Linguistic Diversity in Spanish Senate

Even for lifelong English speakers, regional dialects in the United States can be a stumbling block for understanding. Regions quickly develop their own cultural identities, which leads to idiosyncrasies in pronunciation and slang. However, the relative youth of the United States has kept mutations of the language relatively low.

The differences in linguistic fragmentation between a 235 year-old country like the United States and Old World Europe are vast. Spain is an excellent example, with a predominant nationwide language– Castilian Spanish– and four other governmentally recognized languages. Throughout Spain’s history, invasions, waves of immigration, and geographical barriers have shaped, and in some cases, completely changed the dominant language spoken in the country. Today those dialects are still spoken in the more remote corners of Spain, and now, they’re all being spoken in Spain’s parliament.

Senators are now allowed to speak in any of the country’s five recognized languages: Castillian Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Valencian, and Basque.

4005874025_e6fe958c60_zSpain’s Lower Parliament, Courtesy: Laura Padgett

Opponents of the plan say the country is wasting money employing interpreters, when all the senators speak Castillian Spanish fluently and could converse that way. The cost per day is €12,000, or $16,385. Those in favor point out that the variation across Spain is a beautiful aspect of their country.

However, this variation has led to some bitter debates over the years. Which language should be used in naming places– the regional or national Castillian? What should schools favor, and encourage children to speak during classes?

There’s even debate over which languages get recognition. Some believe Valencian and Catalan are not two separate languages, but rather, dialects of one another. Meanwhile, Basque, the last remaining pre-Indo-European language in existence is taught heavily in schools in the region, but it is almost completely unrecognizable to many Spaniards because it is not a Romance language. Catalan is not the only language spoken in its region. Residents of the area consider Aranese to be its own official language, however, it will not be allowed in the senate.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.