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Sociolingüística internacional

School language and demosociolinguistic context in francophone children and teenagers in Canada outside of Quebec: a warning for the Catalan situation,
by Albert Bastardas i Boada


Thus, conversational command of Catalan in this type of situation can be somewhat underdeveloped since Catalan will never or very rarely be the language used in everyday social interaction between these boys and girls, who will see the use of their own varieties in these functions as 'natural'. Due to a lack of frequent, regular contact with classmates of native origin, these individuals may obtain full command of Catalan from a formal point of view but not feel comfortable using Catalan in non-formal speech. For these individuals, the question of language choice comes down to the language they must use with teachers – with whom they may sometimes speak in Spanish instead of Catalan – since their environment generally lacks a sufficient number of L1 Catalan peers with whom they can communicate in this language. Bilingualization, therefore, can be restricted to formal oral and written contexts and individuals can fail to reach the level of comfortable colloquial and mechanical use of Catalan in conversation, as they would use Spanish.

We could fairly accurately outline the evolution in Catalonia according to the diverse demographic and sociolinguistic areas: areas dominated – although not exclusively – by Catalan, others that are mixed, and others where Spanish is clearly the everyday, predominant language, albeit with progressive levels of bilingualization (not used?) in Catalan. The great population shifts of this century prevent us from seeing the Catalan case as a habitual process of integration and/or – in the long-term – assimilation of the descendants of migrant populations. It is very likely that the index of intergenerational language shift from Spanish to Catalan will be low and that, as a result, the linguistic physiognomy of the country will change little in social terms. The question therefore is, not whether immigrants will assimilate into L1 Catalan group, but whether the autochthonous population will take the first steps on the long road towards assimilation into L1 Spanish group. This outcome should not probably happen because they would do so conscientiously, but as a result of the above demographic and sociolinguistic dynamics (mixed marriage with loss of L1 Catalan unilinguals, increased population mixing, reproduction of the intergroup norm favouring Spanish, etc.) in an international and State context whereby Spanish is considered to be a strong, extensive language, capable of serving a vast area of the planet.

Despite the policy of language standardization and diffusion carried out over recent years and the fact that Catalan is official in Catalonia, demographic and sociolinguistic constraints could also take effect and push the situation, albeit slowly, towards undesirable dynamics for language continuity. It may well be time to start seeing the evolution of the L1 Catalan population not only as a demographic minority in Spain, but also in its own historical territory, with all the changes that this will have on the conceptual paradigm, legitimating discourse and the application of effective policies of functional compensation. We need imagination, action research, creativity and socio-political participation if we are to create a situation in Catalonia whereby at least the language competence and uses of the population are properly distributed and equally compensated, thus ensuring a sociocultural ecosystem capable of stabilizing Catalan in the future in its own historic territory.

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