Catalan kids don’t know their Spanish geography!

I was sort of horrified to learn this morning whilst my 10 year old daughter was going over her homework in Catalan that Catalonia’s primary school children know virtually nothing about the rest of Spain regarding geography.

My wife happened to ask her if she knew any of the names of Spain’s river and she drew a blank. I think this is quite a sad situation coupled with the fact that Catalan kids only do about an hour or two of Spanish language a week! Pretty useless if you ask me especially if the children’s parents only speak Catalan at home.

The times I’ve had Catalan children speak to me in Spanish (Castellano) and then have to revert to Catalan because their Spanish is under par is quite distressing.

I’m glad to say that my two children, although taught at Catalan schools,  speak perfect Spanish (Castellano). Why? Quite simple really – we ban Catalan from being spoken at home! The children don’t mind as they’ve probably had enough of it at school!

Before you call me General Franco for banning Catalan at home you should consider the great favour I’m doing them for when they reach secondary school. I think I’m giving them a head start in secondary school life. Anyone agree with me on this? Do other autonomous regions in Spain have these problems?

Filed Under: NewsSchoolingSpanish Education SystemThe Catalans


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  1. root says:

    I was born in Barcelona and raised in a Catalan-speaking family. I learned Spanish at school and in front of the TV. I am bilingual. I can speak perfect Spanish.

    I don’t see the point in living in Barcelona, taking your children to a Catalan school and not wanting them to learn Catalan. They will end up speaking good Spanish when they need it for their daily lives.
    Banning is ALWAYS a stupid thing to do.

  2. JayTee says:

    fact: Catalonia’s tendency is Nationalistic, no doubt, we have been reading this in all the papers of over the World for the last 20 years. There has been an inofficial poll that most of the Catalan people want their independance last year.

    fact: Anyone taking their kids to school in Catalonia know that they will be taught in Catalan and Spanish is taught as “2nd language”.

    fact: Almost same goes for Universities in Catalonia.

    fact: People, including kids, have difficulties in speaking proper Spanish.

    Question: Apart from the very evident serious inferiority complex of the Catalan people that slowly gets them on the number one list of the most hated just below the French, who will put aside their personal feelings & give their children a chance in the World?

    And yes, Catalonia is speaking so much of nationalism – why don’t they look it up in the dictionary? Then they would understand, why the rest of the world is relating the word with very unpleasant incidents.

    Why not try

    for starters.

    Foreigners & the World is sick & tired of the tirades of Catalonia.

    Get yourselves together – you seem like children in full puberty – against everything & everyone, against any kind of reason – typical puberty outcrops.

    And with an amount of hate that is incomprehensible.

    You are treating EVERYBODY as enemy that do not cherish Catalonia.

    STOP & give your children a CHANCE in the World !!!!

  3. Ubno says:

    What would you think if there were not a single school in the whole Wales, even private ones, were your children could learn in English and they must attend classes in Welsh? What would you think if your children in Wales could attend classes in Spanish or German at private schools but English education was banned? What would you think if during the breaktime were teachers controlling they speak Welsh when playing and not a single word in English escapes? What about if your children attend a Welsh school and they are mocked by the teachers for speaking in English? Now substitute Welsh for Catalan and English for Spanish and you’ve got the picture.

    The “attack against Catalan” is that the Supreme Court has dictaminated that parents and School could choose if they want their children to be taught in Spanish, what raises Spanish in Catalonia to the same level than English, French or German.

    By the way, lemon, what you say is true only in theory. We both know that the Gestapo of Catalonia Regional Government only reports on shops with Spanish-only signs, leaving alone Catalan-only or another languages. (For the people who don’t know Catalonia: Yes, actually there is a sort of Gestapo controlling that all the signs are written in Catalan as well as a deep racist nationalist ground on all this anti Spanish matter)

  4. Joan says:

    Yes, Terrie, you are right! We Catalans are like Nazis. in fact, we are probably worse than them. Just yesterday thousands of people were executed in the famous gas chambers near Plaça Catalunya for speaking Spanish. And, as you know, we have forced millions of people all over the World to speak our language (unlike what your country has done ). Just look at the 20th century, when the catalan General Franco forced Spaniards all over to speak Catalan, thus eliminating the Spanish language and disallowing generations of Spaniards to learn their language. In fact, everyone knows that Hitler was at least half-Catalan (he was know for speaking Catalan at home). You should keep studying Catalan history and you will learn about the horrible things that Catalans did in 1714. I admire you for being so brave and speak up against these monsters of humankind, that have imposed their culture all over, despite the fact that have never experienced oppression. And for the guy that has spent 5 years in Barcelona and does not speak a word of Catalan, good for you! You can probably make it to 50!! After all, this is Spain!!

  5. Nick says:

    I attended University in Brittany, France and it would be just ridiculous if I were to learn Breton instead of French. Learn Catalan by all means, but not at the expense of Spanish, because whether you like it or not, we’re still talking about Spain.

  6. Terrie says:

    The admin is totally right! I’ve lived in Catalonia for 4 years and Catalans are totally like Nazis! They should all realize they live in Spain and learn how to speak proper Spanish!

  7. Adam says:

    Wow what a muddle I had reading all of this! And it´s admin who started it all!
    I´ve never found any English (except tourits) who complain about Catalan, it´s just some people are not tuned in the right way. Because just living in Catalunya and understanding the catalans, (well most of them), you should know to respect them and understand them. Being British doesn´t help, as Britons have never had problems with their language, so it´s not easy to understand how catalans feel living in a country which is not entirely like them. We are different(as many other groups of people) and NO ONE will ever change us. So you have to live with this and if you don´t like it, there is always the option to leave for somewhere better.
    And people should stop complaining about if their children know this or that, if they are really interested in something they´ll learn it, and if they don´t learn it at school you can always teach them yourselves. Also remember the more languages one knows the better even if it´s only spoken in 10 villages! You´ll always learn something you never knew.
    Please look at my website(which is mainly spanish… about animal defense, which we don´t like bullfighting, not because it´s spanish! as some might think!
    Adam Macià-Parris

  8. luis says:

    Uri; An adult require a big effort to learn any language so if you can avoid it, probably this will be your first option but if you can’t avoid it, the 90% of the adult population should try to learn the most used of two.
    No like you of course, because you will learn flamenco instead French if you were to live in Belgium, or Scottish would learn instead of English if you were to live in Scotland, or Sardo instead Italian just in case you go to live some years in Sardinia (Cerdeña) and so and so in thousand examples.
    This doesn’t mind that I don’t respect or appreciate Catalan and all of this languages, because they are part of the culture of mankind and they should be protected and learned at schools but you shouldn’t accuse me of intolerance or maladjusted because I have been living 5 years in Barcelona and I don’t speak a word in Catalan.

  9. Joan says:

    Hello everyone.
    There many interesting viewpoints about the language situation in Barcelona and Catalonia from all of you. One of the problems is that each of us have a different idea of what Catalonia is, has been or what it should be in the future. I do want to ask some questions to people that do not hesitate to compare measures taken by the Catalan government with those taken by the Spanish government when Franco was head of state. Is Spanish completely banned from school, public life, T.V.. radio, music, administration,etc..? Are kids physically punished, humiliated or sent out of school for speaking Spanish as my father had been for speaking Catalan? Are Spanish speakers asked to stop barking and use Catalan as the reverse situation happened during Franco’s regime? Are entire generations of Catalans illiterate in Spanish due to the current school system?
    For those who compare Catalonia with Nazi Germany, I can just say that you probably know the stupidity what you are doing, and if you don’t you have a serious problem.
    Catalonia, as any place, is far from perfect, and the affirmative action measures taken to protect Catalan language are, of course subject to debate, as it should be. Catalonia, though, has managed to survive without the violence or social tensions that have occurred in many other parts of the World with similar situations, and it does have a strong history of respect, tolerance and democratic values. I believe that if someone chooses to live in a place should make the effort of learning its language/s in order to adapt, and I really don’t understand why some people who seem to be against the Catalan people, language, culture and political system chose to move there in the first place. If they want to experience real Spain they could be happier somewhere else. Or would they prefer to live in Franco-ruled Catalonia, ? I doubt they would prefer pre-Franco Catalonia, when the percentage of Catalan speakers in Barcelona was about 90%, twice as much as now.

  10. Uri says:

    Escribiré en castellano pues creo que me entendereis mejor que si lo hago en inglés.

    Para vivir en Londres o Nueva York hay que saber inglés, para vivir en Madrid español, en Paris francés… pues para vivir en Barcelona hay que saber dos idiomas: español y catalan. Y si a alguien no le gusta tiene un problema, pero es el suyo no el de los catalanes.

    De imbeciles hay en todos sitios, pero la mayoriade catalanes cuando un turista lo requiere cambia al español para ayudar a la conversacion. Lo que no aceptamos es a los ignorantes que tras vivir un par de años en Barcelona no tiene ni pajolera idea de catalan. Al principio del parrafo me remito con esta gente.

    Por cierto, en las pruebas de entrada a la universidad, los catalanes son de los que sacan mejor nota en la prueba de español. A los números me remito.

  11. Luján says:

    Why do all the nationalists finish their arguments, regardless of the subject matter with a ‘Visca Catalunya’?? For God’s sake, it sounds so ridiculous. Well, God save the Queen, bye.

  12. G. Castillo says:

    If you are not going to assimilate to the region’s (autonomous community’s) primary cultural language, then why relocate there then? It is Catalunya, isn’t it?

    BTW, @Jeremy Holland: I live in California and work for the state government. California does have an official language. English became the official language of this state on November 4, 1986, with the passing of Propsition 63. It can be read in the California Constitution, article 3, State of California, Sec. 6.

  13. Candide says:

    From the linguistic point of view there is no problem to “ban” Catalan at home. I understand that your wife is native in Spanish (or any other language than Catalan) and you are native in English, so you can leave your kids to learn Catalan out of home, which all together will make them perfectly trilingual.

    Ah, and if you don’t mind, I’ll link to this page and maybe another one of yours from my blog.


  14. a catalan says:

    I am Catalan, I have now lived in England for 7 years, so I happen to be trilingual. I also studied in Catalonia in the 90 and 00s so I know what it is like to be educated under the lingusitical inmersion.

    My spanish is perfect.

    I only studied 1-2 hours max a week in school, yes, that much is true. But I read the classics and studied the grammar(in a far more comprehensive manner than English children learn English grammar). I also studied Latin, classical Greek, English and achieved a university degree. And BTW, I know my rivers, and the mountains and provincies and capitals, and not only of Spain. I am not a genius, or especially intelligent; it’s simply that the immersion system works. You do learn both languages. Because when children are not in school they watch televison, or movies, or read books, the great majority in Spanish.
    We immerse the children in Catalan in school because Spanish is predominant everywhere else. Without Catalan immersion in school, the children of Spanish speaking parents would never be able to learn Catalan in the same way that Catalan speaking children can learn Spanish – from their enviroment.

    We are a nation that has suffered many kinds of repression. We have been “banned” many times in the past. My mother used to be slapped in school if found speaking Catalan to her friends. It is our responsibility to respect and protect our culture and language. It is not unreasonable to expect people living in Catalunya to, at the very least, respect this fact.

  15. Maxime says:

    It is a very interesting discussion about the language diversity and education. I am Canadian and my childrend are taught through the Canadian system abroad. I did want to put my children in the system here but I found out that the Education system standards are lower. I would have put my children in Private school but it was too expensive. I have had the opportunity to speak to several Catalans and they advised me to keep my children in the system and just enroll my children in language training Courses here. I have experience the same situation in reference to children not being taught the essentials in Geography from an experience with my daughter´s friend. She was talking about a child who born in another country that is not part of Spain (Unfortunately she was refering to the “Basque country”.) In other words she really did think that the Basque country was not in Spain. That is really scary. My children has the opportunity to learn about Every country in the world through the Canadian system and not just about North America. By limiting language and knowledge we make our future generation Ingnorant and less tolerant. We are at this moment trying to get used to the Catalan life and we are making a lot of friend whether from Catalonia, Basque, Madrid, and other regions. It is unfortunate that other autonomous provinces could not do the same.

  16. Cuilean says:

    I’m not Catalan or Spanish, but the only way to learn a language is to speak it. However, banning speaking Catalan is reverting to what Franco did. Instead of forcing one language to be spoken in favour of another, it might be better to encourage the speaking of Castellano as a game and gradually building up it’s use. That is how I am learning Catalan and it is working very well. Keeps things fun and rewarding, so the children have a better chance of learning.

    Let them speak Catalan if they cannot communicate something any other way, then help them to say it in Castellano if need be.

  17. Jordi says:

    Catalonia is in Spain?…yeah!, so far politically still is though, emotionally many of us don’t feel it that way.

    I guess it is an action-reaction thing, Why Welsh study their language, why Irish do the same, Brettons, Corsicans, Vasques, Gallegos et cetera?…because that is what identify us and we refuse to loose it.

    You are not a Catalan, Spaniard, French, English, Irish…You feel that you are that thing and, once you do that, then you take things that help you to understand that thing that you feel, like language, political symbols ( flags,national anthems), music, poetry, gastronomy et cetera, all those things make you Catalan, American, Japananese etc, things that you don’t feel you don’t pay too much attention to them, I guess that’s why we don’t care much about the Spanish language ( though I’m not saying that is not important to learn it )

  18. Marialuisa says:

    Catalan is no less useless than any other language- it is the mother tongue of millions of people who have a right to converse in their own language, to be respected-
    Switzerland has 4 national languages- they are suppported, taught in schools, spoken in the streets- and this country has less people than Catalonia has.

    The attitude of the Spanish centralistic government is to blame for the tension- a bit of goodwill would take a lot of the tension away-. If you are more or less told your language is worthless and not wanted- no wonder people feel attacked.

  19. Jeremy Holland says:

    @ Diego – Hello, Diego. I wouldn’t call Catalan useless, especially if you plan on making Barcelona or Catalunya home. You have every right to be proud of your language, culture and land. Like you I love the sound. My biggest problem is the debate is presented as either/or many times and I feel there are other solutions that neither put one language above the other or has the decision imposed by the government.

    I come from California where there is no official language. Spanish and English have lived side-by-side, not to mention many more languages. Look at these examples of how different ways to teach bilingual education.

  20. Diego says:

    Hi guys,

    I do understand that most of you find catalan language useless. I am catalan and I agree that it is useless! The problem is that catalan is my mother tongue and it was for at least 4 generations in my family. I love the language because is part of me, my family, my culture and my nation.

    But talking about useless: how useful Swedish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Finish and other languages are out of their respective countries? Should we try to impose just a few languages worldwide? Boring, init?

  21. lemon says:

    To John Smith:
    Shops that only have this things in English shoould be fined, yes, because by law they are required to have it both in Spanish and in Catalan. If a shop has its signs only in Spanish, it can be fined. If a shop has its signs only in Catalan, it can be fined (there haven’t been any case, I have never seen a shop with only signs in catalan, althoug I have seen many without any catalan signs), and if a shop has its signs only in english, then it can be fined (don’t know if even double fined, for lacking both Spanish and Catalan signs).
    Many, many times I have been attended in Spanish although I wanted to be attended in Catalan. But as I can speak both, it’s not a big problem (although it’s at least a lack of respect to me, not being able no speak my native language, which is as way one of the two official languages here).
    Part of my family does not come from Catalunya, and they don’t speak Catalan, of course. Never any of them had any problem, anywhere, speaking Spanish.

    And, about catalan kids not knowing the Spanish geography… well, it’s sad, of course, but you can as well talk about “spanish kids not knowing the Spanish geography”, because it’s a fault of the general Spanish education system, and kits from other regions have exactly the same problem.
    I, and most of my catalan friends, can speak and write spanish perfectly, of course much better than most kids from any other spanish-speaking-only region can. Catalan people from my generation can speak spanish as well as people from any other region. Catalan kids today speak spanish as bad as kids from any other region. Perhaps not better, but not worse either (and knowing one language more is always good). El saber no ocupa lugar.