A lot has been said during the last week about the manifesto that a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals have published with the objective to give support to what they call the common language, Castilian, known in English as Spanish.
When reading the article, my appetite for Spanish was drastically reduced. I have always defended trilingual education in Catalonia, but after reading this manifesto, I start to think that we, Catalans, could obviate Spanish and massively switch to English as a second language.
The manifesto reminded me of those societies where if someone rapes a woman, he is exonerated if he marries the victim. It totally forgets that Castilian was imposed on Catalonia with a series of Royal decrees, the first of which was the Decree of New Foundation in 1715, and that for 300 years, Catalan was set aside, isolated, relegated, bullied, downgraded, expelled, ostracized, removed and shunned. No one asked Catalans whether they wanted another language. the Bourbon kings and queens religiously applied the Machiavelli principles to make sure that Catalonia would not continue to rebel and search independence.
We cannot simply forget that and pretend nothing happened. We have the right now to make restitution for what was taken from us and this is only possible through positive discrimination. The Catalan language needs 100 years of positive discrimination to go back to a plain field and the best way to carry out this positive discrimination is through immersion and favoring those activities which promote Catalan language and Catalan culture. Positive discrimination is nothing new. African Americans and Hispanics enjoy positive discrimination policies in USA to try to compensate the burdens that British and Spanish (I should say Castilians) inflicted on their ancestors.
You may tell me that 300 years is a long time and that we have to forget what happened in the past, that, as per today, Spanish is spoken by 450 million people and Catalan by barely 10 millions, that past is past. If this is your position, then, after 20 years living, traveling non-stop and working in 5 continents, I have to tell you that the common language, the language that brings together European, Americans, Asians, Africans and people from Oceania is not Spanish, but English. The manifesto is pathetically anachronic, they are just trying to cling to the Spain of Phillip II, but all that grandeur is gone. The common language is English and I feel really ashamed when in the last paragraph, the self-proclaimed intellectuals demand from the Spanish politicians that they only use Spanish when they speak in public in Spain and overseas. I am afraid, they do not need to ask for it, since most of them cannot speak anything else.
Finally I would like to mention some related facts:
• Having a small language does not mean underdevelopment. Many countries with minority languages (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, etc) have some of the highest per capita incomes
• When Spain was at its peak, in the 15th and 16th centuries, only Catalan was spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and most of Valencia. This fact did not seem to stop Spain’s success.
I also recommend that you read Erik Wirdheim's related post. It is simply beautiful.