"Do not talk to me in your language because I will get offended"
per VÝctor Alexandre   
divendres, 02 juliol 2004
Parlament Europeu“If a Basque Member of the Spanish Parliament speaks in Basque, what kind of debate will there be?” asked himself Eduardo Zaplana, spokesman of the Partido Popular in the Parliament. “Common sense makes it clear”, he went on, “If we all speak one language, which is the one that unites us, this is the language we have to speak”. Zaplana referred obviously to the decision of the members of ERC (the Catalan Republican Party) to speak in Catalan in the Parliament and the Senate. Zaplana’s argument is so ridiculous that it would make me laugh if this were not such a serious matter. In which language do Members of the European Parliament speak, like Jaime Mayor Oreja and José/Josep Borrell? Why do MEPs speak in other languages in the debates, if English is the common language? The reason is very simple: the language used for the personal communication between them is one thing, and the fair representation of all EU languages in its official meetings is another thing. What I mean is that no matter the language used by a German and an Italian when they meet in the corridors of the Parliament, they will speak in German and Italian respectively from their Parliamentary seats.

Thanks to technology, which has always been developed faster than Spanish nationalism, we have had something known as simultaneous translation for many years. This technology (together with headphones) makes it possible for a Greek to answer a Maltese’s question and for a Maltese to refute the statement of a Danish MEP. And this is like that because these people, in Parliamentary sessions, do not speak on behalf of themselves but on behalf of their countries and because they are using their rights. If unions are based on the respect for the difference, what kind of union is the one that does not respect the language of one of its members?

When Mr. Zaplana defines the Spanish language as “the one that unites us”, he is falling into a semantic trap which reveals the Spanish collective subconscious. Because the speech of the alleged “Spanishation” in Catalan territories is only based on the privileges of the Spanish language in Catalonia. That’s all. So Spanish will keep on using the privilege of not speaking any other language but theirs as long as Catalans have the stigma of speaking their own language among Spanish people. Alejo/Aleix Vidal Quadras explained it very clearly not long ago: “Spain must not be offended speaking Catalan in the Parliament”.

As long as Catalonia is annexed to Spain, it is clear that it is our language the one we have to speak in the Parliament and in the Senate. It does not matter if people accuse us of provocation. Only very reactionary people can see a provocation in such a natural fact. After all, that is what we want, to make a fool of them using their own arguments. If Catalans “are” Spanish and Spain is “our” country, how is it possible that we cannot speak in Catalan in “our” institutions? In the end, what can be seen is that the problem is not language but fear. It is not that they cannot understand Catalan (they are given a translation of the text before the speech), the thing is that they cannot stand it. That is why I think it is naïve to pin one’s hopes on Socialists regarding Catalan’s acceptance as an EU official language. How can someone who scorns Catalan (to such an extent that he forbids it) defend it in Europe? Catalan will never be a EU official language “thanks to” Spain, but it will be “in spite of” Spain. So it is necessary to keep on speaking Catalan in Spanish institutions, keep on offending them (if that is how they see it), irritating them and exasperating them. Every new prohibition or reprimand is an evidence of our steadfastness and their totalitarism.

In this sense, we should ask the President of the Senate, Javier Rojo, what he was referring to when he said that 25 years after the creation of the “Spain of the autonomous regions” there are enough mechanisms to prove that a language is spoken and loved. The truth is that one has to be very cynic and ignorant to say something like that. Only an ignorant person could think that Catalans speak Catalan not because it is our language but to prove we love it. Spanish people have always had a special way to prove the love they feel for their language: imposing it to those who already have their own language.

Therefore, when the Presidents of the Parliament and the Senate demand our representatives to follow the linguistic rules, two things have to be reminded: the rules do not mention anything about the obligation of speaking Spanish, and the right of using one’s language in one’s country is a fundamental right, which lies above the Spanish Constitution. Spain ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has a higher status than any national law, rule and regulation. That means that asking for the possibility of speaking in Catalan is a mistake, because a right which has to be asked for is no longer a right but a privilege. So, because in Spain only Spanish have rights, we are very grateful that they recognise (although not very nicely) that Catalans are just that: Catalans.

CatalÓ llengua europea

Berria , 3/7/2004 (Basque)
Nabarralde , 5/7/2004 (Spanish)
Racó Català , 6/7/2004 (Catalan)
El Punt , 19/8/2004 (
Llengua Nacional , núm. 48, III trimestre 2004 (
AixòToca , 18/2/2006 (
Eurotribune.net , 9/3/2006 (
Catalan, English, Spanish, French)