Plataforma per la Llengua (the Pro-language Platform) recently took part in a seminar called ‘Respecting linguistic diversity? Language Discrimination in the European Union’ at the European Parliament. We were able to present our report “If you speak to me in Catalan, the trial will be suspended” to MEPs, advisers, members of the European Commission and members of the European Council.
Six months ago our organisation made a clear decision to intensify and expand our international network. We have been participating in language-related events, we’ve been meeting and taking action with MEPs and we’ve given our message to the European Commission and the Council of Europe. We want to work with all those people, organisations and institutions which are working with multilingualism in Europe.
The event, organised by the European Language Equality Network (ELEN), has identified that many regional and minority languages suffer from very similar discrimination in different member states and has proposed that Europe consider language discrimination as an attack on fundamental rights and thus that sanctions may be imposed.
And we were able to do it all in Catalan.
For one day we were able to experience speaking Catalan in the European Parliament as something normal. At first we felt uncomfortable, we even had to pinch ourselves to check if it was real. I was constantly looking out of the corner of my eye to see if some official would come to come to tell us that what we were doing was neither right nor legal and that we had no right to be speaking our language here in the European institutions. The usual business.
We entered the hall where the seminar would take place and we looked up, searching for the name on the translation booth. “It’s not there?”, I thought, beginning to worry. They assured us that it was, today it was. And then we saw “CA 25”. And we smiled. Booth 25 was where the Catalan interpreters were.
We are so used to being humiliated, to our heads hanging low, that when they respect us we feel privileged. But no, we are simply being treated like anyone from Finland, Germany or France would be. Because our language isn’t better than the others, but it also isn’t inferior.
‘CA 25’. All the Catalans who were there went to look for our translation booth and take a photo. The French and English didn’t understand what was going on. They’ve never had to look for their booth because it’s always been there. They’ve always been respected when they speak in their native language at European institutions.
‘CA 25’. There are currently 24 official languages in the European Union. Will Catalan be the 25th?
Marga Payola – member of the executive board of Plataforma per la Llengua (the Pro-language Platform)