Quebec and Catalonia

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Quebec and Catalonia
Miquel Reniu i Tresserras
Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002




This is an unofficial English translation of "Le Québec et la Catalogne", an article found in a special issue of the OQLF's Revue d'aménagement linguistique published for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Québec's Charter of the French language in 2002.



by Miquel Reniu i Tresserras, the president of the Comissió de Lectorats and former chief executive officer of the Catalan language policy.

The commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Charter of the French language (Bill 101) is a good occasion to highlight the tight fabric of ideas, proposals, complicities and mutual experiences in the field of linguistic policies which our two countries have shared during this period.

The Charter of the French language establishes the principles at the foundation of the French language policy in Quebec, the most important of them undoubtedly being that of the concept of the French language as a foundation of Quebec society, the most explicit element of its national and cultural identity. In the same way, Llei de Política Lingüística of Catalonia (Bill 1/1998) defines the Catalan language as the fundamental component in the formation of the national personality of Catalonia and as the basic instrument for the communication, the integration and the social cohesion of all its citizens, independently of their geographical origin. In both cases, all this is affirmed with a clear will of permanence and projection in the future.

Our two countries, Quebec and Catalonia, have in common the fact of considering their respective languages, French in Quebec and the Catalan in Catalonia, as fundamental traits of their national realities in a context which is characterized by economic and cultural internationalization, which they face with determination and in a positive spirit, while being in contact with two of the languages with the greatest international diffusion, Spanish and English, that is while being subjected to an extraordinarily strong pressure in the fields of new communication and information technologies, the culture and the global market, as many sectors which favour the most diffused languages. This pressure, putting aside what is already ensured by the legislative framework of these languages, obliges the citizens to a personal bilingualism which often drifts towards a bilingualism of greater amplitude, introducing a kind of uncertainty into the process of standardization and hegemony of their own languages, uncertainty which forces them to regularly revise their policies and their laws.

The Charter of the French language and the language policy of Québec have constituted a reference model for Catalonia. When Catalonia undertook its first actions to recover control over the Catalan language and the parliamentary process needed to elaborate the Llei de Normalització Lingüística in 1983, following the re-establishment of its self-government in 1980, it paid close attention to the Québec linguistic model, both at the legislative and the political levels. On the one hand, because this linguistic model clarified, to the eyes of the Catalan legislators and politicians, a clear will to integrate, without any exception, their own language in all the fields of the social life where it would be specifically recognized as the language of preference, inside a linguistic model of cohabitation. The Quebec linguistic model cercerning French, which has a linguistic status comparable to that of Catalan, puts the emphasis, among its actions, on aspects which are also significant for the Catalan language policy: linguistic planning, the socio-economic sector, culture, education, new technologies and means of communication. In addition, if our statutory political competences were and remain more reduced than those of Quebec, they nevertheless are much broader than those which defend other national languages in Europe (Welsh, Breton and Sardinian) and are, in an obvious way, constitutionally different from those which protect various languages, as in Belgium and Switzerland, where is being applied a strictly territorial system of linguistic pluralism which we could not set up, or the competences that the State of Israel has used for the recovery of Hebrew. For all these reasons, was established and continues to develop a permanent flow of communication, mutual influences, agreements and open and cordial collaboration between the people and the organizations responsible for the language policy of Catalonia and Quebec, as well as a wave of sympathy and recognition between the citizens of the two nations.

The collaboration between the Direcció General de Política Lingüística de la Generalitat de Catalunya and Québec's Office de la langue française has been permanent and important. We have shared numerous strategies, which, despite their differences and their necessary adaptation to contextual circumstances, had numerous points in common. It is important for us to emphasize the invaluable collaboration which we had from the beginning with Jean-Claude Corbeil, who brought us his invaluable advices when it was necessary for us to specify the goals of our language policy and to choose the most relevant and most convenient actions to undertake. That appeared particularly important when in 1995, we worked out and set up the general plan of the language policy of Catalonia. The influence of the Quebec language policy is noticeable in many aspects of the Catalan language policy: in the progressive establishment of a system of linguistic immersion in teaching, for example, or the establishment of a government organization offering linguistic consultation and the establishment of terminology databases, sociolinguistic research, the creation of translation departments in the trade-union and business sectors, various strategies for outdoor signs, or all that which refers to policies for the valorization of proper language as the main goal for its social use. In other cases, the actions of the Catalan language policy influenced the language policy of Quebec with regard to, among other things, the establishment of an interdepartmental committee to coordinate the action of the Administration with regards to linguistic usage, which is based indeed on Catalonia's Technical Network of Linguistic Standardization and the Linguistic Consortium of Standardization. Certain language promotion campaigns undertaken in Catalonia were also used as reference for the Quebec's policy.

The influence of the Charter of the French language of Québec on the Llei de Normalització Lingüística (Bill 7/1983), and the Catalan regulation being applied, is visible notably through the echo which articles 2 to 6 of the Charter of the French language, pertaining to the fundamental linguistic rights, have found as part of article 2 of the Catalan legislation of 1983. One also finds the influence of the measures taken in favour of French in the socio-economic sectors and teaching on the Catalan legislation, from 1983 until our days. Concretely, the influence of the Charter of the French language is perceived in Estatut del Consumidor (Bill 3/1993) which regulates the linguistic rights of consumers with regard to the use of Catalan for information and the providing of services, in the Decree 317/1994, by which are established the standards on the classification of restaurant establishments with regard to posting, publicity and menus, or in many aspects of Llei de Política Lingüística (Bill 1/1998), with regard to socio-economic activity (posting, communication and information with the citizens) and what touches teaching (delivery of nonuniversity diplomas). In other sectors, like the whole linguistic standardization of businesses, data processing or the dubbing and subtitling of films, even if, we, Catalans, have followed Quebec's language policy with admiration, we also experienced the impossibility of applying, for the moment, a similar policy in Catalonia.

In order to better tighten the relations between Catalonia and Quebec, the Catalan and Quebec governments signed a cooperation agreement on July 10, 1996, itself followed by another agreement which projects a specific co-operation programme on linguistic matters. This last agreement projects, on the one hand, the collaboration and co-operation in order to promote each language on its respective territory and, on the other hand, to establish bonds to share the experiences of straightening of language successfully carried out on both sides.

From Catalonia, we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Charter of the French language which reinforced, by its application during all these years, in an clear and notable way, the national identity of Quebec, as well as its image and its recognition on the international scene.

See also

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