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Informationalism, globalisation and trilingualism. An analysis of the statistics of Linguistic Practices in Small and Medium Companies in Catalonia, by Amado Alarcón


5. Conclusions

In the sample as a whole there is a predominance in the use of Catalan above Spanish and far above English. The use of foreign languages is, in general, very low and undoubtedly related to the fact that there is a marked linguistic division of work between workers, so that those who have to make international communications are still a minority and that these communications occupy a very small part of the total work time. Only in companies with foreign capital does English reach rates of use that make this language an important new competitor to Catalan in practically all communicative functions without, according to the results, affecting Spanish in these companies.

Informationalism as a process that designates new forms of work and organisation does not, in general, have a negative effect on the Catalan language, but rather a positive one We have seen how the profiles with greater linguistic intensity, that is in companies where the management of information and production of knowledge is more important, the use of Catalan and English increases in detriment of Spanish. The extension and reinforcement of Catalan in the university system, that in Catalonia this language be that of institutional prestige and that Catalan public institutions are a reference in the promotion of activities of the so-called knowledge society should reinforce this tendency in the future.

Obviously, one of the components of the process of economic globalisation analysed here, the penetration of markets in the rest of the world and the lesser dependence on the market of the rest of Spain, have also shown positive effects on the use of Catalan. The growth of exports from Catalonia to Europe and the lesser relative weight of the Spanish market also has positive effects for Catalan.

On the other hand, the negative effects of the use of Catalan were found in two factors associated with globalisation and informationalism: a) the new communicative spaces provided by new information and communication technologies and b) the international origin of the capital, and in the first environment Spanish and English are very well placed languages, the first in regard to the large market and the second as the main language for technological development. The increased intensity of these variables shows negative effects on the Catalan as a local language. On the other hand, the foreign origin of the capital implies new languages for co-ordination and prestige inside companies.

The particular case of Spanish is very interesting when considering the variables. It is the second language in the activity of the companies analysed and the growing linguistic intensity of processes as well as the internationalisation of the markets of Catalan companies show negative effects on its use. On the contrary, the positive situation of the origin of the capital and new technologies brings about an ambivalent behaviour to globalisation and informationalism.

In fact, the situation of Spanish does not precisely correspond to the so-called language crisis of modernity (Graddol, 2004). It loses functions before English because of the regionalisation of the European economy and because it is the reference language for the management of knowledge on a world-wide level. It also loses functions in the framework of the increasing local claims that form part of the resurgence of nationalisms on a global scale. But it is emerging as one of the main languages for regional economic activity on a world level in Central and South America and also with large markets in Spain and the USA. It is precisely the process of globalisation accompanied by regionalisation of the economy (European Economic Union, Mercosur, NAFTA...), that puts Spanish in a situation of privilege because is the language of one of these large markets, and because it acts as a commercial and cultural bridge between the European Union and Latin America.

inally, the representation we have made of the linguistic practices in small and medium companies could be considerably improved by analytically distinguishing the different functions of instrumental the languages in the business world. These could be grouped as follows: a) corporative language or that of the proprietors; b) languages for international co-ordination of the production; c) languages of local job markets, and d) languages of the consumer and supplier markets. This classification refers to a progressively quadrilingual social and economic world, even though the linguistic division of the workplace could be compatible with mainly monolingual or bilingual employees because of the existence of a notable linguistic division of the workplace. Monolingualism, however, generates the risk of segmentation of the employees based on the prestige of each language.

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Amado Alarcón


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