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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


4.1.1. Uses

The study looks at the languages spoken at home, at school and in social life.

At home:

  • To interpret the collected data the diversity of family origins has to be taken into account: for example, only 35% of the interviewees have one or more grandparents living in Andorra.

  • 30.6% of pupils claim that they learnt to speak in more than one language.

  • The nationality showing a higher predominance of one single language is the French one, as 80% of children speak French, while those presenting a greater variety are the Andorran children and those of Spanish extraction (Catalans or others from Spain), with different percentages of exclusive use of Catalan, Spanish or both languages within the family. Among Andorran children Catalan is the main language used at home (41.8%) and Spanish among Spaniards (54.3). French and Portuguese children state other bilingual combinations: Catalan and French or Spanish and French for French children; Spanish and Portuguese for Portuguese children (the absence of the option Catalan and Portuguese should be stressed).

  • 20.5% of Portuguese children speak Spanish with their brothers and sisters while only 2.6% does in Catalan; 4.5% of French children speak Spanish with their brothers and sisters and 9.1% in Catalan.

At school:

- Linguistic uses significantly differ according to the education system:

Speak Catalan With teachers outside the classroom

With schoolmates

Andorran school 92,9% 92.1%
French school 10.8% 25.7%
Spanish school 5% 1%
Catholic schools 78.6% 51.6%


Speak Spanish With teachers outside the classroom

With schoolmates

Andorran school 6.2% 7.9%
French school 2.8% 52.8%
Spanish school 95% 99%
Catholic schools 21.4% 48.4%

In social life:

  • 47.4% of Andorran children speak mainly in Catalan with friends and 46.3 mainly in Spanish.

  • 29.3% of Spanish children speak mainly in Catalan with friends and 66.4% mainly in Spanish.

  • Only 4.1% of Portuguese children speak mainly in Catalan with friends and 83.7% mainly in Spanish.

  • 12% of French children speak mainly in Catalan with friends, 20% mainly in Spanish and 68% mainly in French.

  • Regarding the consumption of entertainment and cultural products (television, videogames, music, movies, books and magazines) the use of Spanish is dominant mainly due to the products on the market, which is one of the arguments stated by children when they are asked why they go to movies or play with videogames in Spanish. As for music, Spanish (41%) is very close to English (42%), and regarding TV (58% watch TV predominantly in Spanish), the reason not only from the predominance of channels in Spanish but also the success of some programmes targeting these age groups.

  • 44% of interviewees claim they speak Catalan in commercial establishments, 43.9% in Spanish and 6.4% in Catalan or Spanish. Those speaking in Spanish allege that this is because Spanish is a language everybody understands or because it is the language they mainly use.

Perceptions and attitudes

  • The vast majority are aware that Catalan is the official language, although some 6% of the population still do not know it.

  • The perception of Catalan as the language most used in Andorra is higher than the use of Catalan with friends.

  • 52.3% of Andorran children perceive Catalan as their own language, 28.6% Spanish and 8.3% both languages. Among Spaniards, 32.4% claim Catalan as own language, 48.2% Spanish and 13.7% both languages. Among Portuguese, 81.7% state Portuguese as own language and 8.2% Spanish. Among French, 87.4% claim French as own language, 4.2% Catalan and 4.2% Spanish.

  • 71.6% of children state the need to defend the language as symbol of identity of a country. By nationalities, 73.4% of Andorrans agree with this statement, 69% of Spaniards, 88% of French and 59% of Portuguese.

  • 52.4% of interviewees (the question was asked to those aged 11 and over) think that within fifty years several languages will be spoken in Andorra, 23.1% think that Catalan will be the dominant language, 15% Spanish and 9.5% English.

4.2. Uses and social representations of Catalan in Andorra

In 2001 the service of language policy funded the project Uses and social representations of Catalan in Andorra, submitted by Dr. Ernest Querol, who proposes a study of the social representations of pupils studying the last course of secondary education by using a research method already implemented by himself in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia, in order to establish the variables favouring the use of Catalan.

Two of the most interesting observations to be made of the study is the consensus among young people of the same age presented by the sample and the fact that many valuable data can be gathered for further language policy actions.

The results still have to be processed but the large amount of data allows us to discern some very interesting issues.

As it has been said earlier, the sample of this surveys is made up of the census of pupils studying the last course of secondary education and the results have confirmed all the hypothesis. The variables favouring the use of Catalan are:

  • Wish to use Catalan;
  • Catalan-oriented social setting;
  • Representation of Catalan;
  • That which ought by right to in Catalan", a variable which is included in the representation of Catalan, and
  • Representation of Spanish.

The survey shows that beyond the four main linguistic origins of young Andorrans (Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and French), the young Andorran society is almost bilingual (Catalan-Spanish). In most uses Spanish slightly exceeds Catalan, but if we take into account the predictions for future use there is a slightly greater variation in favour of Catalan.

In the relations between young people French and Portuguese do not influence the use of Catalan; most of time, the use of Catalan decreases or increases in favour of or to the detriment of Spanish.

The study divides young people in four groups: almost exclusive use of Catalan (a), a high use of Catalan (b), a low use of Catalan (c) or no use of Catalan (d). Although both groups –a and b on the one hand, and c and d on the other– are rather balanced, the first thing to be said is that there are more youngsters in the groups using less Catalan. By first language, the largest group is that of young people with Spanish as their first language.

We are facing, therefore, what seems to be a crucial moment regarding the equilibrium between the use of two languages and the social and cultural outcomes of this overall linguistic situation. An in-depth analysis of the data collected by this study will certainly give us more information about the most urgent actions to be taken in relation with young people in Andorra.

5. Forthcoming projects

The language policy service is currently interested in thoroughly exploring the population in the age range 20 to 40 by means of studies giving priority to observation techniques and qualitative results.

6. Conclusions

The realities of the Andorran situation make it needful for the sociolinguistics studies undertaken in the future to focus mainly on sociological and psychological aspects. Issues like immigration, social, political and economic participation of citizens, standard of living and welfare are inseparable from any governmental action aiming to promote a language policy process, and those in charge of carrying out this policy will need to have at their disposal the maximum of information to efficiently plan their actions.

It is clear therefore that beyond the scientific or academic interest of any sociolinguistic study, public administrations must sponsor and determine the characteristics of surveys of this kind according to the circumstances and linguistic realities of the territory and the population they have to serve. Within this context, it is needless to say that surveys are fundamental tools to plan actions and to define the stages of the language policy process. In the case of Andorra, we can conclude, moreover, that they are the cornerstones of all the campaigns, projects and indeed legislation implemented after 1995.

Marta Pujol Palau
Montserrat Badia Gomis
Service of Language Policy Government of Andorra

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