Let's promote Catalan in the Justice system

The history of Catalan is the story of a great collective success. Despite the challenges that it incomprehensibly continues to face, the Catalan language is rooted in the will of people across the entire linguistic domain. Neither impositions, nor forced harmonization, dictators, wars, migrations, technological revolutions, market unity, 300 years of persecution, nor, in the best of cases, indifference on the part of the Spanish state have been able to silence it.

The figures on the use of Catalan show the persistence of the citizens in the use of their own language, a language that has also become a welcoming instrument and an element of cohesion. Today, some 10 million people speak Catalan. It is taught at 151 universities around the world. It is present with growing normality on the radio, on television, and in newspapers. It is used in good and abundant literature. Catalan is the 23rd most translated language in the world. It has found its place in social media: it is the 19th most used language on Twitter and the 17th in articles on Wikipedia. Our language, then, acts effectively as what it is: a modern language, totally suitable in all areas and absolutely valid as a system of communication and as a mechanism of social identification.

Nevertheless, we cannot permit ourselves to become complacent. Quite probably the success of the Catalan language is due to never having succumbed to that temptation, while also never having fallen into the trap of disdain and linguistic substitution.

We know, then, that our success is not a finished process. We have much work to do in several areas, chief among them the Justice Administration and law, where the presence of Catalan does not correspond to its social use. Once again we find ourselves facing a situation in which the State makes it difficult for citizens to be able to fully exercise our linguistic rights.

In this case, moreover, we are protected by the highest ranking laws. Even the Spanish Constitution is on our side, which they often like using to challenge and prohibit but is often ignored when it comes to protecting rights. But the Constitution establishes that Catalan must be a subject of special protection. If the State had cooperated at any point, perhaps the use of Catalan would have already achieved the normal status to which it is entitled.

The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages is also an important ally in the positioning of Catalan. On behalf of its deployment, the Committee of Experts of the European Council has called on Spanish authorities to take the measures necessary to ensure compliance with their commitments. These requirements that have had little success up to now.

Given these facts, the Catalan government cannot, nor wishes to, remain idle. For example, in 2013 it signed framework agreements with the five councils of professional associations in the world of law, to promote the use of Catalan in that sector. It has also carried out training sessions and developed resources to facilitate the use of Catalan among professionals.

Consistent with these actions, the Govern is promoting the campaign "In Catalan, it's also the law". The campaign is designed to inform and sensitize the public so that they can exercise their linguistic rights in courtrooms as well as in public registries, notaries, lawyers' offices, or in labor relations consultations. At the same time, we want to formally appeal to legal and justice professionals to make this choice of language easier to make. And finally, we also want to address legal students so that they know, from the start, that Catalan can be used with complete normality in their future professional environment.

In fact, our goal is to confirm that the current and future vitality of our language rests in the conviction of the people. The future of our language, as with any other area, is in our hands, and we are therefore collectively responsible for it. Together we must build the frameworks that will allow for development, as we have always done. Remember, however, what Josep Carner wrote, in 1933: "a language, without State functions, lives precariously, as it relies too much on sentiment". Sentiment we have in abundance. Of precariousness, we have already had too much.


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N.T. Ferran Mascarell is Catalonia’s Minister of Culture