The “Voluntariat per la llengua”(VxL) language pair programme of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which is managed in Catalonia by the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística (CNL), commemorates 20 years in existence in the midst of a recovery of pre-pandemic participation figures. In 2022, 9,111 pairs were created, well on the way to the 11,000 achieved in 2019 after a drop to 7,000 due to the pandemic, which prevented face-to-face meetings. Nevertheless, thanks to online meetings, VxL did not stop and those pairs who wanted to were able to get together.
The commemoration of the programme’s 20th anniversary is part of the campaign “Provem-ho en català. Molt per parlar. Molt per viure” (Let’s try it in Catalan. A lot to talk about. A lot to experience). Under the double hashtag #VxL20anys #ProvemHoEnCatalà and with the presence of the graphic of Queta, the campaign’s mascot, the language normalisation centres are planning anniversary celebrations across Catalonia. The general commemorative events will take place in the autumn with a main event to pay tribute to all the people who have participated in the programme over the course of its history.
The experience was first implemented in Cornellà in 2002 and became a government programme in 2003 when it was extended to the whole country through the CNL centres. Now, after two decades, more than 170,000 pairs have been created. It is a programme recognised by the European Union and adopted in Perpignan, Andorra, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and also in Aran, Bolzano (Italy), Flanders (Belgium) and Wales (United Kingdom). So far, the programme has generated more than 3 million hours of conversation in Catalan, which has reinforced the participants’ confidence in speaking Catalan fluently and has contributed to the use of the language.
A formula for success
In 2022 the programme received 6,106 new registrations, of which 4,484 are learners, mostly aged between 30 and 39 years old, and 1,622 are volunteers, mostly aged between 50 and 65 years old. There is a higher percentage of participation from young people online than face-to-face.
Moreover, as part of the programme, 1,619 complementary activities have been organised in which volunteers and learners have also been able to interact in Catalan. A total of 4,999 collaboration agreements have been signed with collaborating entities and establishments. It is worth noting that 99% of the language pairs are managed by the CNL and 1% are managed by collaborating entities.
The programme has a major impact across Catalonia. In 2022, language pairs were set up in 181 towns and cities. Women clearly predominate. Of the 6,106 new registrations, women account for 4,329, of whom 3,252 are learners and 1,077 are volunteers.
Simple and well-organised system to promote the use of Catalan
The aim of VxL is to promote the interpersonal use of Catalan through the creation of language pairs made up of a volunteer and a learner. The aim is to make it easier for people who have a basic knowledge of Catalan and want to start speaking it to practise it in a real and relaxed context with people who speak Catalan on a regular basis.
To achieve this goal, the pair is asked to meet to talk about whatever they want and in whatever space they want, 1 hour a week for 10 weeks. This objective is also achieved thanks to the complicity of collaborating organisations and establishments that provide spaces and activities for practising Catalan.
The Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística (CNL), as the manager of the programme in Catalonia, oversees the organisation and carefully monitors the smooth running of the interaction between pairs, proposing topics of conversation and activities for them to practise Catalan in a relaxed and enjoyable setting, with a team of facilitators.