lunes, 8 de septiembre de 2014

Reply to the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government in the United Kingdom

I would like to begin this article by thanking Josep Manuel Suárez, the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government in the United Kingdom, for his letter to the editor of the Financial Times in response to the one that I wrote with Susana Beltrán and Santiago Mondejar, in which he accepts our position. I also thank the online Catalan newspaper Nació Digital for having reported the correspondence. However, there are a few points that need clarification.
            I would like to begin with the way in which this is reported in Nació Digital, which in my view uses judgemental language that is unsuitable for the journalistic goal of objectivity and which also makes a number of mistakes. To start with, the headline says that the [Catalan] government is replying to the serous mistakes that ‘unionism’ has published in the Financial (written in this way, simply the Financial, instead of Financial Times, thereby showing an unwonted degree of familiarity / instead of using the abbreviation FT, which is commonly used by people who are in fact familiar with this famous newspaper). On reading this I felt a great metaphysical weight fall upon me – truth. Unionism. Three people acting in their individual capacity, as is made clear later in the text, write a modest letter to the editor of a newspaper and it is Unionism as a whole that makes serious mistakes. What responsibility has fallen upon our shoulders!
The introduction to the article says that Suárez refutes the accusations made by Puerta de Brandenburgo against the policy of “linguistic immersion”, whereby Catalan is only language that can be used in schools even though, I repeat, we sign the letter personally and not in the name of that association. The article uses the Catalan verb “aconseguir” to say that our letter has been published. This word, which is like saying in English that we have succeeded in getting a letter published, implies a great effort that has little to do with the real course of events. We wrote the letter quickly while we were on holiday, we sent it, and almost immediately we received a response asking us to shorten the text to meet the required format for publication.
            Further on, this article presents a series of mistakes and comments that are hard to justify. First, it describes the three authors as university lecturers, which is not true in one of the cases. Moreover, it says that even though the signatories of the letter are acting in an individual capacity we present its publication as a success for Puerta de Brandemburgo, a situation that “the newspaper concealed”. Is Nació Digital really accusing such a prestigious newspaper as the FT of concealing information? Of course, they concealed nothing because the letter was signed with our own names and not on behalf of the association, and this was stated when it was published. As for presenting the letter as a success, all we did was to publish the letter on our blog in just the same way that we publish articles written by our members that appear in other media so long as they relate to Catalan affairs. This can be seen both in that publication and in the Twitter and Facebook profiles, where it is reported with absolute neutrality as is always the case when we share a document in the internet.

            As for the contents of Suárez’s letter, he largely agrees with us and I thank him for that, as I said above. He says, for example, that a majority of Catalan TV viewers choose channels that broadcast in Spanish and in our letter we make this very point, that in spite of that fact the subsidies to Catalan-language media are very generous and are paid for by all Catalans.
            When Suárez deals with the question of linguistic immersion he not surprisingly adopts the clichés of nationalist argument, saying that what is important is not the number of teaching hours but the results. Quite apart from the fact that logic suggests that a greater number teaching hours will make it possible to learn more, there is no evidence – and it would be miracle if there were any – to show that the level achieved by Catalan pupils is higher than that found in the rest of Spain. I find it surprising that a representative of the Catalan government should take the time to answer a simple letter to the editor while in Catalonia, in contrast, there are no forums for debate on the matter in which both sides can be represented.

            Finally, he says that Catalan is a minority language in Catalonia. This is true in a numerical sense but not with regard both to its status as a co-official language in a community like Catalonia, which has fully devolved powers and its own Parliament, and to its status as the only language in which teaching can take place in the non-university educational system. Suárez wonders whether, if English were the language of one third of the population, the country’s government would not take steps to promote it. But the United Kingdom does also have its own minority languages such as Scottish Gaelic, which is recognised in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the British government has taken appropriate steps to promote it; but this does not mean, as is the case here in Catalonia, making it the language of majority use in public administration, and far less is it the only language for teaching in schools because nowhere in the world that is bilingual does anything of the sort. . Surely, there must be a reason for that.

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