in Andorra, the eastern strip of Aragon, the Balearic Islands and the hinterland of the southern French city of Perpignan. Defenders of the Pan-Catalonian idea do include the provinces of Alicante, Castellon and Valencia in this list.

On July 8th 2020, Sonia Sierra from the anti-independence center-left party Ciudadanos faction in the Catalonian parliament questioned Vilallonga’s recent statement about the alleged excessive usage of Spanish on the regional propaganda television channel TV3, financed by all tax payers.

In her response, she made clear that Catalonia has three languages of its own: Catalan, Aranese Occitan (spoken by less than 5,000 people in the Valley of Arán close to the French border) and the Catalan sign language. In contrast, Spanish was just one of the 300 languages spoken in Catalonia, like Urdu or Chinese. At least she recognized Catalan as a sister language of Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

This didn’t come as a surprise, because Vilallonga counts as one of the most prominent members of the Grup Koiné, which advocates for the use of Catalan as the only officiallanguage in Catalonia and, in the hypothetic case of achieving separation from Spain, Spanish being treated as a foreign language.

How somebody who received a solid classical education when Francisco Franco was still in power, can nowadays defend such concepts is mostly due to the climate of anti-Spanish hate created since the 1980s in the region.

To delegate education to the autonomous communities must be seen as the biggest political mistake during the transition period after Franco’s death in 1975. Besides the sometimes grotesque distortion of a common history, more and more linguistic barriers make Spain weaker by the day.

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