Catalan in France
Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana
Versió catalana
Version française
Catalan in France
  1. Introduction
  2. The language in the country
    1. General information on the language community
    2. Geographical and language background
    3. General history and history of the language
    4. Legal status and official policies
  3. The use of the language in various fields
    1. Education
    2. Judicial Authorities
    3. Public Authorities and services
    4. Mass media and Information technology
    5. The Arts
    6. The business world
    7. Family and social use of the language
    8. Transnational exchanges
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

There is no dat for this topic.

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2. The language in the country

2.1. General information on the language community

There is no dat for this topic.

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2.2. Geographical and language background

The geographical variant of Catalan spoken in France has traditionally been known as northern Catalan or Roussillonnais. The Catalan-speaking area of France (known as Catalunya Nord) covers the Département of Pyrénées Orientales - except the Occitan-speaking canton of La Fenolleda -which has seven geographical zones: Cerdanya, Capcir, Conflent, Aspres, Corberes, Vallespir and Rosselló. The area is divided into three geographically: the plain extending from North to South (from Corbières to Alberes), the Roussillon plain extending from the Mediterranean coast to the Canigou mountains (Canigó in Catalan) and the high mountain valleys and basins.

The population (363 793 inhabitants in 1990) of the northern Catalonian area is very unequally distributed. 80% of the population and 95% of agriculture are concentrated in less than 30% of the area (the Roussillon plain). The capital of the region, Perpignan (Perpinyá in Catalan), has 108inhabitants and accounts for most economic activities. With the exception of the capital, no urban centre has more than 10,000 inhabitants: 42% of the inhabitants of Northern Catalonia live in small towns of between 2,000 and 10 inhabitants.

Perpignan's population began to grow in the 1950s and subsequently continued to grow at a faster pace as a result of the rural exodus to the capital, the repatriation of French nationals from Algeria (15people between 1962 and 1968) and the influx of pensioners from northern France. In parallel, large numbers of young people (around 50%) have moved to northern France and there has been a slight downturn in the number of immigrants (chiefly Algerians, Moroccans and Portuguese).

From the economic point of view, at the end of the 1980s close on 13% of the active population were working in agriculture (in comparison with the average of 8% in France), chiefly in small directly-run market garden, wine-producing and, to a smaller extent, stock breeding concerns. The industrial sector is currently very underdeveloped, as is the construction and public works sector. Industry provides work for some 23% of the population (30% on average in France). The service sector is the most developed and now provides work for 65% of the population as a result of the expansion of tourist activities, service needs, commerce, local authority assistance for pensioners and support services for agriculture (technological research, insurance, transport, etc.).

The unemployment rate in the region (affecting young people and women in particular) is nevertheless high and is continuing to increase: from 14% in 1984, to 16% in 1989 and 18% at the beginning of 1991 (whereas the French average was 10%). The fact that the GDP of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the lowest in mainland France does little to improve this situation.

According to the findings of a recent survey, 49% of interviewees (some 140,000 people) said that they could speak Catalan, although 16% of this number said that they found it difficult to speak because of their lack of proficiency. Language proficiency goes together with age: 16% of the 18-24 age group speak Catalan well in comparison with 73% of the over-65s. In Communes of less than 1,000 inhabitants, 70% of people can speak Catalan, whereas the figure for Perpignan is only 39%. Catalan is used much more widely among farmers (72%) and pensioners (63%) than in other social strata.

From the point of view of usage, 66% of Catalan speakers say that they speak Catalan often, 23% occasionally, 7% rarely and 3% never speak it. Catalan is used more frequently within the family or with friends (66%) than with elderly people (37%) or in day-to-day conversations (37%). In addition, 61% of Catalan speakers consider that their language use is stable, 21% consider that it is declining and 19% that it is increasing. With the exception of 18-24-year-olds, the younger people are the more they think that use is increasing. Some 55 people say that they can read Catalan without difficulty, while the ability to write the language is highest among farmers and students (25%).

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2.3. General history and history of the language

The northern Catalan counties were annexed by the Kingdom of France under the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). Harsh repression by the new authorities meant that the uprisings that followed one other from 1662 met with little success. One of the main pillars of resistance to annexation was the defence of Catalan. Up to the last years of the 17th century the use of French in the region was exceptional as Catalan continued to be used for almost all official documents. From 1682, however, education in Perpignan began to be gallicised and this spread to the various areas of public and even private life. The exclusive use of French by the authorities from 1700 onwards gradually led to the decline of written Catalan, although spoken Catalan continued to survive among peasants and the lower clergy and in rural religious schools.

The process of gallicisation can be broken down into three stages: (1) horizontal and selective gallicisation enabling some social groups to maintain their hegemonic position without establishing general policies of repression; (2) subsequently, gallicisation extended spontaneously downwards because of attempts by the middle classes, aping the ruling classes, to become gallicised; (3) gallicisation then became more and more coercive as the authorities considered that the process of imitation was taking place too slowly. This was the task, for the most part, of the education system, especially after the educational laws of Jules Ferry. Lastly, integration into the national market and participation in both World Wars consolidated this process of substitution.

There are many promotional organisations whose main aim is the introduction and use of Catalan in education, for instance the Federació per a la Defensa de la Llengua i de la Cultura Catalanes (an umbrella organisation for fifty or so smaller organisations) which has organised a number of "Catalanisation" campaigns. The Institut Rossellonès d'Estudis Catalans (IREC) was founded in 1968, while the GREC established the Universitat Catalana d'Estiu in Prades (Prada in Catalan) in 1969. Other organisations worthy of note at present include Ómnium Cultural Catalunya-Nord (which plays an active part in the initiatives of its partners in Catalonia) and the Federació Sardanista (which hosts between 200 and 300 people every weekend, close on half of whom are Catalan speakers). The demands of the Catalan schools associations La Bressola (founded in 1976) and Arrels (founded in 1980) and their action on education issues have spread to all areas of daily life. A very significant example was the establishment of Ràdio Arrels which broadcasts entirely in Catalan. Lastly, the association APLEC is a forum for all sectors involved in Catalan teaching.

In recent years, some associations have received assistance from the European Commission in the form of grants to help set up activities to develop Catalan culture, Catalan publishing, the creation of literary and artistic works, cultural exchanges between the two Catalonias, the implementation of projects to promote the language in primary schools, cultural ventures, etc.

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2.4. Legal status and official policies

Although Catalan is considered to be one of the regional languages of France, it has no specific legal status. The Languedoc-Roussillon region has, however, set up an official organisation whose aim is to promote Catalan and Occitan culture and language. The Regional Council also has a Regional Languages and Culture Group.

At local level, the municipality of Perpignan has promoted Catalan language and culture through various measures, including the establishment in 1978 of the Centre de Documentació i Animació de la Cultura Catalana (CEDACC) which has a library, a documentation service and an exhibition room. CEDACC has recently become more active, setting up a Catalan and language consultation service and organising Catalan classes for municipal employees and adult education classes, as well as Catalan courses at pre-school level and in primary schools (1000 pupils in 1993-94). It has awarded annual literary and audiovisual prizes since 1981.

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3. The use of the language in various fields

3.1. Education

Under the Deixonne Law (1951), Catalan could be taught as an optional subject in secondary education (one hour per week), although it was not a compulsory subject for the baccalauréat. A higher education diploma in Catalan was awarded in Montpellier, but only for the purposes of obtaining a free degree. Following negotiations between the Ministry of Education and representatives of the DPLF, the inclusion of a regional language examination in the baccalauréat was approved in 1962. The Ministerial Memorandum of 1982 (Savary Memorandum) improved on the terms of the Deixonne Law by allowing Catalan language teaching for three hours a week in primary and secondary education, as well as the teaching of some subjects in Catalan. The extra school time in which subjects such as Catalan were included was subsequently abolished.

In State nursery and primary education (age 3-11), there is an introductory class in Catalan language and culture (one and a half hours per week) which is currently attended by 28% of pupils (some 10children). Bilingual education was established as an official option in Perpignan in 1994. Although bilingual teaching is available only to the pupils of two nursery schools, there are plans to extend this option to primary education. The municipality of Perpignan provides help with the teaching of Catalan in pre-school (age 3-5) and primary (6-11) education, although such teaching is at the discretion of individual teachers. Since January 1994, the municipality of Perpignan has also helped to finance one thousand hours of Catalan classes, making it possible for some four hundred pupils in the town's nursery and primary schools to attend two hours of Catalan classes per week.

Completely bilingual Catalan/French teaching is offered by the Catalan schools networks La Bressola and Arrels from nursery up to secondary education (as it is a very recent development, bilingual teaching in secondary education is limited to a few classes). In 1993/94 these classes were attended by 250 pupils in four schools. A committee formed by various teachers and European experts appointed by the Academic Inspectorate of Perpignan is responsible for evaluating La Bressola classes. Findings show that pupils are very able to learn not only Catalan, but other foreign languages as well, which seems to be due to the competent way in which this bilingual teaching is organised.

In lower secondary education (11-15), 12% of pupils attend a weekly one-hour class in Catalan (only during the first two years). Catalan language and culture is also taught (three hours per week) in general secondary education (age 13-15 and 15-18). These classes are attended by 4% of pupils. Lastly, vocational education centres (age 14-18) offer optional classes in Catalan (from one to three hours per week). The Regional Council of Languedoc-Roussillon finances half of these class hours. Bearing in mind, however, that the Catalan language taught in secondary education does not have the status of a first foreign language (compulsory subject) - which would have made it possible to increase pupils' interest - Catalan classes are attended by a fairly small number of pupils.

The University of Perpignan has been offering a Catalan language DEUG (two-year ordinary degree course) since 1982, a Masters Degree since 1984 and a DEA (postgraduate diploma) also since 1984. The evaluation conducted in 1993 by the Committee on Catalan teaching in universities outside the territory of Catalonia gave a figure of 940 university students of Catalan in France. The Catalan Department of the University of Perpignan, currently known as the Institut Franco-Catalá (IFC), had 230 students and six full-time lecturers in 1993. It offers multidisciplinary studies in Catalan (history, literature, language, art, economics, law, etc., covering the whole of the Catalan language area). Graduates in Catalan from Perpignan (an average, every year, of 15 to 20 ordinary degrees, eight degrees, three or four masters degrees, two or three postgraduate diplomas and one doctorate) have been able to put their education to use in the media, commerce, public administration and teaching, in which sector the establishment of the Catalan CAPES (Certificate of Aptitude for Secondary Teaching) in 1992 opened up new prospects and improved the previous rather precarious situation. Since 1987, young people from other Catalan universities (Barcelona University, Independent University of Barcelona, University of the Balearic Islands and the University of Valencia) have been taking part in Perpignan University courses under the ERASMUS programme.

Adult and continuing education initiatives have been launched by GREC, the Associació Politècnica, the Escola Catalana, the Centre Cultural Catalá and the Centre de Documentació i d'Animació della Cultura Catalana (CEDACC) of the town of Perpignan, the subsidiary of Ómnium Cultural (Ómnium Cultural Catalunya-Nord) and the Servei de Llengua de l'Institut Franco-Catalá (IFC) of the University of Perpignan.

In the area of teacher training, the Catalan Department of the University of Perpignan offers continuing training in Catalan. At the Teacher Training Institute, one lecturer gives classes in Catalan language and culture.

At nursery and primary levels, the Institute restricts teacher training in Catalan to a maximum of 35 hours during the first two years of training. Annual refresher courses for secondary teachers are attended by half of the 50 teachers who give Catalan classes, while only 7% of primary teachers attend these courses. In order to supplement their training, many teachers regularly take part in the mutual courses for teachers from the whole of the Catalan-speaking world organised by the Universitat Catalana d'Estiu which takes place every year in Prada de Conflent. In addition, the SEDEC of the Generalitat de Catalunya has worked with various associations in northern Catalonia and offered its experience in the area of language standardisation in teaching. Over the last two years, a number of specialists have provided technical assistance for lower secondary teachers. Since 1989 there have also been contacts between SEDEC specialists and primary teachers from the La Bressola and Arrels Catalan schools.

As regards inspection organisations, administrative responsibility for Catalan language education in State schools lies with the Rectorate of the Academy (Montpellier) and the Academic Inspectorate of Perpignan (for primary education), while the University of Perpignan's IFC is responsible for inspecting secondary education.

A number of French universities outside the area offer Catalan courses: Aix-en-Provence, Lyons, Grenoble, Paris, Rennes, Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Marseilles and Valence; courses were also offered, some years ago, by Chambers of Commerce where many pupils prepared for the Certificat Internacional de Catalá offered by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Lastly, a recent survey shows that 83% of the population are in favour of giving all children an opportunity to learn Catalan at school and that 57% would like their children to learn Catalan.

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3.2. Judicial authorities

It would appear that Catalan has no official recognition in this area. Interpreters are available only in very exceptional cases (and costs are borne by the parties concerned).

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3.3. Public authorities and services

Catalan is never used in dealings between State and regional authorities and citizens. At local level, Catalan has been used in public life since the entry into the political debate, in the 1970s, of organisations with Catalan as their language of habitual use. Thereafter, growing administrative dealings with Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya, provincial authorities, municipalities) played a major part in re-introducing Catalan into a field from which it had been absent for more than two centuries; this has had a substantial impact on the population's attitudes towards language, even though these measures are generally restricted solely to transborder initiatives. The municipality of Perpignan seems at present able to deal with citizens who wish to use Catalan.

In contrast, only French is used by public services (telephone receipts and bills, telephone directory, hospital signs, electricity bills, post office information, notices and information at police stations). From the point of view of placenames, there are bilingual signposts at the entrances to most towns, although the Catalan name often has little more than a folklore status. In 1993, the Municipal Council of Perpignan decided to install Catalan street names in all roads in the Commune and gradually to signpost the entrances and exits of towns in Catalan. Close on 70% of the residents consulted were in favour of bilingual signposting. Citizens can adopt and officially use the Catalan forms of names and surnames without any major problems.

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3.4. Mass media and information technology

It would seem that there is no official policy to support information industries using Catalan, apart from some specific types of aid, as was the case for Ràdio Arrels. When the weekly El Punt Catalunya Nord was published exclusively in Catalan, the Prefecture of Pyrénées Orientales stopped publishing official announcements on the pretext that the use of Catalan was incompatible with this kind of announcement, although the paper was respecting the legal provisions in force.

The newspaper L'Indépendant dominates the press scene in northern Catalonia and has one of the highest penetration rates in France: it has a circulation of some 50,000 copies per day (for a population of 360,000). Catalan is included only once every two or three days in small cultural articles.

El Punt Catalunya-Nord was a local information weekly set up in 1987 as an independent magazine of the press company El Punt (Catalonia) which had its head offices in Perpignan. The magazine started to use French in 1993, but following its conversion into colour under the name Punt Magazine it stopped appearing at the beginning of 1994.

There are a few periodicals with small circulations (a hundred or so copies): L'Alba (cultural), El Fiçó (satirical) and Terra Nostra (quarterly bilingual cultural review). In the past it was possible to obtain newspapers and magazines published in Barcelona or Valencia in Perpignan, but their distribution was discontinued in May 1994 because they were not profitable.

On radio, the Catalan broadcasts which have the highest audiences are those of Radio France Roussillon (46% of the audience) which has flourished in recent years. These are followed by the broadcasts of Ràdio Arrels which have an audience share of 25%. Ràdio Arrels broadcasts round the clock in Catalan on four FM frequencies and the station produces 50 hours of programmes itself. In Perpignan, it is possible to receive transmissions from the radio stations in Catalonia (Catalunya Ràdio, Catalunya Mùsica, etc.). 36% of the people interviewed for a survey said that they occasionally or regularly listen to Catalan broadcasts.

The television programmes of TV and Canal 33 are received throughout the area. Relays making it possible to receive Catalan television broadcasts are financed by the Languedoc-Roussillon regional and local authorities and by some EU grants. Close on half the population watches Catalan television broadcasts and the overall audience breaks down as follows: France 3 (56%), TV3 (43%), TVE2 (14%) and Canal 33 (11%).

Nevertheless, the annual report of the Higher Council of the Audiovisual Industry in France shows a 27% drop in the number of hours of Catalan broadcast by the French mass media between 1991 and 1992. In addition, TV3's television audiences in Roussillon say that they do not always clearly grasp the meaning of words bearing in mind that broadcasts use standard southern Catalan and in most cases deal with subjects that they consider to be too specific (Barcelona or Spain).

Lastly, the Arrels association is setting up, with the help of the Generalitat and technical assistance from the Roussillon enterprise Tecsol, a teletext service for Catalan news.

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3.5. The Arts

Literary output in Catalan in northern Catalonia has traditionally been very rich and distinctive, although the decline of Catalan in this area has been accelerated by the expansion of French monolingualism and the effects of the two World Wars.

In the 1950s, large-scale contact with intellectuals exiled from Catalonia led to the establishment of new literary movements and the publication of new books and anthologies (the Proa publishing house, the Tramuntana collection). A group of intellectuals formed the Grup Rosellonès d'Estudis Catalans (GREC) and started up the review Sant Joan i Barres. The events of May 1968 led to increased awareness and a greater desire to promote Catalan literature and the Universitat Catalana d'Estiu was inaugurated in Prada in 1969. In parallel, new dramatists came to the fore (increasing the number of plays staged) as well as the singers of the Nova Cançó Catalana. Prose reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s. Northern Catalan poetry is honourably represented by authors renowned throughout the Catalan area. At present, cultural life as a whole in northern Catalonia has settled into a regular pattern, reflected, for instance, by the creation of the literary prize Vila de Perpinyá Modest Sabaté, the establishment of the publishing house El Trabucaire and the creation of the Catalan library. The number of books published in Catalan in the area is nevertheless still very limited.

From the point of view of theatre, there was renewed interest in popular theatre in the 1970s. Set at a very local level, this type of theatre is aimed mainly at a village community from which authors and actors are drawn: the troupes of Ceret, Sureda, Sant Llorenç de Cerdans, Millars, etc. Two troupes of actors (Ultrera and Fontfreda) perform exclusively in Catalan, while the Tururut-Màgic Utópic group performs in French and Catalan.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region and the municipality of Perpignan have introduced some measures to support the use of Catalan in the theatre world.

Terminological research is part of the curriculum of all degree students studying Catalan in Perpignan and some dissertations have dealt with specialist vocabularies. All these works are regularly forwarded to TERMCAT and to the terminology departments of the Catalan universities of Spain.

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3.6. The business world

Catalan is generally required only for entry into some jobs involving contact with the public. A poster advertising campaign was recently (June 1994) conducted in Catalan. The language is not, however, used for television advertising and only a few associations of company managers have conducted promotional campaigns in Catalan. The hypermarkets in Perpignan produce advertising in Catalan for "commercial tourists" from Catalonia and this has helped to develop French-Catalan bilingualism in the area's large supermarkets. Catalan is also used increasingly in informal dealings in small shops.

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3.7. Family and social use of the language

Although only a highly educated cultural minority speaks Catalan to their children, Catalan is mainly passed on and learnt in family circles (even though the number of endogamous marriages has fallen sharply in recent years) and among the circle of friends. Consequently, most people (close on 90%) have never decided to learn Catalan but have done so "naturally". We are informed, however, that speaking Catalan continues to have negative connotations from the point of view of social status.

The main language of religion is French, unless Catalan is expressly requested for marriages and funerals. The church's position on language and culture has traditionally been ambiguous: it has long retained the Catalan language (sermons, choirs, etc.) and has helped to maintain or revive religious events in Catalan, while playing an active part in the process of acculturation through religious schools and catechism classes. Despite this, the Municipal Council of Perpignan has just recognised the official status of civil marriages in Catalan.

The population's general opinion on the vitality of the language is rather pessimistic: a high percentage of people consider that the use of Catalan is constantly declining, although 50% of people say that they are very attached to their language. Moreover, very few non-native young people are showing any interest in learning Catalan.

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3.8. Transnational exchanges

Over the last ten years, many cooperation agreements have been signed with the Generalitat de Catalunya by a number of institutions in the region: the Municipal Council of Perpignan (to promote the spread of the Catalan language), the General Council of Pyrénées Orientales (on language issues), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Perpignan (for the conduct of International Certificate in Catalan examinations), and the University of Perpignan (language matters). The Generalitat has also provided help with the Catalan classes organised by Ómnium Cultural de Catalunya Nord and in other sectors: exchanges of teachers, technical assistance, socio-linguistic research, terminology, preparation of teaching materials for Catalan education, refresher training with the participation of teachers from northern Catalonia in courses organised by the Generalitat, etc., adult continuing education, studies of evaluation procedures, etc. The smaller universities throughout the Catalan area, including Perpignan, also have an agreement to formulate common higher education diplomas, as well as other technical and economic cooperation agreements with association schools.

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4. Conclusion

The marginal economic situation of the Département of Pyrénées Orientales within France could be improved if a Euroregion including the Midi-Pyrénées and Catalonia (Spain) were to be developed. Awareness of what is happening in the southern Pyrenees would lead to a parallel improvement of language awareness and Perpignan's importance as the capital of the Euroregion would help to promote political, cultural and economic exchanges with Barcelona and would therefore promote Catalan.

Recent trends in Catalan in northern Catalonia have been shaped by the continuing gallicisation imposed by the French authorities which has moved out from the main towns to the villages, and by the successive waves of pensioners from other regions of France. These factors have played a large part in eroding the Catalan identity and breaking down the transmission of Catalan from one generation to the next.

Young people are showing a new interest in learning Catalan. In this respect, the University of Perpignan, with its curriculum of language studies in/of Catalan and the establishment of the Catalan CAPES, has helped to pave the way for increased use of Catalan, although teaching of/in Catalan is not yet sufficient despite the goodwill shown by State schools and the work carried out by private Catalan schools. Moreover, although the transmission of Catalan has up to now been concentrated in small villages, it is nowadays in towns of over 5000 inhabitants where attitudes to Catalan are most favourable.

Lastly, the growth of Catalan on radio and the endorsement by most people of TV3 broadcasts should be stressed, although the small public impact of the written Catalan press is to be regretted.

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