I will never forget the incredible study abroad experience that I had with Barcelona SAE, from traveling to Morocco with other students for the weekend, to going on tours of the Gothic Quarter with my Spanish Civilization and Culture class, to seeing the ballot boxes and voting process when my host family went to cast their ballots for Prime Minister.

Every day for three months, my life was packed with exploration and curiosity…two things that seem to be inherent to life in Barcelona. Some days, I would wander the city looking for a cafe that seemed to have just the right reading nook, and others I would chant my heart out at a Barça match.

I took advantage of every moment: dinner with my host family, metro rides to Plaça de Catalunya, and strolls down the noisy streets of the city center. 

In October of 2019, Barcelona experienced political unrest due to the sentencing of public figures involved in the October 2017 independence vote. Protests and riots were shown on television during the height of the tensions, and for a while I walked by masses of people marching for Catalan independence on my way to class. Due to this, my host family and I frequently talked about politics, cultural tensions, language barriers, and identities. In fact, one of my host sisters was four months old at the time; we sometimes discussed what she must be thinking while sitting in her high chair observing us as we spoke Spanish, English, French and Moroccan Arabic. Laughing, we joked about what language her first word might be in.

In a more serious conversation, we talked about how her identity would be formed in such a mutli-cultural, multi-lingual household. The combination of American exchange students, a Spanish mother, a Spanish-Moroccan father, and a family that spoke French might form an identity more similar to that of a global citizen, rather than a Spaniard or Catalonian. My host mom believed that, if she and her husband had done their jobs correctly, their daughter would feel connected to multiple identities – she would feel Spanish, Catalan and Moroccan to an equal extent. Feelings of Spanish-ness would not overpower feelings of Catalan-ness, or vice versa.

These conversations, coupled with my witnessing the socio-political tension in Barcelona at the time, were the sources of my curiosity regarding the interaction among language and identity in Catalonia and are the reasons why I chose this topic for my Honors Thesis.

Does Regional Language Matter? The Impact of Multilingualism on Spanish National Identity

I have been in the process of conducting research since August 2020, slowly but surely jumping through hoops of project approval, research funding, and data collection. Throughout this time, I have found that current research suggests that during times of political tension and revolutionary sentiment, regional languages tend to distance citizens from their national identity. In times of unity, it appears that nations can successfully formulate a national identity based on multiculturalism and multilingualism; in these circumstances speaking Catalan would boost national identification. To add primary data to the current scholarly debate surrounding the role of the Catalan language on the strength of Spanish national identity, I opted to create a survey asking Spaniards about their personal feelings of identification.

With the help of Darcy York and Barcelona SAE, I have received more than the expected amount of responses to my survey! Support from my study abroad community during this time of growth has meant the world to me and has reminded me of Barcelona SAE’s dedication to its students before, during and after their time in Barcelona.

I look forward to conducting my analysis on the survey responses and finalizing my research, and I hope to check back in with you all in the coming months to share the results! Many thanks to Darcy and Barcelona SAE for their immense support for this research process, as I could not have done this without you all!

Michaela Davis

Michaela Davis

Michaela is an International Studies and Political Science major at North Carolina State University, and studied abroad at SIS during Fall 2019.

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