Celso Alvarez Caccamo had such an interesting response to my first roundup that I have pasted it in full so anyone seeing the blog will see it. I was tempted to remove the Altalang.com link but will leave it (and its evidence of my utter lack of knowledge about Spanish dialects and Iberian penninsula languages) so y’all can inspect its weaknesses for yourselves. Thank you as well, Celso, for the discussion of Catalan language policies. Please feel free to write more about them any time you wish!
Sorry to say that one of the links in this post, that of Altalang.com, http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/2008/11/13/10-spanish-dialects-how-spanish-is-spoken-around-the-world/ , is unfortunate and doesn’t deserve to be here. It’s full of inaccuracies and even a gross error, that of calling Aranese a “dialect” of Spanish. Aranese is an Occitan variety, and as such it has to do as little with Spanish as Italian does. Further, the descriptions of “dialects” are clearly amateurish. I won’t go into the details, just this quotation as a sample: “This is the dialect of urban mainland Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and the majority of Central and South American countries” !! — all THAT, just ONE dialect!?
As to the NYT article, “Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen”, well, it’s also questionable. Apart from another inaccuracy (painter Miquel Barceló is not Catalan, but from the also Catalan-speaking Balearic Islands), the article is not unbiased (“trumpeting” a language which is Catalonia’s OWN language?). And pay attention to this (my emphasis):
“By law, schoolchildren are required to receive their education in Catalan. IN A FURTHER BLOW TO SPANISH CULTURE, a referendum before the Catalan Parliament would end bullfighting, another Spanish passion, here altogether”.
That is, the mandatory Catalan-language immersion program in school is a “blow to Spanish culture”. Not so. Let’s say the blow to Catalan culture was the prior SUBmersion in Spanish. The Catalan program is very successful in maintaining and recovering Catalan (while Spanish is also obligatorily taught), it has been praised by the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Bureau_for_Lesser-Used_Languages ) for its adherence to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Charter_for_Regional_or_Minority_Languages ), and it has generated a wealth of research on language policies.
It is important to remember that the only “blow” to culture in general in Spain was and is that practiced by an essentialized view of “Spain” as that homogeneous imaginary that reaches tourists and language-commentators journalists alike . Every time I read one of these pieces on languages in Spain in the foreign press, particularly the US, it seems as if a piece of their travel myth (tapas, sun, late evenings, cheap alcohol, nice beaches, eccentric, almost primitive folklore, “pathos” and a good retirement paradise) is being taken away by irrational “nationalists”. The journalist doesn’t even comment on the fact, for example, that the Catalan legislation simply follows the aberrant path of continuing to dub hundreds of US cinema subproducts which reach our screens. Dubbing in Catalan doesn’t correct the fact that moviegoers still have to swallow (and they like it!) horrendous US-produced junk that continues to transform, literally, our hippocampus.
In short, the Catalan model regarding language policies, including the promotion of the territory’s own language in culture and public life, is one to be followed in other nations (Galiza and the Basque Country) belonging to the almighty Kingdom of Spain were it not for the fact that their respecty autonomous governments have been recently reconquered by centralist parties.