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The EC defends Catalan "not only for tradition and identity but for practical reasons”

The spokesman for Education at the European Commission warns that "monolinguals are potentially at a disadvantage" in terms of finding work. “From very young children should speak their mother tongue and two other languages”, he says.


09 September 2011 05:32 PM



Brussels (ACN). \u2013 The European Commission warns that \u201Cmonolingual students are potentially at a disadvantage\u201D and have fewer \u201Cchances of finding work\u201D. The spokesman for Community Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Dennis Abbott, defended these statements to the ACN saying that "from very young children should speak their mother tongue and two other languages." Following the decision by a Court obliging the Catalan Government to offer Spanish as a language of instruction at schools \u2013a measure, that, if implemented, could divide pupils according to their elected language, Abbot argued that the knowledge of Catalan is useful. "Not only are the official languages of the EU important. We also value others, for tradition and cultural identity and for practical reasons," said Abbott. "It is very useful; it gives you a more attractive career. Many young people are unemployed and multilingualism is a tool that helps to find work," said the spokesman for the European Commission Androulla Vassiliou.

The EC "cannot interfere and tell the state or regional governments how to teach and how they should organise their educational system," said Abbott. Brussels commitment is to "multilingualism and diversity," but it recognizes that power lies "100%" with the Member States. However, in 2007 the report of an expert group commissioned by Brussels praised the Catalan language immersion model \u2013in which Catalan is the main language of instruction and Spanish is taught as a subject- and even proposed to extend it to other EU countries as "good practice". "It's common sense that if you speak more than one language you have a better chance of finding work," said Abbott, warning that the youth unemployment rate in the state is currently at 46% and that "monolingual students are potentially at a disadvantage ". Indeed, the government and the Catalan parties advocate immersion to ensure social cohesion and equal opportunities, reducing pockets of the monolingual population. It is also claimed as a tool for social climbing, a tool to guarantee that Spanish speakers and Catalan speakers have access to the same labour market opportunities, for example public administration work. Abott recalls that, at a summit of the Heads of State and Government in Barcelona in 2002, the EU set the goal that, at the end of compulsory education, young people would be able to speak their "mother tongue and two other languages" found in Europe. "If they learn more when they are small enough, they will be able to speak (the language) better," he explains. "When we support co-official regional languages we do so not only for diversity but because in the world we know, only speaking one language is not enough," said Abbott. Catalan is not among the 23 official languages of the EU, despite being the ninth most widely spoken, and Brussels has repeated that it is the Spanish government who must demand this status. The Commission denied in 2008 that the Spanish language is discriminated against in Catalonia and said they have never received any complaints. The then Euro Commissioner of Multilingualism, Leonard Orban from Romania, admitted after a visit to Barcelona that the Spanish can live "easy" here because Catalan speakers can change the language they are speaking "without even realizing it." Orban also said that the Law of Cinema in Catalonia was a blessing as it "enriched the linguistic and cultural\u201D diversity.


  • The spokesman for Education at the European Commission, Dennis Abbott and the Comissioner, Androulla Vassiliou (by ACN)

  • The spokesman for Education at the European Commission, Dennis Abbott and the Comissioner, Androulla Vassiliou (by ACN)