Demonstrators are concerned that a court decision that orders teaching in public schools to be at least 25% in Spanish would threaten their educational system.
Thousands of Catalans have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against a court decision that mandates that 25% of all school subjects be taught in Spanish.
The protests on Saturday, with banners reading "Now and always, school in Catalan," were against the reduction of the still predominant use of the local Catalan language in classrooms.
“(The court mandate) is the death of our language. Our language is the foundation of our society, and it has been shown that the educational system works … Spanish is not in danger,” said translator Mónica Muñoz.
The march comes less than a month since Spain’s Supreme Court upheld the 2020 decision that would roughly double the hours Catalan students are taught in Spanish from one subject to two.
Currently, most schools only use Spanish in Spanish language class, with everything else taught in Catalan. The increase may seem slight, but for many Catalans it is sacrilege.
On the other hand, families who want their children to receive more learning in Spanish say the current system is violating their rights to study in the nation’s common tongue.
Why does it matter?
The Spanish Constitution states that Spanish is the language of the nation and should be learned and spoken by everyone.
It also states that Catalan and other minority languages like Basque are co-official languages and part of Spain’s “cultural patrimony that should be subject to special respect and protection.”
Catalan is a Romance language similar to Spanish. It is spoken in the Catalonia region of northeast Spain, in the tiny nation of Andorra and to a reduced extent in neighbouring Spanish regions and in southern France.
The use of Catalan in schools was officially prohibited during the rule of General Francisco Franco from the end of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War until his death in 1975.
Since then, the promotion of the language has been a prized achievement of Catalonia, which enjoys a wide degree of self-rule since Spain’s return to democracy.
The renewed defence of the Catalan language also promises to galvanise the region's separatist movement that has been struggling to maintain its unity.
Several marchers carried pro-independence flags, and the movement's leaders were in attendance.