Catalan language revival fuels backlash in Spain

Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:49pm EDT
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By Fiona Ortiz

Spain(Reuters) - (Refiled story from July 10 in fourth paragraph to clarify that source was referring to Madrid policymakers)

Francesca Munoz, the principal at Sant Miquel primary school near Barcelona, is fighting a linguistic crusade that has fuelled a remarkable recovery of the local Catalan tongue – and of the region’s secessionist movement.

For 30 years, public schools in Spain's Catalonia region have taught most subjects in Catalan, not the national Castilian Spanish language.

There are now some 10 million Catalan speakers in or near the region bordering France and the Mediterranean, putting the language in a league with Swedish and Greek after it was repressed under the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

"We feel so proud to have achieved this, but we can’t relax now. It’s still a daily battle," says Munoz, who led her school’s transition to Catalan three decades ago, when all the teachers were retrained.

Such is the strength of the Catalan renaissance that it is prompting a backlash among some parents concerned their children are getting short-changed on Spanish, the world’s second-most spoken language by native speakers after Mandarin.

These parents, worried that many schools now give only three hours of Spanish a week, have support from the center-right central government in Madrid, which passed an education law last year that will force the Catalan school system to provide more hours in Spanish if parents petition for it.   Continued...