There is much room for improvement in the promotion of Spain’s regional or minority languages. These are the conclusions of the latest report of Committee of Experts on the application by Spain of the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, published on 20th January 2016. While it acknowledges the high level of protection chosen by Spain vis-à-vis its regional languages and the significant improvements experienced over the last years – most notably developed by some regional governments – the report considers that the Spanish State authorities could significantly increase its support.
More specifically, the report identifies persistent gaps in the promotion of regional and minority language and proposes 6 concrete recommendations revolving around the following issues: 1) amend the legal framework to foster the use of regional languages at proceedings at the request of one party; 2) increase the number of civil servants in the judiciary with a command of the regional language of that territory; 3) wider presence of co-official languages in State administration at the level of the Autonomous Communities; 4) wider presence of co-official languages in public services, especially in health care services; 5) ensure that trilingual education does not affect the provision of mother-tongue instruction in a regional language; and 6) extend the recognition of regional and minority languages in six Autonomous Communities to other autonomous Communities where these are spoken.
The report convers Catalan in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia – also known in Valencia as Valencian – Basque in the Basque Country and Navarre, Galician and Aranese, also known as Occitan. It also highlights the lack of adequate protection for the most endangered languages of Spain like Arabic in Ceuta, Portuguese in Extremadura, Astur- Leonese in Castile and Leon, Galician in Extremadura, and Valencian in Murcia and Tamazight in Melilla, which has slightly improved. Consequently, increased attention and further action is needed.
Reactions by the different regional governments of Spain
The report has sparked a series of reactions in the different regional governments. The Directorate-General for Language Policy of the Catalan Government has issued a communiqué highlighting the idea that State authorities need to do more to promote Catalan, especially in the judiciary and in the Spanish Administration in Catalonia, a remark applicable to all other co-official languages; similarly, the Galician authorities have published a note on the improvements they are currently developing to comply with the Charter. Through a press conference, the Chair of NPLD and Vice-minister for Language Policy at the Basque Country, Mr. Patxi Baztarrika, stated that “the reports clearly highlights the need by the Spanish authorities to be more proactive in the promotion of its co-official languages”. He went on to say that “it is quite a paradox that Spain has chosen the highest level of protection in the Charter for its co-official languages but the report acknowledges that it is the regional governments – and not the State – that are actually doing the job.
The Committee of experts recommends the Spanish state to do more for its languages. It is worth noting that these recommendations have been repeatedly suggested by the Council of Europe in all previous reports since 2005”.
Click here to read the full report.