Asturian to become an official language?

From George Ticknor‘s superb History of Spanish literature

… a Gothic remnant fled from the Moors into the Alpine Asturias, carrying with them race, name, creed, language, and country—scotched but not killed. In that rocky school, and amid storms and war, the infant Spanish language—eldest child and heir to the Latin—was slowly brought up; seven centuries were required to roughhew this formation of the granite, and three more to shape its ends.

Now there are demonstrations in Oviedo to have Asturian recognised as an official language, which in the regions of democratic Spain has traditionally been the first step to removing Spanish from public life.

The demonstrations in Asturias have as their backdrop the deliberate, protectionist use of language policy by other regions to frustrate the entrance of goods, services, workers and capital. As things stand, and despite the fact that more or less everyone in Spain speaks Spanish, regional language requirements mean that it is extraordinarily difficult for Asturians to get public sector jobs in Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country, while workers from the latter regions face no such hurdles on entering Asturias. Levelling the protectionist playing field is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face; and, as someone once didn’t say, there’s no such thing as free rhinoplasty.

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  1. I am planning to move from Massachusetts to Asturias. While trying to find ou how to get the Level C in Asturianu, that’s what I found (the text is in Asturian language, in case you did not notice):
    “Gracies a la metodoloxía na que basamos el cursu vas poder escoyer cuándo y cuánto estudiar, planificando’l to tiempu y parando nos conteníos que más te presten o nos que te paezan más difíciles, o dedicar menos tiempu a los que yá conozas. Vas poder revisar y repasar los conteníos del cursu siempre que te pete o lo necesites.”
    Really abig entry barrier.

  2. I saw an article in El Periodico a year or so back.

    It was complaining about the lack of doctors in Catalonia, and genuinely puzzling over the fact that 90% of outsiders who study medicine in .cat leave as soon as they finish their studies.

    Never once did they mention that making Catalan compulsory for doctors means that all non-catalans have to spend years reaching a high level of Catalan, or pursue their career elsewhere, which is exactly what most of them do.

    The Asturian thing is just ridiculous, especially given nobody speaks it.

  3. @Ian: So you’ve spent a couple of years acquiring the certificates in a language no one speaks in order to be able to get a job in Oviedo, and then you think, hey, look, there’s a good job going in León, a short drive away. Damn, another few years learning Leonese, if the nutters there get their way.
    @boynamedsue: I like the Basque system for selecting medical specialists, which awards max 16 points for speaking Basque, 2 for English (despite all publications being in English and none in Basque), 4 for publications and conference papers, 1.2 for being a university professor in one’s discipline. You wouldn’t want to suffer any serious illness there.

  4. I corrected the typos (otherwise I feel bad). You should have a preview option.
    boynamesue, what you just did is called sofisma or false reasoning. The same percentage must be applicable to Massachusetts, so it must be due to the fact that Massachusettsian language is a requirement in the state, oh, wait a minute, maybe Harvard Medical School attracts lots of people form other parts of the world, no, it cannot be, it must be the language.
    For a pediatrician, being able to talk to the infant patients is definitely not important. Catalan speaking children should be left untreated, you are right. Thanks God I grew up already and my kids speak English and Mandarin too.

  5. Sorry, preview will be introduced as soon as I get back on a permissive connection.

    Primarily Catalan-speaking and Basque-speaking and Asturian-speaking children all learn to speak Spanish as soon as they figure out the remote control, so the current requirements are completely ridiculous. Introducing a Hampshire dialect requirement for people wishing to work in the county would be marginally useful for many patients and very useful for untalented professionals who grew up there, but somehow I can’t see it happening.

  6. Do you argue that the Catalan requirement makes no difference in people’s ability to pursue their chosen career in Catalonia Ian? Using the false analogy of Massachusetts looks to me like sophism (you didn’t get all the typos this time, either).

    I’m not arguing that no doctors should speak Catalan, but I think the requirement that ALL of them do is ridiculous. The situation should be like it is in Wales, there should always be at least one person capable of speaking Catalan on duty.

  7. First, sofisma was not a typo, was a spelling error. My fault. Finally I learn something in this blog.
    Second, I do not think that Catalan should be mandatory for all doctors in Catalonia, it is better a good doctor than a bad doctor who speaks Catalan, but I do not think that this is a problem in Catalonia, almost everyone speaks Catalan there. The most important thing is that the patient (customer) feels comfortable talking to the doctor. So the doctor should adapt or the patient should have the right to choose doctor any time. Catalan is far eaisier to learn than Basque or “Cymraeg”

  8. Hurray. Although it does rather contrast with your idea that children who speak language x should be free to speak to professionals in their own language just so long as that x = Catalan. If it’s good for Catalan-speaking kids to be able to talk Catalan to paediatricians, why is it bad for Spanish-speaking children to be able to use Spanish with their teachers?

  9. Trevor,
    I do not know you, but I prefer that my kids get an F at school rather than they go to the ICU because the doctor didn’t get it.
    Anyway in our case daddy (me) speaks x languages, with x=9 so I try to cover for any shortcomings from the physicians and, for instance, two weeks ago, when I underwent a minor surgery, I helped the nurse communicate with a hispanic patient who was getting an operation after me, obviously after he signed his consent.
    And thanks for the preview. I do not have excuses anymore.

  10. Ian, bach, that’s a little confused.

    There are very few children incapable of communicating in Spanish (though sadly the number is growing), and nowhere in Catalonia would there be a hospital where nobody is capable of translating, as you did for that hispanic gentleman.

    I am more worried that I, or my theoretical children, are misdiagnosed by a St Cugat pijo incapable of telling his gluteus maximus from his humerus, who owes his job to the linguistic protectionism currently in force.

    Also, you may not think failing school is a big deal, but the Spanish speaking parents of Catalonia certainly do.

  11. It’s really obvious, no? Closed professional organizations hitching a free ride on the nationalism train. Saves them the problem of having to spin the scant benefits of their innate (in all parts of the world) self serving parochialism for the general public. It gets even worse if you consider that the Catalan bourgeoisie, class producer of many professionals, might historically have been a little less enamoured of the nationalist argument than other sectors of the population. But hell, whatever gets the job done.

  12. Teachers who work in areas with significant concentrations of Andalusian and South American children tell me that they believe the prohibition of Spanish in schools to be perhaps the most important factor in the massive rates of school failure suffered in those areas. Research from other parts of the world shows that children do better if they are allowed to use their first language; this was one of the arguments used in the 1960s in support of the Catalan-language option. Paradoxically (or perhaps not, given the record of socialists over the past century), the general effect of the exclusion of Spanish from schools by politicians who describe themselves as belonging to the left has been to inflict severe economic and social damage on the poorest members of society.

  13. You two err time after time. You seem to have a fixation against Catalan immersion and you do not understand that the discussion should not be whether education happens in Catalan or in Spanish, the discussion should be whether education is good or bad.
    You speak out of your biased political views. I speak out of a double personal experience. I was raised in Catalan (by a non-Catalan mother who votes for the Popular Party), because she thought that being bilingual would give me more opportunities in the future (everyone around us in the 1960s Hospitalet de Llobregat spoke only Castilian). I learnt Spanish at school and with my neighbors and grandparents and always had excellent academic results. My kids, bilingual from birth (Chinese mom and Catalan dad), go to school in a third language (English). Their English level is equivalent to their schoolmates who were born and raised in English only, actually, my daughter’s reading skills are higher than average.

    Així què us empatolleu?

  14. I’m very happy for you Ian. For you and your kids, things look rosy. But your explanation highlights that this happy situation is the result of your personal good fortune, and that of your children.

    Your experience is atypical, the vast majority of taxpayers (not unreasonably) rely on the state to provide education for their children. If they are educated in a language other than their family language, children suffer from a comparative disadvantage relative to those pupils educated in their mother tongue. This is not only common sense, but has been proven by many scientific studies. It would also go a long way towards explaining the frightening level of educational failure amongst hispanophone Catalans.

    When you add the fact the catalan working class is overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, and are excluded from power due to their supposed alien-ness (unless they publicly genuflect before the puta-mare de deus de Montserrat), a good Socialist like me finds himself making common cause with right wing mischief makers like Trevor, because of our mutual support for human rights that the so-called socialists of Catalunya want to deny their citizens.

  15. Boynamedsue,
    You start to sound like Salvador Sostres.

    There are all kind of studies. In USA there is an immersion movement (Anglo kids in Spanish speaking schools) and they claim that at the end of the process, the academic results are better, although the start may be slower.

    Would you create public schools in Spanish in USA, in many cities the Spanish speaking population is higher than 50% or you think that English deserves a different treatment because it is an “important language”.

    As I have mentioned in the past many times, I am for trilingual education. The objective would be that at the end of the education cycle all kids in Catalonia have the same possiblitities of success. I do not want ghettos.
    The problem today is not the language that is used for education. It is the lack of discipline, the lack of interests by the parents, the insufficient budget, the lack of psycologists and specialized resources to tackle academic failure, etc. That’s the issue and I blame the Catalan government and the parents for that, but not the language.

  16. And I know, I know, English is different because it is an “important” language. I would just wish that Montilla were replaced by Schwarzenegger:

    Students flourish under ‘English immersion’

    “Calif.’s bilingual education ban did not have to mean failure
    Scott Bowles
    USA Today
    Monday, August 28, 2000.

    OCEANSIDE, Calif. — When California voted two years ago to abolish bilingual education in public schools, many officials predicted doom for the state’s 1.5 million Spanish-speaking students.

    Today, those officials are eating crow — gladly.

    New standardized test results show that not only have those students not suffered in English-only classrooms, but their scores increased by more than 50% in some grades since the law passed.

    And while a wide gap in test scores still divides students who are new to English and those who are fluent in it, educators admit they are stunned to see how quickly immigrant children adapted.

    “Quite frankly, we underestimated the kids,” says Ken Noonan, superintendent of the Oceanside Unified School District and founder of the California Association of Bilingual Educators. Noonan, who once fought the bilingual ban, now is one of the staunchest supporters of “English immersion.”

    Under the state law, all students, including those who don’t speak the language, are taught solely in English. Teachers are permitted to speak another language only if a student has chronic difficulty with school work or is having emotional problems in class.

    Noonan says he feared that students, many from Mexico and Central America, would fall so far behind in class because of the language barrier that they would stop coming to school. Instead, they flourished. “We had research that showed it would take kids five to seven years to learn English,” Noonan says. “They learned it in nine months.”

  17. Ah, but research shows a clear difference in this respect between high-status and low-status languages.

    By learning English in the States, Hispanic kids obtain access significantly more opportunities than they would otherwise have. By trying to stop Spanish-speaking kids in Catalonia learning how to use their first language effectively, the regional government is reducing their economic and geographic mobility.

    A lot of bollocks is talked by self-described left-wingers about obligatory Catalan being an egalitarian measure designed to extract Spanish speakers from the ghetto. The truth is different: the great mass of Andalusian kids end up in low paid jobs or unemployed whether they learn Catalan or not. If they were black, this would be called racial discrimination.

    If the Catalan government were really convinced of end benefits of its programme, it would comply with the law and allow parents a free choice of vehicular language. If Montilla were really convinced of the value of language policy, he wouldn’t send his children to the German School.

    @boynamedsue: I can have reasonably rational conversations with socialists, because we all want the best for children but differ as to the extent to which the state should get involved. With nationalists no sensible dialogue is possible because their interest in children is limited to a need for sacrificial lambs at the tomb of the Ancestors and the altar of the Nation

  18. I am getting tired of your KKK-like views which portray children of Andalusian parents as pariahs of the Catalan society. Sample the Catalan middle class and you will realize that the percentage of those with Andalusian origins is very high, but they have blended with the Catalan society and they are part of it.
    The reality is that today many of the people that you describe, who end up in low paid jobs are people who have neither Spanish nor Catalan as mother tongues, just stop next to some public works and listen the languages spoken there.
    Thinking that speaking Catalan does not help the cohesion of the Catalan society is foolish.
    I am the first to admit that the Catalan education system needs some tweaks, but nothing that should concern some foreigners like you, whose genuine objective is not to be bothered by localisms which create some nuisance in the life of the expats, but instead of admitting it, they prefer to pretend they are the saviors of the Andalusian immigrants.
    And if you want to know my political views, center right. I would vote Republican in November if I did not have to penalize George W. for his disastrous foreign policy.

  19. We could play that old game of looking for non-“Catalan” names in the Catalan parliament, if you’d like. Or you can just keep on supporting a policy that is illegal, immoral (conflict with basic liberal right to choose), and disastrously inefficient.

    Don’t penalise George too hard.

  20. Catalan Parliament reps with at least one non Catalan (or “non-catalanized”) family name:
    Pere Aragonès i Garcia (ERC)
    Dolors Batalla i Nogués (CiU)
    Albert Batalla i Siscart (CiU)
    Uriel Bertran i Arrué (ERC)
    Pere Bosch Cuenca (ERC)
    Francesc Xavier Boya i Alós (PSC-CpC)
    Dolors Camats i Luis (ICV-EUiA)
    Montserrat Capdevila Tatché (PSC-CpC)
    Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira (ERC)
    Judit Carreras Tort (PSC-CpC)
    Mohammed Chaib Akhdim (PSC-CpC)
    Marta Cid i Pañella (ERC)
    Josep Lluís Cleries i Gonzàlez (CiU)
    Antoni Comín Oliveres (PSC-CpC)
    Lluís M. Corominas i Díaz (CiU)
    Xavier Crespo i Llobet (CiU)
    Sergi de los Ríos i Martínez (ERC)
    Manuela de Madre Ortega (PSC-CpC)
    Joan Manuel del Pozo i Àlvarez (PSC-CpC)
    José Domingo Domingo (Grup Mixt)
    Antoni Fernández Teixidó(CiU)
    Joan Ferran i Serafini (PSC-CpC)
    Anna Figueras i Ibàñez (CiU)
    Miquel Iceta i Llorens (PSC-CpC)
    Roberto Edgardo Labandera Ganachipi (PSC-CpC)
    Josep Llobet Navarro (PP)
    Marta Llorens i Garcia (CiU)
    Agustí López i Pla (CiU)
    Rafael López i Rueda (PP)
    Maria Dolores López Ortega (PSC-CpC)
    Alexandre Martínez Medina (PSC-CpC)
    Rocío Martínez-Sampere Rodrigo (PSC-CpC)
    Carina Mejías Sánchez (PP)
    Caterina Mieras i Barceló (PSC-CpC)
    Josep Enric Millo i Rocher (PP)
    Anna Miranda i Torres (CiU)
    Jordi Montanya i Mías (PP)
    José Montilla i Aguilera (PSC-CpC)
    Montserrat Nebrera González (PP)
    M. Ángeles Olano i García (PP)
    Joana Ortega i Alemany (CiU)
    Laia Ortiz Castellví (ICV-EUiA)
    M. Belén Pajares i Ribas (PP)
    Joaquim Josep Paladella Curto (PSC-CpC)
    David Pérez Ibáñez (PSC-CpC)
    Pilar Pifarré i Matas (CiU)
    Lluís Postigo i Garcia (ICV-EUiA)
    Consol Prados Martínez (PSC-CpC)
    Alfons Quera i Carré (ERC)
    Josep Maria Rañé i Blasco (PSC-CpC)
    Elena Ribera i Garijo (CiU)
    Joan Ridao i Martín (ERC)
    Albert Rivera Díaz (Grup Mixt)
    Antonio Robles Almeida (Grup Mixt)
    Santi Rodríguez i Serra (PP)
    Meritxell Ruiz i Isern (CiU)
    Francesc Sancho i Serena (CiU)
    Joan Saura i Laporta (ICV-EUiA)
    Francesc Vendrell i Bayona (PP)
    Xavier Vendrell i Segura(ERC)
    Núria Ventura Brusca (PSC-CpC)
    Pere Vigo i Sallent (ERC)
    Santi Vila i Vicente (CiU)

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