European parliament report on language policy favours individual choice

Another nail in the coffin of the language police is creating a wave of Europhile euphoria in this household.

Good to hear that the culture committee has adopted Vasco Graça Moura’s report on “Language-learning, multilinguism and linguistic diversity” (admin page), which inter alia “Stresses the vital importance of preserving the possibility for parents and guardians of choosing the official language in which their children are to be educated in countries with more than one official or regional language.” Maybe European edicts will succeed where Spanish law has failed. (Can someone explain why the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística has not managed to force any of the restaurants on c/ Carabassa, where it has its delightful new Gothic dungeons offices, to use Catalan on their menus?)

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  1. How on earth is it “essential” that parents have the right to choose an official language in which their children are to be educated? This is only essential to Spanish nationalism, plain and simple.

  2. The obsession with official languages is of course complete totalitarian bollocks designed to prevent exercise of my inalienable right to educate my children and barnyard animals in excellent Bala dialect instead of some corrupt and useless Romance pidgin.

    But allowing people to choose Spanish instead of Catalan, Basque, Asturo-Leonese or whatever would, while Sean Gabb plans the libertarian revolution, at least give their children a better chance to adjust to the labour market, which values Spanish above all, English next, and not much else.

  3. There are other, more important ways to adjust your individual features to the ever-changing whims of the Lord..I mean The Market, of course. For instance retraining those muscles in the rear end you were not aware you possessed…

  4. Amazing how you change your mind. Yesterday, the livelihood of millions of foreigners was at stake for not knowing the “only official language”. Today, they are actually better “adjusted” to the labour market than the locals themselves. At least you admit that that party of yours that you support is also totalitarian, just like, well, everybody else. I’m glad to hear that.

  5. Just because you ramble over here doesn’t mean anyone’s going to read your blog, you toxic wuzzock. Millán’s meant to be the mad one.

    Yes, foreigners and huge numbers of locals are a disadvantage vis-à-vis the state because they generally use the common language rather than the sole de facto official one, and those who develop skills in the latter at the expense of the former don’t do so well in the labour market. What’s so difficult to understand about that?

  6. Like I give a shite about my blog, you spastic buzzcock. Difficult to understand, you say? I didn’t say it was difficult to understand. I said it was utterly moronic. Look, if they already use what according to you is “the common language”, how can they possibly develop skills in another language at the expense of a language that they are already using? Have you got the slightest idea of what you’re talking about? I think not.

  7. I admit I’ve always had problems understanding fat little purple men with antennae coming out of their heads.

  8. C’mon Primo, lay off our apprentice boy! This bald little orange man’s come a long way, from the Shankill Lodge all the way to Romany Rosa’s Old Spain Freak Show, giving up marching bands in fancy uniforms in the process.

    Praise where praise is due, Catalan-bashing -unlike, say, anticonstitutional “no-surrender” knee-capping- nowadays is a widespread leisure activity, easily accessible both to bored expats and the general public and distinguished with the seal of quality of the European Parliament.

  9. Funny then that I always used to get pulled out of the line at Heathrow to talk about the other lot. It was usually an old man who strip-searched me, but on about the third occasion an attractive young woman flagged me down, took me to the room, and asked me to take my clothes off. Whereupon she left and the old man came in. I still have a pile of “watch out for the terras” posters somewhere, collected for fun on the occasion I infiltrated a British base on the Rhine dressed as Dame Edna and carrying a large inflatable gorilla. The security checks may well have been about that, and I’m quite glad they didn’t catch me at the time – not that there was any danger of that, themselves being too busy drinking and hurling tables and beer glasses each other to bother about punching strangers.

  10. I once got pulled out at Roissy aka Charles de Gaulle. I wasn’t strip-searched though, thank Sabino Arana for that! In the room the cop went through my bag without putting any gloves on and I was too faint-hearted to suggest he did so, I could detect more than a hint of slight irritation and he was flashing me his handgun far too often for comfort and for no apparent reason. It’s a well-known fact that tempers tend to run short in the Paris police force. Then there was the rambling questioning in French only, of course, the Roissy constabulary aren’t into hangups over language choice, except they didn’t even bother to find out if I understood it at all. Not that it made any difference.

  11. Yeah, right, but what about that sorely-needed shock therapy of waterboard…ah…”immersió lingüística” in Rijeka/Fiume and thereabouts? I can easily see us reaching stalemate over the relative advantages of adopting Chakavian rather than Shtokavian, particularly bearing in mind the special needs of nearby Montenegro with its thriving secondary labour market…never mind those other provinces of Italia Irredenta, Albania & Independent Kosovo.

  12. I wouldn’t dream of trying to make people adjust to the labour market, but if they want to make choices with this intention I wouldn’t dream of trying to stop them either.

  13. Ah! the nationalist-socialist bloc! What better way out of the crisis than to intervene in people’s personal lives to decrease their economic efficiency!

  14. Trevor, what a lot of mince, and sour grapes.

    Admit it, man, for your own mental sake: the only educational system that gives everybody a chance of being bilingual is the current one, which the overwhelming majority of people in Catalonia, regardless of cultural background, support. The one party who explicitly opposes the current system has about 5% of the vote. Another party with about 12% of the vote is ambigous or confused about it.

    Can you explain exactly how government policies that ensure that as many citizens as possible are given a chance to be bilingual is going to decrease economic efficiency?

    I did not get that topic while at university or in any of my professional exams…

  15. Funnily enough, this morning I was taking a bunch of British students round the Raval and one of them asked a Pakistani shopkeeper what he thought about the nationalists’ language policy.

    “My children already speak one useless language – Urdu,” he said, “so why do the Catalans want to make them learn another?”

    I can speak half a dozen useless languages because I don’t have to worry too much about tomorrow, but the Catalan policy which you call bilingualism (ie trying to stop children speaking the lingua franca and telling them that the Spanish eat babies) is regarded as immensely damaging by people who are worried about where tomorrow’s meal is coming from.

    That’s why this particular storekeeper has two signs for his store, one in Spanish and one in Catalan. When the language police come round and threaten him, he takes down the Spanish one and puts up the Catalan one. Then, a couple of months later, when all is quiet, he changes them back. More takings, he says.

    If you’re so in favour of useless languages, why isn’t your blog in Gaelic?

  16. Yes, but having everyone dress in regional costume would be good for tourism.

  17. This is the problem Trevor:
    “but the Catalan policy which you call bilingualism (ie trying to stop children speaking the lingua franca and telling them that the Spanish eat babies) is regarded as immensely damaging by people who are worried about where tomorrow’s meal is coming from”

    In this statement there are two lies, one perverse, the other pathetic, and a subjective opinion not based on any economic research.

    The current system does not try to stop anybody speaking Spanish. Spanish, I kid you not, is the mandatory language for everybody according to the Spanish Constitution. I will not comment on the “Spanish eat babies” remark, you need to stop listening to COPE. According to the Spanish MdE, Catalan pupils have an equal level of attaintment in Spanish language than pupils of other mono-lingual regions of Spain. For every student that leaves a Catalan school without being fluent in Spanish, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who are not fluent in Catalan because of family/neighbourhood/political reasons.

    The fact of the matter is this: if someone’s job prospects are damaged because they refuse to learn the language of the place they live in, they only have themselves and their own prejudice to blame. There is plenty of opportunity to learn Catalan via classes, watching TV, listening to the radio, speaking to people…. and by not being an obnoxious, resentful immigrant.

    The policy is regarded as damaging by who?
    By people who are very prejudiced.
    Urdu is a useless language in Catalonia -unless you conduct business with lots of Urdu-speaking companies, I guess. Did you ask this man if Urdu is a useless language in Pakistan?

    Catalan, whether you like it or not, is the native language of Catalonia and it is not useless. In fact, if one wants to get a client-facing job in the private sector based in Catalonia, then speaking Catalan is a big plus, often a requirement. Being able to communicate with your customers goes a long way to make a company profitable, in Catalonia or in Sebastopol. Shocking news!!

    In the public sector, obviously, there is a requirement for public sector workers to be bilingual so as to be able to attend customers (ie taxpayers) in both official languages.
    So, far from being an obstacle, as you try to assert, Catalan is an indispensable requirement to improve one’s economic prospects in Catalonia.

    What is an obstacle to individual and collective economic improvement, is narrow-minded prejudice and laziness, and refusal to integrate in society.

    When people like you and others advocate that the current system should be change to accomodate people that refuse to learn Catalan, you are giving support to a system whose outcome will lead to lower economic growth and development, by producing school-leavers unable to master the language of the place they live in. The current system, whether you like it or not, is the best system, in current circumstances, that enables people to leave school with competency in both languages. Tampering with it will only lead to more people failing to be fluent in the language of Catalonia -Catalan.

    As for your Gaelic comment.
    Again, you show your own narrow-mindeness and prejudice. Gaelic is not more useless than any other language. I don’t speak Gaelic and I am not intending to learn Gaelic because I don’t live in a Gaelic-speaking area. I do not know anybody that is a Gaelic-speaker.

    However, I can assure you that if I were to get a job in Stornoway as chief pensions officer the first thing I would do (after securing a place to live) would be to enrol in Gaelic classes. It would help me to integrate in the Western Isles and fit in, without further contributing to the demise of a language.

    This is the kind of thing most people find normal and common sense. You move to start a new life, you learn the language, or languages if the place is bilingual, of the place you live in: in Catalonia, Pakistan or anywhere else. Without narrow-mindeness or prejudice. Without becoming a resentful immigrant, someone unable and unwilling to truly fit in where they happen to live.

    If I was to move to Pakistan, I would learn Urdu, which I don’t think is a useless language for the people living there. And if I was to move to the Nederlands, I would learn Dutch. Is that an useless language just because most folk there happen to be pretty good at English anyway? So, should we change the educational system in Holland and abandon Dutch since everybody can get on with English? That’s how ridiculous your view on this subject it.

    So there you have it. No economic/investment case basis to your argument that Catalan is an impediment to economic development.

    But plenty of evidence of a bunch of narrow-minded numpties who can’t be bothered to learn the language of the place they live in. Pathetic.

  18. The likely story of the Pakistani shopkeeper and his two signs. Isn’t it ironic that after travelling literally thousands of miles from his country, of all possible places, he settles precisely in this country where he is mercilessly victimised by the language police and the signs gestapo every day of the week? And the funniest thing is that he could easily avoid all this harassment if he moved to any other region of Spain, where they only shove down your throat useful languages, and his shop would flourish and he would swim in money!! It’s a pity, really.

  19. here is a nobel idea: maybe people could make an effort to learn the language of the place they emigrate to…Stop Press!

  20. Oh Trevor, you are quick-witted, smart, you sound intelligent most of the time, you are well-travelled… why do you keep being such a revisionist, twisted nutter when you write about this stuff??
    Honestly I don’t get it. You could do so much better….

  21. And I love you too! That’s more or less what I was told when I was 11–stop writing that confused crap, you’re in secondary school now–so it’s probably too late to change.

  22. Can someone explain why the PSOE thinks it’s OK to choose your language in the Basque Country but fascism to do so in Catalonia? (Although the PP is vaguer, it has the same problem.)

  23. Two reasons:

    Historically, Spanish is not as alien to Euskadi (particularly Alava) as Spanish, historically, has been in Catalonia. The replacement of Basque by Spanish there has happened much earlier, with the result that by the time the industrial revolution arrived, Basque was “already” a marginal language, which many Basques were unable to master.

    In contrast, the replacement of Catalan by Spanish in Catalonia, in particular at the street level, has been a more recent phenomenon. Although most Catalans in urban areas were bilingual, the “language in the street” was Catalan until the immigration waves and overt political repression in the 20th century. And even then, since both languages share their Latin roots, learning Catalan was quite easy for most Spaniards. Becoming bilingual in Catalan/Spanish (providing one is free of prejudice or laziness….) is a piece of cake, compared to learning a completely different grammar/sintaxis, etc, as it happens with Basque/Spanish.

    The other reason is a very recent one, and one that you will only get to if you get to know people in the in the PSOE:

    After Franco’s death, in the Basque Country there has been in effect a 2-tier educational system, which has led to the same kind of problems you find in Scotland or Ulster: mistrust, divided society, resentment, etc. The damage in the Basque Country is done, like it has been done, to a much greater extent obviously, in Northern Ireland -I am sure our host will have strong opinions about it… ;-)

    To change the system in Euskadi for an inclusive one in support of the native language like in Catalonia would take an amount of political capital that neither PSOE or PNV are able to gather or commit to. Plus, the resistance in some quarters within the Basque country, on top of the local branch of the PP or the Spanish press, etc, would be unbearable. They are stuck with it for the time being, and they know that.

    Both the Catalan branches of the PSOE and the PP know this very well, and that’s why they are unwilling or ambiguous to change the system in Catalonia. Because the fact of the matter, no matter what a tiny minority of activists say, is this: hardly anybody, including the local PSOE and most if not all of the local PP, want to see a segregated education system based on cultural background or the political preference of parents, in a country in which over half of the population has parents or grandparents born outside Catalonia. To allow that to happen would be an act of folly with incalculable consequences for both the future survival of Catalan, and for society’s cohesion.
    Particularly since the present system is designed to give everybody the best chance at gaining fluency in both languages, not to master one and be just ok with the other.

    Millions of Andalusian parents(or from any other monolingual areas of Spain), including my mother, know this and that’s why C’s, or even PP do not get more support for this policy. Despite the population of the Barcelona area being in its majority of immigrant (outwith Catalonia) background, the status quo remains the preferred choice for the overwhelming majority. It puzzles me that this point seems to get lost within some sections of the allegedly highly educated immigrant community recently emigrated from central and northern Europe, which seems unable or unwilling to integrate in their country of adoption. And then they complain about it.

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