2. Methodological concerns (6)
In the more than 120
hours of recorded interviews I have conducted in Catalunya and the Franja de Ponent,
the question of daycare language and babysitter speech were tangential to my main concerns
about mixed marriages. In only in case did I observe a retired grandfather playing
a major role in raising a child (7). In most cases, the father was, as
Corsetti (1996:266) would have it, "the weak link in passing on the language."
The father was often absent, or the silent partner, in family interviews I conducted. 100%
of my informants concurred that todays senyora de fer feines is invariably
not Catalan speaking. While most observers stated, and my own observation supports, that
Castilian speakers dominate the housecleaning/childcare market, a third linguistic
influence comes into play.
or speakers of neither Catalan nor Castilian, have entered the home in large enough
numbers to appear regularly in my interviews. They are identified as either Filipinos,
North Africans, or Latin Americans. As for the babysitter, s/he was either Catalan or
Castilian speaking, depending on the area or neighborhood. Over seventy-five percent of
informants answered that babysitters, mostly female, were often students, daughters of
friends, or "strongly recommended" by friends.
3. Mothers and fathers
3a) The father,
while remaining the "weak link" in the linguistic chain, had an unusual role in
the "mixed" household. Even in Catalan-dominant homes, the "minority"
Castilian-speaking father was often addressed, and conversations took place in front of
him, in his native language. If a father insisted that a household be either
"officially" dominant in one language or another, this demand held great weight.
3b) Nevertheless, more than one Castilian-speaking mother admitted that
she spoke Catalan in the presence of her husband, but with her child, "para las
cosas más íntimas, más espontáneas, le hablo en castellano" (for the
most intimate and spontaneous things, I talk to him in Castilian.). The best
examples were bedtime rituals (reading stories, lullabies).
3c) Furthermore, if
a child identified a parent, or other household visitors, with a given language, s/he
subsequently only addressed that person in the "introductory language."
"Now that he has heard you speaking to me in Castilian," one parent informed me,
"he wont speak to you in Catalan." Therefore, the language used by a
bilingual couple during the first months after the childs birth may determine
household "role relations" for years, perhaps forever. My research showed that,
especially in the presence of a Castilian-speaking father and a Catalan-speaking mother,
the family may well switch to "the common language" in the fathers
presence. Domestic peace, convenience, and ideology may all enter into this decision.
feels the effect of mother language, father language, "nanny language" and
school language. His mother is a native speaker of Catalan, his father of Castilian, but
the parents most often speak Catalan when alone. "Nobody can explain my case, claimed
Pablo, commenting on how infrequently he speaks Catalan.
4a) In fact, Pablos linguistic habits result from Catalans unusual position as
a "sandwich language," in which the lower and upper classes tend to speak
Castilian, while Catalan occupies the middle zone (8). Pablo comes from a relatively
well-to-do family, attended an English-language private high school, had domestic help in
his home, and the option of living in the United States with a sports scholarship. In
Greater Barcelona, I interviewed a number of what I called the "international
category." These individuals had lived abroad, studied in one of
Barcelonas foreign-language-based schools, or married foreigners. Usually, they came
from middle- or upper-middle class families.
4b) Elsewhere in the
Province of Barcelona, "Esther" had a cook/housekeeper, and a gardener, at her
parents summer residence. Both were castellanoparlants. Like Pablo, she had
studied at an English-language high school, then studied in the United States. Her
linguistic situation, given the socioeconomic and educational background, is hardly
surprising: Catalan may have held a distant third place, after Castilian and
English, in her school. With Spains membership in the European Union
(bringing "Eurobureaucrats" and legal workers from all over Europe to
Catalonia), this "international faction" is destined to grow in size and