Logotip de la revista Noves SL





Sociolinguistic characterisation of young people in Catalonia: some factors that explain linguistic uses, by Anna Torrijos(1)


In this way, among the young people of the Catalan linguistic group and, to a greater degree, of the Spanish linguistic group, there are behaviours that indicate they maintain their own language in all conversations. In the case of the Catalan linguistic group, apart from the difficulty of expressing themselves in Spanish, they used as an argument the fact that they express themselves more freely and the protection of a language that is found in a poorer condition in Catalan society.

G3 (de 23 a 29 anys, catalanoparlants i bilingües)
Jo crec que no te perquè ser així, jo abans sempre feia el fet de canviar i tinc un germà que és molt catalanista, que llegeix molt i un cop em va fer la reflexió de dir i tu per què ets sempre la que canvies quan l’altre també ho fa i no ho fa perquè no vol, el cas és la meva àvia, la meva àvia porta aquí 50 anys i no parla català i fas la reflexió de dir: perquè estic fent el primo perquè en segons quines circumstàncies no sóc tan àgil quan parlo castellà com quan parlo català, en segons quin tipus de converses, entrevistes de feina... em sento molt més bé quan parlo en català.

Among young people in the Spanish linguistic group there are great difficulties in expressing themselves in Catalan however, in some cases, they also mention matters such as the fact that they do not consider it to be necessary in order to be understood by anybody as they can hold bilingual conversations. We should mention that for young people in the Spanish linguistic group it is unthinkable that anybody should not understand and speak Spanish. On the other hand, in the case of young people in the Catalan linguistic group there is special care taken in finding out whether the people know how to speak Catalan before holding a conversation in Catalan with them.

G2 (aged 18 to 22, bilingual speakers and Spanish speakers)
I usually always speak in Spanish, in the shops wherever I go, I always in Spanish because I express myself better.

G1 (aged 15 to 17, Catalan speakers, bilingual speakers and Spanish speakers)
And if they speak to me in Catalan, well in Spanish also, and if I've started I'm not going to change.

Finally, despite these regulations of linguistic use, overall all the young people state that if they have started a relationship with somebody in a different language to their own they prefer to maintain the relationship in that language. In this case, the deeply rooted custom makes it impossible to change language.

Linguistic attitudes

The rules of linguistic use and attitudes towards diverse languages are strongly linked, as the first influences the second and vice versa. In the conversations held, the young people in the Catalan linguistic group and those in the Spanish linguistic group feel that their own language is close and familiar. Both groups have positive perceptions and attitudes and negative ones towards the other language.

G3 (aged 23 to 29, Catalan speakers and bilingual speakers)
- When I hear Catalan abroad after periods of not having heard it I get very emotional.

In any case, opinions are linked to political and ideological options. However, the young people of both groups are critical with the discourses that, in Catalonia, have historically tried to link languages to matters of ideology. As far as attitudes towards Catalan are concerned, young Catalan speakers consider that the language should not be so linked to Catalan traditions and symbols as it causes controversy about an ideological aspect that needs to be left behind. However, the young people in this group reject the posture of people who refuse to speak Catalan or who get annoyed when someone speaks Catalan and it is at this point that they realise the rules of use that are deeply rooted in Catalan society.

G3 (aged 23 to 29, Catalan speakers and bilingual speakers)
- But also because it has been fostered, they have wanted to link the language, I’m not saying they are not linked to the culture but by the process of transition that we've had with the linguistic matter, it has been sold to us as a cultural thing which needs to be defended, traditional.

For young people in the Spanish linguistic group, Catalan is a language that is far removed from them, that does not form part of their world. In some cases, it is perceived as a language of a "higher" class society as people who speak Spanish come from immigration with a lower economic level. At the same time, Spanish is linked with a more informal, modern language that is more identified with their youthful preferences.

G4 (aged 23 to 29 bilingual speakers and Spanish speakers)
- I don't know, it's a cliché that I might have noted, maybe sociological, the fact that normally by definition people with fewer studies tend to speak more Spanish and people with more qualifications, historically maybe it has nothing to do with it and maybe it's not even correct, but they usually speak more Catalan. I would expect more Spanish from a waiter than from a worker in a Catalan bank such as La Caixa

G1 (aged 15 to 17, Catalan speakers, bilingual speakers and Spanish speakers)
The only people I know that speak Catalan are the independent nationalist types, the others, all the people I know speak Spanish.

6. Conclusions

According to Emili Boix, (15) in 1993, there were two factors that most strongly influenced the changes of code between young people from the metropolitan area: linguistic competence and, above all, the linguistic identity of the speakers. Equally, this piece of research presented an asymmetrical situation in the young people of the two linguistic groups: while all young Catalan speakers can speak and do speak Spanish, the young Spanish-speaking people of the metropolitan area can still not really choose Catalan because their social positions do not enable them either to learn it or to use it effectivel.

Ten years after Emili Boix's research, we are able to say that some changes have taken place but that, overall, there are aspects that have not been overcome. Therefore, although the linguistic competence among today's young people has increased, there has not been a correspondence with its uses. Therefore, according to what Boix indicated, there is an important influence of identity aspects in the use of the language.

The linguistic uses of young Catalan people are explained by a combination of a multiplicity of factors that are related and that influence each other. Beyond the quantitative data, one can observe how in a multilingual society, the social and historic context determine specific linguistic uses. At the same time, the social and historical contexts are experienced, defined and understood in different ways by each generation, in this case, the young people. Therefore, the data shows us that there are no great differences in the linguistic uses of young people in comparison with other generations (16) however, there are discourses and arguments concerning linguistic uses that refer to their generation in which the linguistic contexts experienced are different. Therefore, young people have a Catalan linguistic environment at school, which did not happen for other generations, and they have an image, attitudes and specific perceptions about the language that other generations reproduce or that are completely new. For example, according to the data of the EULC 2003, most of the young population believe that in five years’ time, Catalan will be spoken equally or less than at present (63.3%), while among the general population this percentage is 49.7%.








4 de 5