Argentina: no disputes about language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Jun 13 14:19:23 UTC 2007


Languages

Unlike Ireland or the UK, in Buenos Aires we seem to have no disputes
about language policy and considering the number of people who live
and work in Capital Federal whose native language is not Spanish this
is rather odd.

 According to the 2001 census the city of Buenos Aires has a
population of 2,776,138 of whom 316,739 were born abroad. To these
numbers we'd have to add the uncounted hordes that flood in from
Greater Buenos Aires every morning to work and leave again every
evening. As far I can see from the website of INDEC, no attempt has
been made to determine the mother tongue of residents born elsewhere
or enquire about their competence in the use of Spanish.

In the absence of reliable figures I'll try some guesswork. My
subjective impression is that a very large percentage of immigrants in
the city; the construction workers, the housemaids, those taking care
of the elderly in institutions etc. are from Paraguay, Bolivia and
Peru, all countries where large percentages of the population speak
languages other than Spanish. Then there is the recent influx of
immigrants from Taiwan, China, Russian and Ukraine. So, I'll make a
wildish guess and say that ten percent of the people who live and work
in Capital Federal have a native language other than Spanish.

 In spite of this the government of the city remains firmly
monolingual. The only foreign languages on the city's website are
Portuguese and English – in the section aimed at tourists. There is
not a word in Quechua, GuaranĂ­ or Aymara. In my local municipal centre
everything is Spanish and I'd be very surprised if the situation was
different in the others.

The most serious consequence of this policy probably lies in the area
of education. While the education ministry goes to great pains to show
that kids in state schools are getting a chance to learn European
languages, it doesn't seem to have occurred to them that there are
living languages other than Spanish present in the city and that it
might be a good idea to take account of that presence in the
educational system. It would also seem that while  it's seen as great
for Aymara and Quechua speakers to be vindicating their language
rights in Bolivia it's quite another thing to expect anything to be
done about them here.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2007
http://eamonnmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2007/06/12/languages/

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