Friday, July 25, 2008

The Language Issue

The page Monsters and Critics features an article regarding the initiative by an extreme right group to launch a campaign against Euskara, Catalan an Galizan in Spain.

Here you have the text:

Europe News

World language Spanish threatened in Spain, campaign claims

By Sinikka Tarvainen
Jul 25, 2008, 2:08 GMT

Madrid - While Spanish is consolidating its position as one of the world's most international languages, a debate is raging in Spain on whether it is under attack in the country where it was born.

A group of intellectuals, some media outlets and citizens' associations have launched a campaign in 'defence' of Spanish which they see as being endangered in regions promoting their own languages in the country with a plural identity.

The debate focuses on whether parents wanting to educate their children only or mainly in Spanish should be able to do so in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Basque region and Galicia, which want pupils to learn Catalan, Basque or Galician alongside Spanish.

The pro-Spanish campaigners stress the role of Spanish - known in Spain as Castilian, language of the region of Castile - as the only language common to all Spaniards and as one of the cornerstones of the national identity.

The idea that a language spoken by 500 million people worldwide could be threatened by minority languages is nothing short of ridiculous, regionalists hit back.

Spoken in most of Latin America, Spanish is the second most important language in the United States.

It is also studied increasingly worldwide, making it the most widely used language after Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and English, according to Culture Minister Cesar Antonio Molina.

In Spain itself, however, regional governments are questioning the domination of Spanish in an attempt to promote regional languages.

These include Catalan, spoken widely in Catalonia, a north-eastern region of 7 million residents, and on the Balearic Islands; Basque, spoken by about a quarter of the region's 2.1 million residents; and Galician, the first language of more than 60 per cent of the region's 2.8 million inhabitants.

Catalan and Galician are Romance languages related to Spanish, while Basque or Euskera is not known to be related to any other language and is much more difficult for Spanish-speakers to learn.

Dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled from 1939 to 1975, repressed the use of regional languages which could often not even be spoken in public.

Franco's death in 1975 turned the tide. The constitution now establishes the coexistence of regional languages with Spanish. Regions enjoy wide measures of autonomy including the right to teach regional languages in schools.

Some now see the decentralization as having gone too far, with Catalonia and Galicia having made bilingual education compulsory and the Basque region preparing to adopt a similar policy.

Policies to promote regional languages are the most extensive in Catalonia, where the regional government is sparking controversy with plans to cut down the number of Spanish classes from three to two a week in primary school.

Even children of immigrants from Latin America or Africa now speak Catalan, a language without the knowledge of which it is often difficult to find a job in the region.

Educational and other measures to popularize regional languages sparked a 'manifesto for the common language' launched by some 20 journalists, philosophers, historians and authors including Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.

Parents' associations have also sprung up in several regions, demanding the right to educate children in Spanish.

The most vocal critics include representatives of the opposition conservative People's Party (PP), which has also accused Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists of endangering national unity by granting regions more self-government.

Madrid media close to the PP accuse Zapatero of allowing regionalists to 'persecute' the national language, something that the government firmly denies.

The coexistence of Spanish with other languages was 'the richest, most open and most democratic' way, the premier said.

The government has done a lot to make Spanish more popular in the world, establishing dozens of new Cervantes Institutes to spread it, Molina said.

Some experts worry that Catalan or Basque children will speak poor Spanish after learning it mainly from television and stress the right of parents to make educational choices for their children.

Children in some Catalan schools reportedly have trouble expressing themselves in Spanish.

Overall, however, there are few signs that teaching regional languages would have undermined the Catalans', Basques' or Galicians' knowledge of Spanish and regionalists dismiss such arguments as absurd.

'If any language is threatened, it is not Spanish, but Catalan,' Catalan politician Josep Antoni Duran y Lleida said, attributing the language row to underlying political power struggles.

After reading the article it is pretty clear that only people with a Francisco Franco mind set would either forward or support this kind of initiative. Can you imagine the international uproar that an proposal like this one would cause if the country was Germany for example?

Now, this Vargas Llosa character once called for Peru to wipe out all indigenous languages, and he fancies himself as an intellectual.

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1 comment:

  1. Some experts worry that Catalan or Basque children will speak poor Spanish after learning it mainly from television

    Exactly, 'some experts' they must be. Is there also a law being introduced preventing the poor defencless parents from speaking Castillian to their own children?

    What better way of protecting so-called 'national unity' than respecting and leaning the language of your fellow citizens. If the moron's only thought a bit, people wouldn't want to split off from Spain if they didn't fell they arw being traeted unfairly (then agoan, they probable still would!)