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Sociolingüística catalana

The studies carried out by the Andorran Administration as a point of reference for the language planning, by Marta Pujol i Montserrat Badia


3.3 Indicator of use

The indicators changed compared to the 1995 survey as shown in the table below:

  Catalan Spanish French Portuguese
1995 3.4% 2.7% 1.4% 1.3%
1999 3.2% 3.1% 1.4% 1.3%

The main results from the comparison between the two surveys are as follows:

  • Broadly speaking, the indicator of use of Catalan decreases and that of Spanish increases. The situation remains stable for French and Portuguese.

  • According to nationalities, Andorrans and Spaniards who have Catalan as mother tongue are those who use most Catalan; Spanish is the main language used by Spaniards who have Spanish as mother tongue; the same applies to French, and Portuguese use Portuguese in the same way as Spanish.

  • According to age, young people aged from 15 to 25 years and people over 50 use more Catalan although the use of Catalan decreases and the use of Spanish increases in all age groups.

3.4 Linguistic uses in the relations of citizens with the public administration

The public administration was still the domain where Catalan was most widely used. The population of Portuguese nationality still used more Spanish than Catalan but since 1995 the use of Catalan increased significantly in this group. In general, the percentage of people using or receiving Spanish always decreased, while the bilingualism Catalan-Spanish increased compared to 1995.

3.5 Linguistic uses in the relations with the socio-economic domain

In all the analysed situations –except in banks, insurance companies and service agencies - the percentage of people using always Catalan decreased and Catalan-Spanish bilingualism increased. Gathering together the domains more or less favourables for the use of Catalan, we arrived at the following results:

– favourable domains: banks/insurance companies/ and service agency and doctor/dentist;
– intermediate domains: restaurants and shops;
– unfavourable domains: hairdresser, taxi/bus, shopping centres and bars/pubs/discos.

Compared to the classification obtained in 1995, one domain shifted from intermediate to unfavourable: the hairdressers.

Image of the campaign launched in the hairdressers sector

Image of the campaign launched in the hairdressers sector
during the year 2000 as a result of the 1999 survey.

3.6 Fundamental variables

The two fundamental factors on which mainly depend the linguistic attitudes of the interviewees in the socio-economic sector are nationality and mother tongue:

  • Andorrans in general and Spaniards who have Catalan as mother tongue always use more Catalan but when they are in unfavourable situations they use it with less frequency. Those Andorrans who have Catalan as mother tongue use more Catalan in all situations while those of Spanish-speaking origin adapt themselves more to the language of the interlocutor. The use of Catalan in unfavourable situations has increased among Spaniards who have Catalan as mother tongue.

  • Spaniards who have Spanish as mother tongue maintain Spanish as the main language used, except in situations favourables to the use of Catalan. In intermediate situations, they use less Catalan than in 1995.

  • Among people of French nationality, we can establish two separate groups according to the attitudes: a group consisting of people speaking Catalan everywhere and another one made up of people who speak French in favourable situations and shift to Spanish in the unfavourable.

  • Portuguese use mainly Spanish in all domains of the socio-economic sector.

3.7 Linguistic indicator

The linguistic indicator presenting a greater variation in 1999 was that of Spanish(2), insofar as it increased 8.2 points: from 50 in 1995 to 58.2 in 1999. Catalan decreased 2.4. points: from 56.3 in 1995 to 53.9 in 1999. From 1995 to 1999 the relation between the linguistic indicators of Catalan and Spanish reversed so that Spanish now holds the first position.

After analysing the decisive factors related to the differences between indicators according to population groups, we found once again that nationality and mother tongue were the main variables determining the score obtained by each language:

  • The linguistic indicator of Catalan was very high among Andorrans and Spaniards who have Catalan as mother tongue and very low among Spaniards who have Spanish as mother tongue, French and Portuguese;

  • The Portuguese were associated with a very high indicator of Spanish if we take into account that it is not their mother tongue;

  • The linguistic indicator of Catalan was slightly higher for French people compared to the survey of 1995.

3.8 Outcomes and implications for the Andorran language policy

The data gathered during the first survey already indicated that the Andorran linguistic legislation was inadequate in regulating the use of the official language of the country given that demographic changes are causing a gradually decline in its use.

The 1999 survey showed the group of speakers who had Catalan (the sole official language of the country) as initial language was no longer the largest group as it had been outnumbered by the Spanish-speaking group.

In its session of December 16, 1999 the Andorran government approved with no vote against it and only one abstention (more due to formal reasons than to its contents) the law on the regulation of the use of the official language, which came into force in January 2000.

This Act, which gathered all the previous linguistic legislation and broadened its scope, proved one of the most efficient tools in promoting the use of Catalan during 2001 and 2002.

linguistic legislation

The current situation of Catalan shows that the Act needs to be expanded to be more effective in many domains. The present stage typically involves the drafting of decrees aiming to bring regulation of the official language to bear on each specific sector of the Andorran society.

During the year 2001 various informative and awareness raising actions were undertaken to explain to the Andorran public the coming into force in January 2002 of a transitional provision of the Act by which all companies should be obliged by law to ensure communication with customers in Catalan.

As expected it is difficult to implement this provision and it will take time and efforts to enforce it. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of companies’ owners have been informed of this and are aware they can be fined if they do not apply the law. This is why an increasing number of companies tell their employees to start the conversation in Catalan and to make efforts to use it. On the other hand, Catalan-speaking residents are more aware of their use of Catalan than earlier and many of them who five years ago would have spoken in Spanish now persist in speaking the official language -despite the obstacles they may have to face- in their relations with the socio-economic sector.

The continuing labour problems Andorra has to face and the fact that fewer Catalans are going there to live and work makes it even more difficult to comply with legal requirements in the domain of customer service. Enrolment for Catalan courses for adults has increased significantly over the last years and there are to organise informative actions aimed at new immigrants. The experts in language policy do not discount the proposal of further actions in the field of language and immigration.

4. The young people

4.1. Analysis of results and publication of Linguistic competences and uses among the school population of Andorra

For the last two years, the service of language policy has focused its activities on gathering and disseminating data on young people and has published the book Knowledge and linguistic uses among the school population of Andorra (2002), which shows the results of a study commissioned by the Centre of Catalan Culture of Andorra with the support of UNESCO. It is also a quantitative study carried out by means of interviews to a representative sample of the school population ranging from 8 to 16 during the 2000-2001 school year. The total number of pupils interviewed was of 5,221 and the extracted sample, with a margin of error of 4%(3), was made up of 556 pupils. The samples were selected proportionally according to the education systems, the number of pupils in each school and pupils' age. In the following pages we sum up the results of this study.

38.7% of pupils attend schools of the French education system, 22.7% in Catholic schools (Sant Ermengol, Janer and Sagrada Família), 20.5% in Andorran schools and 18.1% in Spanish schools. (In the analysis related to the education system we always consider Catholic schools –which use Catalan as the language of instruction– as a separate item from the Spanish –where Spanish is the language of instruction– due to the difference in the linguistic approach.

Distribution by education systems according nationality:

  Andorran school French school Spanish school Catholic schools
Andorran 25.7% 35.8% 14%


Spanish 17.9% 30.7% 26.4%


Portuguese 6.1% 51% 32.7%


French   92%  


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