A minority language demise

I had no idea that Catalan was spoken in Italy!

Normally associated with that region in north eastern Spain known to English speakers as Catalonia, the Catalan language made its way to Italy in the 14th century with the expulsion of a number of Catalan people by King Peter IV.

This much I learn in a most interesting article which has just appeared in the NY Times.

Populate any area with speakers of a minority language – it wasn’t Italian these expelled Catalonians were speaking – and it’s never going to be easy to maintain that language alive in the long term. In fact it surprises me that Catalan in Italy has lasted for as long as it has: 600 years.

According to the article Catalan is now limited in its Italian scope to the city of Alghero. Here’s where Alghero is situated:

Alghero is in Sardinia. Mainland Spain is shown to the left

Alghero is in Sardinia. Mainland Spain is shown to the left. Barcelona is situated in the region known as Catalonia

Alghero is described as the ‘last bastion’ of the Catalan language in Italy. And its use is dwindling all the time.

Now the question is: should we lament the decline of a language? In this case, we are not talking about the demise of the Catalan language itself but rather its demise in Italy. Does this matter? The article states:

Joan-Elies Adell is tasked with promoting Catalan culture in Alghero. “People have to start understanding that they risk losing a unique cultural treasure”

This may be the case. But how on Earth is he going to start their understanding?! Sounds like a very long haul to me, and quite possibly a fruitless one.


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, the most comprehensive Spanish for kids learning program ever to appear online. Jim’s work includes this homeschool Spanish curriculum and this homeschool Spanish curriculum (not a misprint – he wrote two!) and this Primary School Spanish curriculum.

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain. He has two bilingual children. More…

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