Reposted from Celso Alvarez Cáccamo
2010/08/24 at 3:13 am

Catalonia’s educational system is one of immersion in Catalan. Catalan- and Spanish-speaking children alike (as well as immigrants from other countries) learn mandatorily in Catalan; Spanish is also taught. Spanish is not “the language of the majority” in Catalonia (or Galiza, for that matter). Be as it may, quantitative data about language distribution is only one of the criteria for language policies. The relevant criterium in Catalonia is that Catalan is the historical language of the country.

As for the Haitian case and the petition, my opinion is that the various arguments given (language distribution, language rights, pedagogical reasons, parents’ attitudes) cannot be discussed in isolation. For example, parents’ preferences for instruction in French (if that’s the case) may be motivated for a quest for social mobility (comparable to the fantasmagoric glamour that English enjoys internationally), but language knowledge in itself may not be empowering for a given population without parallel economic and social empowerment and without the necessary structural economic changes. Also, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other charters deriving from it ensure the right of children to receive education in their native language in order to prevent discrimination; but democratic states have the obligation to set up educational policies oriented to the collective good, and these policies may included teaching of or instruction in other languages. Thirdly, theoretically early instruction in one’s native language may be more effective for acquiring literacy, but without the proper materials this may not be the case; and immersion literacy programs in an L2 have also proven effective. Finally, the different language policies for public education in bilingual (or monolingual!) societies may yield different results as to the hoarding of opportunities (“empowerment”) for various segments and social groups; but, if inserted in a class system (such as is the case), no “democratic” educational policy can challenge the logic of cultural capital and therefore of social classification, and, thus, polemics such as this one may simply mask the power games within the technical, intellectual and political fields that manage Language as such a source of capital.