Marí Àngels Casas Galán teaches Valenciano in Alicante - Very few of their students come voluntarily.
Marí Àngels Casas Galán studied Hispanic Philology and teaches Valenciano at the state language school Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (EOI) in Alicante. Like her students, and with difficulty she first had to learn Valencian spelling. In the small town of Real de Montroi with 2.000 inhabitants in the province of Valencia, where the teacher grew up, many spoke Valenciano, but in school only Castellano, Spanish, was taught - under Franco this was the only tolerated language. Later, after the end of the dictatorship, Catalan or Valenciano was no longer forbidden, but on higher educational levels it was at least scorned „as a village language“ . Today it's different, says Casas, it has advantages and disadvantages.
CBN: During Franco's dictatorship, the Valencian language disappeared from the streets, from the educational system and large sections of society - is it currently experiencing a boom?We thank the German Costa Blanca Nachrichten for the permission, to publish this article.
Marí Àngels Casas Galán: Implementing this by force is the current national policy. On the one hand I think it is positive - language is always an enrichment - on the other hand parents, pupils or public employees should be given the choice. When I was a young girl, my mother advised me not to speak Valenciano when I went on a trip to the city, because otherwise people would think I was a „village girl“. Those who wanted to achieve something had to speak Castellano - the language of power, church and education. The upper class wanted to prevent people from speaking Valenciano. I owe it to my mother that Franco did not succeed: at home we spoke Valenciano. Today it is more widespread among young people, but nobody should be forced to do it.
So most of your pupils do not sit in class voluntarily?
I would actually say 90 percent come because they are more or less forced to. Most of them because at some point they want to work in the public sector, where Valenciano has become a basic requirement. The remaining ten percent are made up of personally interested people, fans of Joan Manuel Serrat who want to understand his lyrics, or older Catalans who want to learn the spelling of their mother tongue.
You are talking about Catalans, what is the difference between Catalan and Valencian?
Even if some Catalans or Valencians do not want this to be true, linguistically speaking it is one and the same language. This is comparable to Americans and Britons. Both speak English, they only differ in pronunciation or single words. The blame for the eternal conflict lies with the politicians, who apparently want to distinguish between the two languages.
What are the difficulties for those who want to learn Catalan or Valenciano?
You have to distinguish between native Spanish speakers and everyone else. The Spaniards often find it difficult because the structures are similar to those in their language. For years, as a teacher, I made the mistake of telling my students that a word or grammatical rule was „like in Castellano“. If the students hear that, they lean back, according to the motto „I can speak Spanish, then that's easy“. The problem is that most native speakers do not speak their own language consciously, i.e. they use grammar and vocabulary automatically without having to think about causal relationships. However, those who learned Spanish as a foreign language had to struggle with grammar, pronunciation and spelling at some point. Often my foreign students even have advantages because of this.
The language conflict is increasingly becoming an ideological conflict in Spain, the best example being Catalonia's efforts to achieve independence.
I find our four languages - Castellano, Catalan, Galician and Basque - an enormous enrichment. At the political level, however, they split. I find it worrying that left-wing nationalist ideas are developing as in Catalonia and that, on the other hand, some right-wing movements are seizing the Spanish flag and abusing it as a symbol.