Languages as conflict

Dr. Pérez Óvilo The fight for world supremacy among the so called great languages is the cause and consequence of existing language hostility in every country and one of the most complicated problems which the European Community has still to solve. Not so much time ago two important facts —apparently unconnected— took place: the problems with Spanish language in Catalonia and Mr. Balladur's decision to protect his language, by means of important fines and even jail, showing that no European nation will ever accept the language of any other nation in the Community as the only hegemonic one and corroborating that linguistic diversity is the main cause of conflict among peoples.

The Spanish Problem in Cataluña is a very important problem which, even if we try to deny it, is producing important consequences which are to last long, since any nationalism, as soon as it obtains its independence or any degree of autonomy, tends to repeat the same repression patterns which it has suffered. Because languages are vehicles for communication and also because human communication is the highest among its functions, languages become everybody's most intimate possession, making one's mother language the dearest thing, and therefore the last thing man will abandon. This fact makes language the first banner any nationalism rises, since its aim is promoting anything which separates, exaggerating differences and updating forgotten grieves, creating thus emotional barriers which are much stronger than the natural ones. Nationalism —either regional or countrywide— enhance differences as a sign of identity and it is a true instrument for hate and confrontation. There is not the ghost of a doubt that anybody who has Catalonian as a mother tongue has the right to use and express him/herself in it. And it is because I think unethical to ask anybody to relinquish this right, I consequently think that anybody who has Spanish as mother tongue has equally the right to demand his right, and anything else is just discrimination. Asking that languages are not used as weapons are stupid toasts to the sun and any political plan which is not agreed on by all the parts, will be the prologue to very important conflicts.

A second questions, which will have unforeseen effects in the European construction and in the relation among states has been the French Government's decision on the defense of its language, because such a decision is against English and its trend to be enforced as the hegemonic language. French is dying as a dominant language, and the French Government complain to the imposition of English, what they did not do when the enforced language was their own one. During all the XVIII century French achieved its most brilliant goals. In Russia Peter the Great favoured and used French. Katherine II campaigned to spread French among the high society in her Empire. The well bred people were ashamed of talking in Russian, which the offspring of aristocracy could not speak well. It needed the reaction of the great Russian scientist M. V. Lomonosov, regarded as the founder of the Russian Modern Literary Language, as well as the positive reactions which rose in the country, to put an end to such nonsense. Resistance to the wave of Frenchism in England was very meaningful, and so the first important conflict dates from 1753, on occasion of an agreement about fares. In Germany the penetration of French was enormous. In 1789 Frederick II made fun of the efforts of LessingLessing to eliminate the influence of French in Germany, and he declared that French language was the key which could open the World's doors. In the same way most intellectuals, teachers and politicians defend English as the means for international communication. However, Lessing's ideas, which reflected the increasing meaning of national languages in the formation of nations and the protection of one's own culture and national identity, defeated those of the King himself.

Because Spain is not France, in our country there are all the conditions to submit to the hegemonic country of the day: till a few years ago it was French, now it is English, to which our full educational system is offered, the university accommodates it, our television hosts courses, and there are manifold agreements with the British Council with no vice versa, proving with all this who is the ruling and who is the submitted country; all of which works against our language, our culture and our presence in the world. So far, Spain lacks a Lessing or a Lomonosov who gives us back our dignity in equality.

José Luis Pérez Óvilo

Esperanto España ~ Fernando Sor ~ Narciso Yepes

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Last updated on Saturday, April 5th 1997 at 22:23:57