Monday, April 05, 2010

"He was born in Madrid and defends the linguist immersion in Catalan"

Monday, 5 April 2010

"Spanish should not be taught at all at schools in Catalonia", Prof Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera. Interview by Carles Bellsol

JC Moreno Cabrera 240
Prof Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera, linguist.
He was born in Madrid and defends the linguist immersion in Catalan. The Professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera has published a book, "El nacionalismo lingüístico (Península) -The linguist nationalism (Peninsula), with a profoundly provocative thesis; the only linguistic nationalism existing in Spain is the Spanish. And that is very aggressive, as explained in this interview with, translated to English.

In what consists the linguistic nationalism?

The most common idea in Spain about nationalism, linguist and general, is the claims of a series of regions that have stuck to, in an obsessive and exaggerated manner, the idea that their language and culture had to be recognized. Because a lot of people consider that their language and culture are already recognized within the Constitution and, therefore, all this insistence correspond to a desire of differentiation that goes against the globalization of society.

But you, instead, sustain that there is a linguistic nationalism from Spain.

In headlining my book this way, surely there have been a lot of people who have read it wanted to reaffirm their ideas. To them, my book may be intolerable, because I demonstrate something hidden, the State nationalism. Which is not recognized as such because is parted from the fallacy that once the State is established, in this case, the Spanish State, all the expectations are exceeded, including those ethnic and of identity. I demonstrate in the book that this is absolutely false. Not only the State has not transcended the national question, but is based on one Nation, one culture and one specific language, that has continued to be the Spanish.

Therefore, which side gives more signs of nationalism?

It is that, following my definition of linguist nationalism, Catalan, Basque and Galician linguist nationalisms do not exist. Why? Because the main definition of linguist nationalism is to consider that the own language is superior to the others. Which makes no sense with strictly linguist reasons. This idea, originated by Menéndez Pidal, exists within the Castilian nationalism. But I fail to see it in the so-called Catalan nationalism, nor in the Basque or Galician. I do not see anybody who claimed that Catalan is superior than Spanish -linguistically.

Thing that is done by the Spanish nationalism, following your book.

The second defining feature is that, because my language is superior, I am doing the others a favour if I impose it to them. I do not perceive this in the so-called Catalan nationalism. Catalans do not pretend that Catalan is spoken in Malaga or Castile. I do not know any Catalanist defending this. Instead, Spanish do defend that Spanish dominates in Catalonia, and becomes the main language. But they disguise this discourse under the "communication language" or the "meeting tongue". In my book, the deduced idea is that, if we apply these criteria, the Catalan, Basque and Galician linguist nationalism do not exist. A lot of people have reproached that I do not criticize the "imposition of Catalan". But, what imposition? If I defend that Spanish has to be spoken in Castile, is that an imposition? Thus, if Catalans say that Catalan must be the main language in Catalonia, is that an imposition?

But Spanish nationalists do not openly manifest that Spanish must be the dominating tongue. What they do is argue about the individual rights of speakers.

We talk about about individual rights, but languages exist within a linguist community, not being isolated individuals. If I travel to Germany, I may have every right to speak Spanish but I must speak German. Because I am integrating on a community with linguist relations where German is prevailing. To speak about individual rights in linguist matters makes no sense. And when they criticize that Catalan acquires
predominance in certain fields, do so because it entails the loss of the absolute domain, in these fields, of the Spanish. When they criticize that, even if they do not openly do so, are demonstrating what they are fearing is not that Spanish language disappear from Catalonia -nobody with a little common sense would think that Spanish might disappear from Catalonia, it is stupid, but in reality are expressing their fear that Spanish lost the absolute prevail in Catalonia.

Instead, there are studies that affirm that Catalan language is in danger of extinction.

It depends which languages is compared against. If we compare Catalan against Aragonese, it is not in danger of extinction. But Catalan has to be compared against other languages of similar demographic level. Catalan is a very important European language from the demographic point of view and is not in danger of extinction. However, is not the prevailing language within the Catalan Countries, this is clear. There are a lot of fields in which it has not been possible to achieve this domain. Understanding domain as nothing negative, but to be the tongue of habitual use, the language by defect. Logical. When two languages live together, advances against the most powerful one from the demographic, economic and political points of view are very difficult. It should never be said, though, that Catalan is out of danger, because is in contact with Spanish.

Due to that reason, the measures to increase the use of the language like linguist immersion are appropriate?

The only linguistic immersion that I know is in Spanish. There is no linguist immersion in Catalonia. If the Catalan language is used at school, I find it normal. Might we say that teaching in Madrid in Spanish is linguist immersion? I would not say so. We understand immersion when an official language is not the tongue of the population and it is mandated to use that tongue at school, thing that occurs in several countries in the world. In Nigeria, the tongue at school is English, and every child that attends school must learn English, which is not spoken by any of the members of his or her family. Because English, and this is the question, is not the tongue of Nigeria, is was imposed by the colonial powers. But Catalan is not imposed by any colonial power, is the own tongue of Catalonia.

You, in your book, differentiate between additive bilingualism and replacing. Which is the case of Catalonia?

The bilingualism that is said to promote from the centre is theoretically additive. In other words, I add my tongue to the native and both live together. But in 90% of the cases, in reality, is a replacing bilingualism, in which the new language is pretended to substitute the native. If a Catalan child is educated in Spanish, in what there are a lot more books, TV programs, more opportunities, is promoted that the child said 'Now, I do not speak to my family in Catalan any more, because it is more interesting for me to speak Spanish well, it gives me more opportunities'. Precisely, Spanish must not be taught at schools in Catalonia. I know is harsh, that a lot of people will criticize me for that, but is true. In these moments, there is a profound disequilibrium in favour of Spanish. How do we correct that? Giving support to both languages equally? Then, the disequilibrium is maintained. The only solution is to give support to the native -own- language, and a lot more support than to the other one. It is evident.

There are other reasons invoked, such as 'market' or 'darwinist' reasons, as you said, to justify the prevail of one determined language.

The new discourse of nationalism is based upon economical criteria. It is said that there are tongues that have a big market and others that have a small one. This means using capitalism globalization criteria, seeing it all as markets, products and clients. This is how economies work, but we must not use this economic criteria in culture. It is like we say that at "Museo del Prado", one paint that has only been seen by 50 people must be taken to the basement because it has only been seen by a very few visitors. Culture is not economics, is something else.

Why do writers in Catalan sell so few books in Spain?

Spain has not assumed its multinational character. If true multilingual politics had been applied, children had been taught, at least, to read and understand the diverse tongues of the State. So that a literate adult would be able to read Josep Pla without having to read a translation. And a Catalan author might sell his or her work in Spain. So that Catalan authors would not think writing in Spanish. Now, logically, if a Catalan author wants to be read the maximum possible, ends up writing in Spanish. In this sense, the presence of Catalan is disappearing, and is only read in Catalonia. And even more, in little numbers.

How has your book been received in the rest of Spain?

Practically all reviews and interviews have been in Catalonia, Galice or the Basque Country. In the rest of Spain, the book has had practically no incidence. People like to read opinions that reinforce their own,  not totally opposite ones.

Carles Bellsolà.  14/09/2008

Saturday, April 03, 2010

"Talking about democracy, when the elected government are puppets in the hands of bankers who give or forgive debts when they want ..."

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Covering their privates

In a moment where there is a very deep crisis like now, the economic news proliferate in all media with supersonic speed and we barely have the time to separate the grain from the straw. Besides, the majority of people ignores the tricky mechanisms over which the experts pontificate their studies, is easy that we feel fooled. In fact, it is difficult to understand how is possible that if numbers are the same to everybody, one party reads them exactly opposite than the other party. Two plus two are four, whether you are right or left, people think.

In this mess of number and percentages, common people do not, and cannot, understand, it is thanked the clear words heard a few weeks ago to the economist, and Professor at the University of Barcelona, Gonzalo Bernardos, during a debate at Carlos Fuente's "Catalunya Opina", Canal Català. More or less, Prof Bernardos said that to begin to readdress the actual situation, the authentic reality of the Spanish banking sector had to be faced. Spanish banks have closed the tap to credits, which drags us towards a cul-de-sac, why? We must, then, ask. In a solitary sentence by Prof Bernardos, it is summarized; he affirms that in 2007 there were banks that had 85% of their credit conceded to the estate sector. Not long after, it has come the big downturn of this sector, and consequently, a few weeks ago, the President of the Superior Council of Chambers of Commerce, Javier Gomez Navarro, said that the estate companies in Spain owe a total of €350B, from which half are loans to buy land. Very good. In that respect, the very Prof Bernardos manifests that banks are doing "creative accountancy" to make up the fact that a lot of those plots of land that they financed are not worth, now, a 10%. All together, there is no need to have studied economics to preview that the banking sector in Spain is about to explode.

However, it has not been unique to Spain. He have all seen as the American and German governments have faced the situation and have tried to solve this cancer that was -maybe still is- rotting their financial structures. I shall not value whether they have done well or not but certainly, have made public the insides of the responsible of this chaos that has affected a great number of the companies and families. Contrarily, the internal situation of the Spanish and Catalan banks continues to be as impenetrable as the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Why are so untouchable the figures of Botins and Forneses, when everybody guess that hide more sins than Barabbas?

I do not believe that the answer to this question is alien to an information appeared more or less a month ago, where it said that Banco de Santander accumulated debt from PSOE -Socialist Party of Spain- worth €30M. On the other side, "la Caixa" made the same with PSC -Socialist Party of Catalonia- but with a more modest figure, only €7.2M. When we see the generosity of these institutions towards who represent us, can start imagining why the governments look at the other side. How can they ask for responsibilities to whom saves them from bankruptcy? We are in front of one alliance politico-financier that invalidates any sign of authentic democracy. Who pays, rules. And PSOE and PSC are not exceptions. Their viability as political parties depends exclusively from a General Council to which they had to concede privileges to be able to finance and not having to close for administration. Do not come now with tales like popular sovereignty or similar things, because who really rule are a bunch of people with offices at the highest floors of the most emblematic buildings in Madrid and Barcelona. Talking about democracy, when the elected government are puppets in the hands of bankers who give or forgive debts when they want, is wanting to take us for granted and an insult to the intelligence of the voter. A partitocracy in the hands of a banking oligarchy is not a symptom of progress. It is a clear political and moral degradation. Does anybody like to keep voting Botin's butlers?

Santiago Espot
CEO Catalunya Acció

Article published at "El Punt", on March 29th 2010

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