How Different Are These 3 Universities? Catalan-using Pressure Perceived by Chinese Graduate Students in Barcelona

Author: Ruochen Ning (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain)
Speaker: Ruochen Ning
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
COMELA 2020 General Session


Catalonia is a bilingual society with Catalan and Spanish as its official languages. This Autonomous Community has always spearheaded in promoting its own language. Branchadell (1996) pointed out that the Catalonia authorities inclined to achieve the Weak Catalan-dominated level, that Catalonia is a bilingual society with Catalan preference in official institutions.

In this study, we aim at examining the Catalan-usage pressure perceived by Chinese graduate students in three universities in Barcelona: University of Barcelona (UB), University Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where have concentrated the majority of Chinese graduate students in Catalonia.

We distributed online questionnaire to 28 participants (MA o Ph.D. students, 23-32 years old, Mean=26.8, SD=3.0) from these universities asking them to evaluate the Catalan-using pressure in their university from 6 domains: compulsory courses, optional courses, teachers, staff, pedagogic activities (conferences, meetings) and communication (official website, emails) as well as their own perception of the pressure in general. Likert scale is applied and participants need to choose from 1 not at all to 5 all the time. We also carried out interviews with them to record their personal accounts of their perception.

We analyzed the quantitative data from questionnaires in SPSS 26 and interview transcripts with inductive coding in Nvivo using qualitative approach. The results reveal that 1)participants from UPF reported the largest pressure perceived in both the questionnaire and the interviews, including Catalan as instruction language in several subjects and in most meetings/conferences, most teachers prefer speaking Catalan, some even refuse to speak Spanish. Quantitative and qualitative data from participants from UB present dichotomy patterns. According to the interviews, most of them also perceived intermediate to high pressure but the general Catalan-using pressure has been rated as lowest among the 3 universities in the quantitative data. Most participants from UAB said that they perceived minimal Catalan-using pressure, that teachers are willing to speak Spanish with them, conferences /classes are usually Spanish-medium, which is compatible with the quantitative result. 3) Participants from UAB and UB believe that the university has to adapt its language policy to host such a great number of international students. Participants from UPF think that university administrators and faculty members belong to the middle class, which is a community more sensitive to the political influence in their own well-being and benefits. Thus, they are more likely to hold strong Catalan identity and support independence campaigns, which makes them avoid speaking Spanish.

Keywords: Bilingual society, language choice, language domains, language using pressure