Thursday, July 31, 2008

Editorial 'Comédie française' (Nature 453)


Your Editorial 'Comédie française' (Nature 453, 1144; 10.1038/453114b 2008) argues that opposition by the members of the Académie française to including regional languages in the French constitution is disingenuous. But maybe these French academics have looked south and seen what has happened in Spain, where "regional and minority languages, like endangered species", are considered to "merit protection" by several of the regional governments.

Today, it is impossible to obtain public or publicly funded education in Spanish, the common language, in the schools of about one third of the country, including Catalonia, Mallorca and Valencia. For example, teaching is conducted in Catalan or one of its variants in northeastern Spain, and in Gallego in Galicia in the northwest.

In the Basque country, despite the obscurity of the language, education programmes will be available only in Basque from 2009 and programmes taught partially in Spanish will be dropped.

This is an absurd situation, where in some places it is easier for Spanish children to study in English (for example, in the British Council schools) than in Spanish, the language that the Spanish constitution has set as the common official language.

It has stimulated prominent — and by no means all conservative — intellectuals, headed by the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, to sign a manifesto calling to defend the rights of Spanish-speaking people in their own country (see, or in automatic-translation English at ¡Qué horror!

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