Back to Index

SPAIN: Spanish in Catalonia

From Barcelona, Miquel Strubell is pleased to know that I studied Catalan with "the venerable linguist" Pompeu, Fabra,who he rightly points out was an engineer. Pompeu Fabra himself was pleased, and pointed me out to people as proof of interest in Catalan in England.

However, he has a question: "The value of firsthand experience is again highlighted by the fact that you proclaim that you find a so-called "backlash" in Catalonia distressing. What sort of "backlash" have you witnessed in Barcelona, say? Is this based on your own recent, firsthand experience? If anything distressed a former pupil of professor Fabra, I'm sure that it would be the fact that a very large number of people, unlike the period in the 30s when you lived in Barcelona, have not learned Catalan, despite having lived more than 2o years in the country! Or the fact that all official documents (identity cards, driving licences, even postage stamps) continue to be monolingual. Or the fact that the Spanish government is spending over $100 million on promoting Spanish on the Internet, and no one knows if a single cent of that will go to support the other languages of Spain."

My answer: As I will point out in a posting on the Second Spanish Republic (1931-36), the atmosphere is the early years was full of optimism, and so was Barcelona. Studying Catalan then was a pleasant experience, but the Civil War and the Franco regime have left a bitterness which still lingers, scarcely mentioned publicly, although in the present Basque elections there have been references to it. It has poisoned the whole language debate. My impressions of Barcelona at the time may be found in my book on the period, which will be published in London, it is already available on line:

Ronald Hilton - 4/16/01