Catalan and minority languages

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jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Oct 6 2017 11:05
Catalan and minority languages

There was a lot of discussion on the Catalonia thread about this so perhaps thje discussion could move here. I've started off with the post I was going to put on there.

Cantdo, if you're working in England and Wales as a teacher then an English GCSE (as well as maths) is compulsory, regardless of other qualifications, you also had to takes tests in English, maths and IT when I qualified but I think IT has been dropped now.

For HLTAs they were compulsory too, a few at my school were prepped by the English Department to take English GCSE. TAs are supposed to have a qualification too (that requires or include English iirc), but I've heard that in practice schools can just claim to have put them on a training course and ignore it.

I don't think it is unreasonable to expect people to be able to use the official languages where they work. No one would complain about other requirements a pilot needs a pilot's licence for example. I think it is worse to use a language like English as a method of social exclusion in employment, or even dead languages like Latin or Greek.

I think we are getting off topic, but I think that if a language requires people to be forced to speak it then it is on its way out anyway. If people are forced to use it like that for work it won't keep a language alive. Fleur was talking about the need to keep languages alive and I think that opening up the language to everybody with opportunities to learn it is the only way to maintain it. Welsh went the compulsory route, in spite of the fact that few if any welsh speakers don't speak English, but with massive government support they have massively increased knowledge of Welsh, I don't know how much of an effect it has had on the living language but I would expect it has had a good effect.

Quebec is the model language teachers see all the time because it has been successful using immersion and biligualism for kids and because of the large amount of teaching to normal adults (most adults want to learn a language so are statistically unusual)

I was reading the other day about an elderly indigenous woman who is the last living speaker of her language and she is trying to write a dictionary before she dies but is struggling because she hasn't spoken the language for years, that is a dead language that isn't coming back, it might help an interesed person read a written text (if there are any) but that language is almost certainly never going to be used in conversation ever again.

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jura
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Oct 6 2017 13:13

I think this is relevant:

Pancake wrote:
Is it not true, for example, that national schools, in which the children of the proletariat can receive instruction in their own language, possess a certain value? For us, such demands constitute proletarian demands rather than nationalist demands. Czech nationalist demands are directed against the Germans, while the Germans oppose them. If, however, the Czech workers were to interest themselves in Czech schools, a Czech administrative language, etc., because these things allow them to enhance their opportunities for education and to increase their independence in respect to the employers and the authorities, these issues would also be of interest to the German workers, who have every interest in seeing their class comrades acquire as much force as possible for the class struggle. Therefore, not only the Czech social democrats, but their German comrades as well must demand schools for the Czech minority, and it is of the little importance to the representatives of the proletariat how powerful the German or the Czech "nation" is, that is, how powerful the German or the Czech bourgeoisie is within the State, which will be strengthened or weakened by this development. The interest of the proletariat must always prevail. If the bourgeoisie, for nationalist reasons, were to formulate an identical demand, in practice it will be pursuing something totally different since its goals are not the same. In the schools of the Czech minority, the workers will encourage the teaching of the German language because this would help their children in their struggle for existence, but the Czech bourgeoisie will try to prevent them from learning German. The workers demand the most extensive diversity of languages employed in administrative bodies, the nationalists want to suppress foreign languages. It is only in appearance, then, that the linguistic and cultural demands of the workers and those of the nationalists coincide. Proletarian demands are those demands which are common to the proletariat of all nations.

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D
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Oct 6 2017 18:23

I'm sympathetic to efforts to keep languages alive as it is undoubtedly true that often they can end up dying out fairly easily.

Having said that the comparisons being made here aren't quite fair in my opinion.

If you do not know how to fly a plane you will not be able to be a good pilot (and would kill people!), if you can't speak English in England you wouldn't be able to do your job in many (not all) public jobs. Yet if you can speak Spanish in Catalonia in many cases you could do the job without a problem considering the vast majority of the population speak spanish (moreso than Catalan). That's not to say the requirement is necessarily discriminatory, but the idea its based on the practical needs of the people served in these jobs is just not true in my opinion.

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Oct 7 2017 13:04
jef wrote:
Welsh went the compulsory route, in spite of the fact that few if any welsh speakers don't speak English, but with massive government support they have massively increased knowledge of Welsh, I don't know how much of an effect it has had on the living language but I would expect it has had a good effect.

The numbers of Welsh speakers has declined recently; http://www.cambrian-news.co.uk/article.cfm?id=106148&headline=Call%20for...
Some comments on nationalism & Welsh language;

Quote:
If identity is the populist vehicle for the Welsh language, at the wheel is, in fact, ‘status’. Fevre, Denney and Borland identify a small middle-class status group, the Welsh Class, as the promoter and beneficiary of Welsh nationalism. This status group is socio-economically advantaged and is concerned with the honour and prestige of its language and culture. It is the community at the heart of Welsh nationalism, and has succeeded in normalising the aspiration to belong to an amorphous national community whilst remaining aloof as the arbiter of its high culture. To justify the political and financial investment needed to expand the language, to rhetorically extend it to everyone in Wales and to facilitate its use in all public spheres, the Welsh Class and policy makers promote myths about the instrumental benefits of learning the language and inscribing its public use in statute. ...

Welsh language policy is a social policy that does not improve people’s capabilities and does not instrumentally benefit society – it benefits a small status group, it is a conservative policy. ...

Williams, in 1989, the period leading up to the Welsh Language Act, wrote:

Thus we are faced with a generation of bilingual school-leavers who have been socialised into believing that their bilingualism is prized by society, which on examination turns out to be a rather narrowly constructed, middle-class public sector society, which rewards its own purveyors of information and knowledge. There are clear class implications in the development of an administrative bureaucracy, which is both the principal agency for change and the principal net beneficiary of change. ...
https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/evan-harris/home-truths-decline...

This pretty much tallies with what I learned from working class anglophone Welsh people and how they saw the issue; that Welsh language skills were often part of a middle class gatekeeping apparatus to help filter entry to professions like media, civil service bureaucracies etc where Welsh is often a requirement. Private fee-paying schools for the better off that teach mainly in Welsh facilitate this.

There is also a rural/urban divide. Traditionally native speaking areas are concentrated outside the more industrial south in more rural areas.

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Oct 7 2017 23:26
jef costello wrote:
There was a lot of discussion on the Catalonia thread about this so perhaps thje discussion could move here. I've started off with the post I was going to put on there.

Cantdo, if you're working in England and Wales as a teacher then an English GCSE (as well as maths) is compulsory, regardless of other qualifications, you also had to takes tests in English, maths and IT when I qualified but I think IT has been dropped now.

For HLTAs they were compulsory too, a few at my school were prepped by the English Department to take English GCSE. TAs are supposed to have a qualification too (that requires or include English iirc), but I've heard that in practice schools can just claim to have put them on a training course and ignore it.

Realistically in schools of all types there are loads of support staff, special needs teachers, behaviour staff, admin staff, non ''academic''* subject teachers, cover supervisors and foreign language teachers who often don't have those qualifications. I have numerous friends who came from the continent without a written certificate in English and were able to do the above jobs.

I think the current move towards hltas enforced by ofsted has made a small dent on that but it remains to be seen how permanent that effect is tbh. I suspect current teaching shortages and other similar practical considerations will thankfully put a spanner in the works of that particular initiative so over time it will increasingly be more something schools pay lip service to.

Obviously, it does apply to any core and traditional ''academic''* subject teachers.who have to have a level 2 in maths and English. This is a bit more logical though, as in England there is no other language spoken by more than a few percent of the population and thus all education in England is in English.
*not to place any value on said subjects just how it is

Quote:
I don't think it is unreasonable to expect people to be able to use the official languages where they work.

It is totally unreasonable if the language isn;t needed. If say pret or any other shop chain turned round and said that migrants needed C1 English* to work there we'd say that was completely unreasonable and solely motivated by bigotry.
Its made of course even more unreasonable in catalonia because 99% of the population understands Spanish and more can read or write Spanish than Catalan, and yet despite this they do this universally in the public sector and it happens a lot in the private sector because it is effectively legal for employers to discriminate against migrants from poorer areas of Spain and elsewhere in favour of ''native'' catalans. There are ways to promote the equal use of languages or redress the imbalance left by Franco without producing a shit mirror image of Francos own nationalist language policies which simply creates further divisions in the workplace and society along nationalist lines
*C1 advanced generally being the level public sector employers ask for in written catalan to say work in any public sector job in the middle of Barcelona

Quote:
but that language is almost certainly never going to be used in conversation ever again.

Now personally I think this is just whimsical emotive nonsense. Honestly in ten thousand years or sot the language we're speaking/writing here will only be understood by weird archaeology buffs and our culture will look like a monkey painting pictures by flinging excrement on a wall.

Not really relevant to the ins and outs of the uk or catalonian labour market of course

ajjohnstone
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Oct 8 2017 05:47

Has Irish independence and the imposition of being able to speak Irish for any government job spread the language, or has English remained dominant.

In Scotland can we really promote ALBA Gaelic television channel and bi-lingual road-signs.

But i am minded that Norwegian, Greek and Hebrew are more or less created modern languages.

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Oct 8 2017 18:30

New Norwegian (nynorsk) is a created language, whereas what the majority write is a Norwegianized version of Danish. And the former was part of a nationalist drive to get independence from Denmark. And Hebrew is a bit different, more of a revival of a language based on it's written and not spoken form. Hebrew is more akin to learned Latin if people started speaking it extensively.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Oct 8 2017 21:50
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Quote:
but that language is almost certainly never going to be used in conversation ever again.

Now personally I think this is just whimsical emotive nonsense. Honestly in ten thousand years or sot the language we're speaking/writing here will only be understood by weird archaeology buffs and our culture will look like a monkey painting pictures by flinging excrement on a wall.

Not really relevant to the ins and outs of the uk or catalonian labour market of course

Are you being rude for any particular reason?
It was an example of a dead/dying language because dead/dying languages had come up and I think it is worth discussing when we 'save' a language what we are actually trying to achieve. I don't think forcing people to speak languages is a way to save them. Preserving culture is obviously a good thing and if you think that the process by which languages disappear is an entirely organic one that is shockingly naive. Lnguages can and do simply fall out of use over time and while it is sad there isn't much that can be done about it outside of the massive state efforts mentioned earlier with which I don't really agree.

Quote:
Realistically in schools of all types there are loads of support staff, special needs teachers, behaviour staff, admin staff, non ''academic''* subject teachers, cover supervisors and foreign language teachers who often don't have those qualifications. I have numerous friends who came from the continent without a written certificate in English and were able to do the above jobs.

You know where you are better than I do, but all those jobs requre speaking English, and even if schools are not formally checking qualifications (which they should be doing) they will be using English in the interviews. Teachers from abroad need equivalent qualifications and some qualification in English, although that may be part of their degree. I think it's odd that you list sen teachers as they must be qualified and admin staff, admin jobs require at the very least 5 GCSEs and I haven't seen one ask for so little in years.
I tdon't understand why you think requiring the language as anti-working class, surely it is anti-working class to have staff that cannot do their jobs because they don't have the language? I have seen plenty of colleagues teaching languages here whose grasp of the language they are supposed to be teaching is awful, I think that giving a shitty education to kids is the anti-working class action. If it is just because it is a formal qualification then I disagree, because while a formal qualification can be a barrier, having the interviewer judge English skills themselves may end up being far more biased and permit much more discrimination.