Spain/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

Attempts to regulate multilingualism in Spain have generated many rules and regulations in the regional government level and on occasion in central government. The cornerstone of the entire structure rests on the 1978 Constitutional dictum (Article3.1) that Castilian is the official language of the state but that the "other Spanish languages" share the same official status in their respective communities, as stated in their Charters (Article3.2). This legal construct was designed based on the idea that Spain's linguistic diversity is a manifestation of "wealth" and an item of "cultural heritage" as a value in its entirety. This means that the 1978 Constitution was designed to respect and protect the diversity of the system as a whole, not merely its constituent parts.

The language in the 1978 Constitution and the various regional charters has opened the door to a flood of regional legislation on language, including that of the Basque Country (10/1982 Act), Galicia (3/1983 Act), Valencia (1/1983 Act), Catalonia (1/1998 Act), Navarre (18/1998 Act), Asturias (1/1998 Act) and Aragon (3/2013 Act). However, this has not prevented the central government, in the exercise of its powers, from regulating how the co-official status of regional languages works in such practical spheres as education and schools, access to public services, local administration, the courts, the health authorities and road signs.

These legal provisions and their implementation have generated numerous disputes taken first to the ordinary courts and then to the Constitutional Court which, by its jurisprudence, has slowly established a framework for how two languages co-exist as official. The relevant Constitutional jurisprudence (more than 25 sentences) are the Sentences 82, 83 and 84 of 26 June 1986, passed in response to Bills submitted to the central government on the normalisation of the Basque, Catalan and Galician languages. According to these Sentences, Castilian, as the official language of the country as a whole, cannot be cast as a rival to the regional languages given that both the regional and central governments are equally obliged to respect and protect the multiple languages of Spain. More recently and due to the Sentence 31/2010 of the Constitutional Court that considers Castilian, together with Catalan, the languages of teaching in Catalonia, a legal battle has initiated around the language model at Catalan schools. Thus, several sentences of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia require compliance with previous rulings of the Supreme Court, which state that Castilian cannot desist from also being a vehicular language in education. This statement opens, therefore, a question about what should be the rate at which Castilian has to be used in the Catalan education system. This debate has been recently revived with the draft and approval of the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality of the central government that extends Castilian as the vehicular language in the Catalan educational system (see also chapter 4.2.5).

In the specific case of the cultural sector, Catalan legislation (Act 1/1998 on Linguistic Policy), for example, establishes language quotas for licensed radio and television broadcasting. In order to promote the composition, performance and production of Catalan music, radio and television broadcasting, companies also have to guarantee that music programmes will provide adequate exposure to songs performed by Catalan artists, which must account for at least 25% of the broadcasted material.

Chapter published: 24-06-2015