Cutting yourself off from the world by promoting local languages

In the days of Franco, the various local languages in Spain were, by and large, suppressed. The overall effect of that was that they were on the way to dying out.

However, since the early 1980s single language schools in the local language have sprung up in all areas of Spain where there is a local language. That’s particularly important in the Basque region as their language is so different from all others that it’s said to be virtually impossible to learn unless you learn it as a child.

But there’s a downside to all this promotion of local languages and that’s that it’s beginning to cut those taught in them from the rest of the world. This morning we had one of an increasing number of Spanish guests who couldn’t really speak any language other than Catalan. We could barely communicate with them at all because they couldn’t speak more than a few words of English, French or Spanish.

Now, I can understand that in some areas they would prefer not to be taught in Spanish but they really need to learn one world language or many people will find themselves virtually cut off from the world. Remember that these are local languages: if you only speak a local language you’re going to have trouble outside that region.

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2 Responses to “Cutting yourself off from the world by promoting local languages”

  • Bill Chapman says:

    I’m a speaker of Welsh and of Esperanto. I see the right formula as local language + state language + Esperanto. So the speaker of Basque should know Spanish, the speaker of Welsh cannot avoid English, and so on. They would then use Esperantop for international contacts. Idealistic? Perhaps, but Esperanto is a dynamic and growing laqnguage.

    Take a look at http://www.esperanto.net

  • Arnold says:

    Something like that is, in principle, workable.

    However, it will be a very long time (if ever) before Esperanto becomes a truly workable world language. Ironically, the problem is down to one of its strengths: it’s not tied politically to any country. The snag is that this makes it also a weakness: there’s just nobody powerful enough supporting it.

    That aside, a problem is that a concentration on a local language can mean that the national language isn’t learnt, or isn’t learnt well. It takes quite a lot of work to learn a language really well and it would appear that in the case of Catalonia that work has only been done for Catalan so there’s an increasing number of people who don’t speak Spanish or at least don’t speak it well and there seems to be a sizeable percentage who only speak Catalan.

    I realise that there’s a particular political difficulty with English in Wales as indeed there is with English in France. However, aside from a small number of countries it’s almost always English that is the first second language learnt by people around the world. Whilst I do appreciate the ideals of Esperanto, it would take a very long time indeed for that to change. After all, it has taken over 30 years for English to topple the French/German world languages.

    The other problem is that in a considerable number of cases there isn’t a single state language as such. For example, in Switzerland you have three major languages and two in Belgium. What I’ve found in practice for Belgium is that in reality English is the actual state language as the French speakers tend not to speak Flemish and the Flemish tend not to speak French but all speak English. My understanding is that’s starting to happen in Switzerland too where there’s a tendency to require things to be in French and German or just in English and, in practical terms, English is the one language that both the French and German speakers know.

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