Spain’s regional languages squeezing out Spanish
The rampant use of Catalan and Basque in schools and public services discriminates against Spaniards who can only speak Spanish, say intellectuals.25 June 2008
MADRID - Spanish is the first language of up to 400 million people worldwide, but, according to a group of writers, historians and philosophers, it is coming under threat in its homeland.
The creeping use of Catalan and Basque for education and in practically all public services in Catalonia and the Basque Country has led a group of intellectuals to publish a "Manifesto for a common language" in a bid to goad the government into defending people's right to use Spanish anywhere in Spain.
"For several years there have been growing reasons to worry about the institutional status of the Spanish language in our country," the manifesto warns. It goes on to demand that parliament approve legislation to ensure "unequivocally" that Spanish is the single, common and official language" nationwide.
In Catalonia, practically all classes in public and many private schools are taught in Catalan, with Spanish offered only as a second language as English and French are elsewhere.
Similar changes are also making progress in the Basque Country, while in both regions it has become common practice to stop people taking public jobs - even as garbage collectors or gardeners - if they cannot speak the regional tongue.
Spain's Socialist government has so far failed to intervene in the defence of Spanish - a taboo issue after decades of linguistic repression in Catalonia, the Basque Country, and to a lesser extent Galicia, under the Franco regime.
Now, the authors of the manifesto argue, the discrimination flows in the opposite direction, particularly affecting Spaniards from other areas of Spain and foreign immigrants who take up residency in regions where another language is spoken.
"It is one thing to promote knowledge of the regional language and another to impose it at the expense of the common language," philosopher Fernando Savater declared at the presentation of the manifesto in Madrid on Monday. "This discrimination... hurts the least fortunate the most, including immigrants, by denying them social and job opportunities," he added.
The manifesto is supported by around 20 noted intellectuals, including historian Carmen Iglesias and writer Álvaro Pombo.
[El Pais / E. Granda / Expatica]