Logotip de la revista Noves SL





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


Table 4. Do you think that in five years’ time Catalan will be used
more, equally or less than today?





No answer

Entire population*





Population aged between 15 and 29





* Population of 15 years and over
Source: Statistics of linguistic uses in Catalonia 2003. (n = 7,000)

Young people in Catalonia use one language or another depending on the competence acquired in each of the languages, on the social contexts in which they are found, on the rules of linguistic use and on linguistic attitudes. Therefore it can be concluded that these are the main factors that influence the uses reproduced in the diagram on page 4.

Completely competent in Catalan

First of all we should look at the matter of complete competence in both languages of young people in Catalunya. Linguistic competence that is acquired at school and the competence necessary to be able to use the language normally in everyday life do not correspond. As could be seen in the discussion groups, the linguistic environment of the person is a determinant factor in acquiring competence suitable to express oneself confidently and fluently in a language.

The family appears as the first linguistic environment which determines, to a great degree, the competence acquired after the adolescent stage. This family environment is one of the main factors that explains the habitual uses of young Catalan people. At the same time, this influence is stronger in the case of Spanish-speaking homes as the change between the use of the family language and the habitual language is made more difficult. It can be seen, therefore, that there is some difficulty in the transfer among some young people of Spanish-speaking origin due to lack of expressive competence in Catalan. This is why young Spanish speakers who almost never use Catalan say they know this language because they have learnt it at school but they do not use it because their family environment does not favour it. The changes in linguistic uses occur more frequently among young people whose family language is Catalan and Spanish equally or just Catalan.

The family origin is the determining factor in the family language and at the same time in the habitual use of language of young people. It should be pointed out that the family origin that has been studied at a quantitative level is determined by the parents' place of birth. However, at a qualitative level, we could make out a tendency to speak more of family origin in general. In this sense, there are young people with parents born in Catalonia who speak Spanish with them because the origin of the grandparents set this trend. In this case, the parents maintain the linguistic transmission of the family of origin. Quite surely, the historic context has enormously influenced this fact, as a great part of the generation of the parents of today's young people lived in a strongly Spanish-speaking linguistic context.

Linguistic contexts

The linguistic contexts of young people are the set of areas in which young people make use of the language or languages. As we have seen in the case of a family environment, the contexts greatly influence uses but also competence through the practice of the language in any context.

Outside the family environment, in first place, we should highlight the influence of the place of residence as, to a great degree, it will define the linguistic environment of the young person. In second place, with regard to the fact that young people who are currently studying and those who have higher studies have a greater tendency to use Catalan, we can deduce that the secondary school, university and the work environment could be linguistic environments that are favourable for Catalan. With regard to the working environment, we should also mention that this can be the contrary. The studies of linguistic uses in the labour world indicate that there are sectors in which the use of Catalan is more frequent than in others.

In third place, it has been considered that the consumption of leisure time and culture, membership of associations and ICT use, would also give determined linguistic uses among young people. In this case, the conclusions of the quantitative analysis indicate that cultural consumption and ICT are associated to the level of studies which is the variable that has the strongest influence on linguistic uses.(17) Specifically, young people with higher levels of studies are more likely to use ICTs (greater use of computers, the Internet, etc.) and more intense cultural consumption (reading books, going to the cinema and other activities). Therefore, what had been shown in an initial exploratory analysis as an association between habitual linguistic uses in Catalan and the use of ICTs and more intense cultural consumption was, in fact, an influence of the young people's level of studies.

Qualitatively speaking, the influence of the linguistic offer in the areas related to the consumption of leisure and culture (music, television, cinema among others) is notable. Specifically, with regard to musical tastes we could see identity aspects which, in the case of music sung in Catalan, are completely linked to the language of identification (the one they consider to be their own language) that is linked to a specific young person's style. At the same time, it mentions the offer of cultural consumption, above all musical, in diverse languages as one of the other factors that influences when using one or another language in music and television. In this case, they mention linguistic consumption in English, considered to be a lingua franca and global language. Young people perceive the effects of globalisation and take on the tastes of a global society combining them with a taste for products from closer to home, linked to identity and style or young people's fashion to which they feel a bond.

Membership of associations is another of the factors that is part of the quantitative model that determines the linguistic uses of young Catalan people. Taking into account that in this practice social networks are created, we need to see the implications of this fact. It could be said that knowing people places people before new rules of linguistic use, also that membership of associations makes up a linguistic environment for the person which, in this case, is favourable for using Catalan more often. Therefore, it could also indicate an influence on competence in Catalan and could even have an important influence on the linguistic attitudes of young people.

Finally, we should not forget the global social contexts with which young people live and that are found in any specific context. The effects of globalisation: English as a language of international communication, the new forms of relationships between people —both with regard to new channels as well as relationships between different countries and languages— the constant entry of foreign people who live either temporarily or permanently in Catalonia, the linguistic offer, the linguistic policies, among others factors that have a great influence on the linguistic uses of young Catalan people. As we have seen in the case of cultural consumption, young people perceive the effects of globalisation in their linguistic uses. The effects of globalisation go beyond languages and, as indicated in the articles of Roger Martinez or Joe Gritxi and this report, may have the effect of strengthening local traditions and customs.

Rules of linguistic use

With regard to the rules of use, we should distinguish between rules of social use and rules of interpersonal use. On the one hand, the rules of social or group use would be those that determine linguistic uses for each occasion and context that is socially known and recognized. These are the ones that mark certain behaviour classified by Catalan society, such as rules of "politeness" or "respect" towards speakers of one or another language. These rules determine, to a great degree, the linguistic convergence of people who use Catalan towards Spanish. Young people learn these rules of use in the socialisation process, in the family and at school, among other situations.

On the other hand, there are the rules of interpersonal use that determine the linguistics uses of each specific relationship with each of the members of the family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Young people are not an exception in this case and declare that when there are linguistic uses acquired with any person they know, these are very difficult to change. It is very exceptional and it is understood to be a "strange" thing that two people who maintain a relationship in one language can change their uses and starts to speak in another language in their relationship.

Linguistic attitudes

Finally, with regard to linguistic attitudes, we need to evaluate their influence on linguistic uses. When we speak about the language of identification, what one considers to be one's personal or own language, this is an attitude in the face of a linguistic fact. Identification places people, it shapes preferences and influences the use of a language or not.

At the same time, linguistic attitudes are important for shaping linguistic awareness with the preservation of languages. Young people who identify with Catalan, despite not having permanent awareness about the uses that are required for the preservation of the language, show some awareness because of this. On the whole, they are young people in favour of promoting the language and they say they try to promote Catalan with their individual behaviour but they move away from Catalan monolingual positions because they consider that being bilingual is an advantage and an added value over those who are not bilingual.

Therefore, individual contexts such as linguistic competence, group contexts such as linguistic environment and social contexts such as rules or the linguistic offer of the cultural industries are factors which, beyond the characteristics of a specific young person, influenced the linguistic uses of young people in Catalonia. The possibility of changing them will come from the changes in each factor without forgetting that each change will influence the rest of the factors.

7. Bibliography

BOIX, E. Triar no és trair: identitat i llengua en els joves de Barcelona. Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1993.

CASAL, J.; GARCIA, M.; MERINO, R. I QUESADA, M. Enquesta als joves de Catalunya, 2002. Generalitat de Catalunya, Secretaria General de Joventut. Barcelona, 2004.

CORREA PIÑERO, A. Análisis logarítmico lineal. Cuadernos de Estadística. Madrid: La Muralla, 2002.

Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya. Estadística d’usos lingüístics a Catalunya, 2003. Generalitat de Catalunya, Idescat. Barcelona, 2004.

IPSOS. Grups de discussió per a l’avaluació de la campanya “Dóna corda al català”. Informe per a la Secretaria de política lingüística, 2005.

LÓPEZ ROLDÁN, P; LOZARES, C. Anàlisi bivariable de dades estadístiques. Col·lecció Materials 79. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Bellaterra: 1999.

LÓPEZ ROLDÁN, P. L’anàlisi log –lineal logit. Apunts. Departament de Sociologia, UAB. 2006

LÓPEZ ROLDÁN, P. L’anàlisi log –lineal. Apunts. Departament de Sociologia, UAB. 2006

LOZARES, C.; MARTÍN, A.; LÓPEZ, P. El tratamiento multiestratégico en la investigación sociológica. A: Papers. Revista de Sociología, 55. p27 – 43. Barcelona. 1998.

MARTÍNEZ, R.; GONZÀLEZ, I. I DE MIGUEL, V. Cultura i joves. Anàlisi de l’Enquesta de consum i pràctiques culturals de Catalunya. Generalitat de Catalunya, Secretaria General de Joventut. Barcelona, 2005.

Observatori Català de la Joventut. Informe sobre la joventut 2005. Generalitat de Catalunya, Secretaria General de Joventut. Barcelona, 2005.

SALVADOR, A. Condicions de vida dels joves de la regió metropolitana de Barcelona. Informe realitzat a partir de la base de dades de l’Enquesta de la regió metropolitana de Barcelona, 1995. Barcelona, 1998.

SÁNCHEZ CARRIÓN, J. Introducción a las técnicas de análisis multivariable aplicadas a las ciencias sociales. Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas. Madrid: 1984.

SERRANO, J. (DIR.) I SEMPERE, D. (COORD.). Joves i participació a Catalunya. Fundació Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia. Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament de Cultura. Barcelona, 1999.

SOLÉ I CAMARDONS, J. "Competència i ús lingüístic entre els joves a Catalunya. Evolució i perspectives de futur". L’ús del català entre els joves: cicle. Del 32 al 30 de setembre de 1999. Joaquim Noguero (ed); Albert Branchadell (et al.). Fundació Caixa de Sabadell. Sabadell, 1999, p. 81-87.

TORRES, J. (COORD.) i altres. Estadística sobre els usos lingüístics a Catalunya 2003. Llengua i societat a Catalunya en els inicis del segle XXI. Generalitat de Catalunya, Secretaria de Política Lingüística. Barcelona, 2005.

VALLES, MIGUEL S. Técnicas cualitativas de investigación social: reflexión metodológica y práctica profesional. Madrid: Síntesis. 1997.

Anna Torrijos
Secretaria de Política Lingüística










5 de 5