More on devolved language wars, this time from slightly further afield

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Nov 14 16:05:43 UTC 2008

More devolved discrimination?

More on devolved language wars, this time from slightly further afield:
(Yes, I'm still reading the Economist!)

Perhaps because the historic claim to nationhood is shaky, language
has become an obsession for the nationalists. Franco banned the public
use of Catalan, Euskera (Basque) and Gallego. The constitution made
these languages official ones alongside Spanish in their respective
territories. In Catalonia the official policy of the Generalitat (the
regional government), under both the nationalists (some of whom are
really localists) and now the Socialists, is one of "bilingualism". In
practice this means that all primary and secondary schooling is
conducted in Catalan, with Spanish taught as a foreign language.
Catalan is also the language of regional government. A Spaniard who
speaks no Catalan has almost no chance of teaching at a university in
Barcelona. A play or film in Spanish will not be subsidised from
public funds. "If we don't make a big effort to preserve our own
language, it risks disappearing," says Mr Mas.

Which doesn't seem very fair to the 50% or so of the population in
Catalonia from Spanish speaking origins and as a result of the growing
dissatisfaction of Spanish-speaking parents, the Platform for the
Freedom of Linguistic Choice has been created and a manifesto signed
by the likes of Placido Domingo and Iker Casillas (the Real Madrid
goalie for all you philistines out there!) has been drawn up asking
for the right of citizens to be educated in Spanish to be respected.

Unsurprisingly, a similar problem exists in the Basque Country:

Catalan and Spanish are more or less mutually comprehensible. Not so
Euskera, which does not belong to the Indo-European family of
languages. The Basque government allows schools to choose between
three alternative curriculums, one in Euskera, another in Spanish and
the third half and half. But in practice only schools in poor
immigrant areas now offer the Spanish curriculum. Despite these
efforts, Basque and Catalan are far from universally spoken in their
respective territories: only around half of Catalans habitually use
Catalan and about 25% of Basques speak Euskera.

And does these kind of tactics sounds familiar?:

But Susana Marqués, of the Platform for the Freedom of Linguistic
Choice, claimed that schools teaching Spanish have become ghettoes
hampered by lack of funding because the authorities are keen to
promote Basque at all cost. She said the Basque authorities want
schools to have a high level of Basque in order to receive generous
local funding. 'The only way to do this is total immersion in the
language. In 20 years of this policy they still have not managed to
get bilingualism here. It is not the language of the street. And 70
per cent of companies here never use Basque.'

If Spanish were a minority language within the regions, then
technically both the Basque and Catalan authorities (and ironically
probably also the central authorities) would be in breach of Article 8
of the European Charter for Regional or Minority it is,
the form of devolved governmental system which Spain presently suffers
from would appear to be almost guaranteeing this form of educational
linguistic discrimination.

Posted by O'Neill at 9:06 PM

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