Spain/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

The language issue is an important one in Spain by virtue of the recognition both in the Constitution of 1978 and in the regional charters of 6 communities with own languages: Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia, the Balearics, Valencia and Navarre. In these regions, the local language and Castilian coexist as official languages and a system of bilingual education operates (see also chapter 5). This recognition is the cornerstone of Spanish cultural diversity. 

The challenges experienced since the initial recognition of "other Spanish languages" (Article3.2 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978) fall into three broad categories. The first is in defining the borderline between linguistic and cultural policy, particularly with respect to intervention by the authorities in the culture industries of bilingual communities. The second challenge has arisen from the influx of immigrants, when deciding which language should be used to integrate them socially in the host country (see also chapter 8.3.3). A third challenge relates to exchange among the different cultures within the state and the thin line between protection of the regional language by regional authorities and intervention to the detriment of the national official language. With regard to this last point the intention of the Popular Party to extend Castilian as a vehicular language in the Catalan educational system which is included in the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality has clashed with the strong opposition of the Catalan government and society. Instead, the latter two defend the language immersion system implemented in the Catalan schools and, therefore, the centrality of the Catalan language and literature in the school curriculum.

To promote linguistic diversity, a pioneer initiative in Spain was the establishment, in 2011, of a committee of experts from different fields (education, audiovisual industry, culture, politics, consumers and users, social communication, etc.) with the task of giving advice to the government on measures to promote the original version both in cinema and television. At that time, the Senate passed, with the support of all the parliamentary groups, except the Popular Party (that abstained), a motion urging the government to adopt specific measures to guarantee the right of access to audiovisual content in its original language. This proposal sought to promote cultural diversity, to disseminate the official languages in Autonomous Communities and to ensure the right of citizens to access film and audiovisual content in its original language. At the end of 2011, the conclusions, recommendations and proposals of the committee were made public. Since then, the government has not carried out any action in this direction, nor does it seem to be among its priorities. However, one of the priorities is that Spanish becomes the second most used language on the Internet (it is currently third).

Chapter published: 24-06-2015