Spanish Government pushes European Commission to consider Catalan from Catalonia and Catalan from Valencia as 2 different languages

In order to receive EU funding to subsidise part of the language courses for Erasmus students, the Spanish Government has labelled Valencian Catalan as a different language. Both dialects were considered as the same language in all previous documents to the EU, an opinion shared by all the universities

CNA / Maria Fernández

November 10, 2010 10:55 PM

Brussels/Barcelona (ACN).- Do people in Valencia speak Catalan, or a different language called “Valencian”? According to all universities, they speak the same language; “Valencian” is a dialect of Catalan spoken in Valencia. This is also the opinion of the Valencian Academy of Language. The Academy was created some years ago by politicians who wanted to split Catalan and Valencian languages but finally the Academy stated that “Valencian” and Catalan were the same language. This opinion has also been shared by the Spanish Government when previously communicating to EU institutions. For instance, the European Constitution project was officially translated and sent to European institutions into what it called “Catalan/Valencian”, stating they were the same language but with 2 different names, to avoid a certain degree of controversy. Now, in order to get extra funding, the Spanish Government has applied for European Commission subsidies for Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Valencian language courses aimed at Erasmus students. Thus, the Spanish Government has by de facto considered Valencian as a different language from Catalan and has pushed the European Commission to do so. The English equivalent would be to label American English a different language from British English, as some words, spellings and pronunciations are different.

Erasmus students who choose to study in Spain need to learn some Spanish. However, if they go to an Autonomous Community that has another official language apart from Spanish, it is also useful for them to know some basics of this other language. If they come to Barcelona, they will find that universities in Catalonia may teach in Catalan, together with Spanish and English. Courses are offered in different languages, but some are only offered in one. When this language is Catalan, Erasmus students may need to learn some Catalan if they really want to attend that particular course.

For this reason, there are immersion Catalan language courses aimed at Erasmus students. And for this reason, the EU is paying for part of these courses in order to help student mobility across Europe.

Now, Catalan and Valencian courses are different as they have been considered as 2 different languages by the European Commission, pushed by the Spanish Government. According to the Catalan Government’s Secretary for Language Policy, Bernat Joan, “this is an aberration”. The European Commission (EC) Spokesperson for Education, Culture and Multilingualism, Denis Abbott, stated, “This has been decided by the Spanish authorities, who have told us we can give support to Catalan, Basque, Galician and Valencian language courses; thus, 4 regional languages may receive the same economic contribution from the European Commission”.

We do not cover the entire cost of the course, but we can give a contribution of 6,300 euros per organised course”, explains Abbott. This means that the EC has given 43,960 euros for Catalan courses and the same amount for the Valencia, according to data from the Xarxa Vives d’Universitats, which has managed the subsidies for Valencian and Catalan universities. In Catalonia, 3 universities have already used the funding: the Universitat de Barcelona, the Universitat Rovira I Virgili (in Tarragona) and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, says Abbott.

“The interest for these courses has been massive: 7 times more people have asked to attend the course than there are places available. We have 50 places, as teachers want small groups, but for our August and September courses we had 400 applications, and we could not say ‘yes’ to everyone”, explained the EC spokesperson.

In fact, each time there are more and more foreign university students who choose to study Catalan language, either for pleasure or for an academic or job reason. For instance, Nora Gröhmann, a 21-year-old from Germany, said, in Catalan, “I want to learn Catalan because I like Barcelona very much and I would like to stay and work here”. Like Nora, hundreds of Erasmus students arrive to Catalonia and register for Catalan classes.

1 out of 3 foreign students learn Catalan

In fact, 1 out of 3 foreign students learn Catalan, according to Elisenda Campany, the coordinator of Catalan language courses for foreign students at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona (UPF). The UPF offered 13 Catalan courses last year to a total of 348 non-Catalan students, from which 143 were coming from different parts of Europe as part of the Erasmus programme. These figures mean that for the 2009-2010 school year, considering that the UPF had 395 Erasmus students in total, 1 out of 3 Erasmus student attended Catalan courses. The figure represents a 14% increase compared to last year. Most of the students “know about the reality of Catalonia, that 2 languages co-exist and both  languages will be used in the university”, explained Campany.