Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Approaching the fire season, there are confusing signs from the authorities here. On the one hand, the forests are being patrolled by vigilant army groups and heat-sensitive-cameras have been installed which can ‘see’ a cigarette butt At 10km. on the other, the papers are full of pictures of places where work has not been done to ensure a safety zone by cutting down trees and clearing undergrowth. Fingers, therefore, need to remain crossed.

Madeleine Albright is quoted as saying that, to understand how the EU works, you have to be either a genius or French. Mr. Sarkozy may be both but gives the impression of either not knowing – or not caring about – how things are done ‘properly’. Allegedly, his impression of a dwarf on speed is starting to annoy his partners, as his foreign policy initiatives – such as the Mediterranean Union – clash head-on with EU policies. I blame it on global warming and predict it will end in tears. For everyone.

My Spanish-speaking neighbour is horrified at the prospect of her kids being taught in both Gallego and Spanish. She stressed she understands enough of the former to be able to deal with her Gallego-speaking patients but, on the other hand, could never write an essay in the subject. And she added that the policy of favouring Catalan in the Balearic Islands had increased ‘scholastic failure’ there. Now, a market research sample of one is, as they say in business circles, quite useless. This is true whether the sample is me, my neighbour or a Galician teacher. But I thought of my conversation with her when I read this tale in El Mundo on Sunday:- A young couple left the Spanish mainland to work in Mallorca. After a few months, it became clear their child, who’d achieved outstanding results back home, was failing all his exams. The reason was he couldn’t understand the Catalan in which the lessons were given. The father tried to discuss this with the teacher but the latter refused to speak in Spanish. So the parents decided to take the child outside the state system, only to find that the post-May six-party government, which includes a few nationalist parties, is changing the law in their regard come September next. The little wrinkle in this story is that the family hales from Galicia, where similar developments are taking place.

My own view is that, whenever politicians tinker with education in the furtherance of socio-political aims, there’s at least one generation of pupils which pays the price for this. Readers can [and will] disagree but, as I say, without the evidence which none of us yet has, no one can prove anything. And none of us is going to convince the other. In the end, each of us has to do what we think is right for our kids. Which is why so many of the world’s Socialists send theirs to private schools.

My other oft-stated view is that exaggerated nationalism is divisive and economically illiterate.


Xoan-Carlos said...

Could your doctor friend be the same doctor who asked a sick Galician-speaking child to speak Spanish before treating him?

see the petition on: http://www.ciberirmandade.org/sitio2007/component/option,com_obxetivos/task,envioweb/id,96/

I sympaphise with the Spanish-speaking child in Majorca, but how is this different to the problems faced by Spanish parents upping sticks and moving to London or Paris? Do schools in parts of Bradford and East London, where English is a minority language teach in Urdu, no they don't. People should adapt to their new environments --I have, and so have you, Colin--and not expect local cultures to relegate their language/beliefs etc, in favour of those of newcommers--for all your comments about wacky Champagne socialists who send their children to private school, I think this is quite a conservative view.

I hate to use myself as an example, but when I've spent no more than aggregated total of approx. 5 months of my life in Galicia, and had only Spanish and English languages imposed on me in education, any public sector worker working in Galicia(particularly those in health and education), with access to courses (in a language that Spanish speakers can learn in a matter of months) and limited media who are still unable, or, worse, refusing to speak Galician does so out of contempt.

Xoan-Carlos said...

That comment wasn't terribly clear: I meant to say that if I'm able to speak and write Galician to a pretty decent standard having spent so little time there, I don't think anyone living in Galicia has any excuse, especially if the health or education of others depends on it.

Colin said...

Xoan -Carlos

I've just got home and am going for my siesta I will say more later but surely it's not lost on you that Spaniards going to live in UK are moving to a different state. Gallegos moving to Mallorca are not. That's why there are co-official languages. A policy which is de facto aimed at abolishing the state language is wrong. Whether we are talking about the PB, Catalunia, Valencia, Mallorca or wherever.

outravacanomillo said...

Instead of Spaniards going to London or Paris, let's say a Swiss family from Geneva moving to Zurich. That's the same state.

Colin said...

OK but what does Swiss state law say about [co][official] languages in the cantons? If it says nothing and leaves everything to local decisions, then this is a false analogy. There would be significant constitutional differences between Switzerland and Spain. It may be that this is what Spain's regions/nations would want but it isn't yet the case.

BTW, would it be as easy for you to learn Catalan as to learn Gallego? Not that I think it's terribly relevant how easy it would be for you to do it by choice, as opposed to someone 1. less intelligent being 2. compelled to do it.

Yes, of course people should adapt to their new environments but where this environment enshrines 2 official languages, why should they be coerced to use only one - and a new one instead of the one they already know? I have all the time in the world to accommodate myself to both Spanish and, eventually, Gallego, but hard working adults and kids struggling in school don't. And in a true meritocracy [which I appreciate Spain isn't]there's a price to be paid for not being able to employ the best person for a job because he/she doesn't accept an obligation learn a new language on the part of him/herself, spouse and kids. Nationalists may think [well, they clearly do think] this is an acceptable price to pay in the battle to achieve supremacy for their language but I regard it as foolhardy. But, as I've said many times, I'm not denying Nationalists the right to do this, so long as they live within the existing law and put themselves to the test of electoral support.