The right to speak our minds and hearts

Feb 21, 2020

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It is due to the example and the inspiration of the students involved in the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations in 1952 that we understand the relevance of the right to mother tongue. On the 21st of February we present our respect at Shaheed Minar in Dhaka as it also happens on the reproduction of this monument in Porto, Portugal. This acknowledgment of the bravery, determination and the perseverance of those willing to fight for upcoming generations has been extended as a worldwide celebration. So much so that I get to reflect on how, one of my mother tongues has been able to reach a current 76% of speakers within my home region: ‘A Mariña lucense’.

Galician language holds a long and deep history from being born as an independent language from Galician-Portuguese. There are written works from the X and the XI century. It is from the XII to the XIV century during the medieval times, when Galician alongside with Occitan became the language of poetry and love, enjoying what has been known as ‘The Golden Age of Galician language’. After suffering from ups and downs in terms of regulation and implementation throughout its life, once in the XIX century we appreciated a decline of the use of Galician within the educational system and moreover Franco’s Dictatorship government had kept the study, knowledge and teaching of my mother tongue in the darkness during the XX century up to 1975.

Nowadays, as a nation, within the Spanish governance, we should be able to freely learn, use and be exposed to Galician as a co-official language (alongside with Spanish, as the main official language). We hold the right of using it within any kind of administrative context, we expect to receive education of all levels and there should be enough presence within the media in order to promote a more prosperous, long and lasting life of Galician as an official language in Galicia’s region.

One can say that, it has been the case for a while and I happen to belong to one of those lucky generations to be born and raised with both languages: Spanish and Galician. Unfortunately, we are facing some confusing times ever since a ‘Decree on multilingualism 79/2010’ has been set in place by the current Galician government administrating the region. In all, it implies a strong reduction of the real chances of learning Galician language which seems quite worrisome from very early stages of the educational system. Ever since this decree has been set up in 2010, the ‘Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages’ in Brussels, has reported (for six times to this date) the need of the Galician local government to comply with the legal framework which all members of the European Union had agreed on following. To this day, there are twelve political groups following ‘A Mesa pola Normalización Lingüística’ condemning the local government policy in order to repeal it as a whole. So far they have reached the Supreme Court and the case is still pending.

Dr. Anik Nandi points out how the education system and family are not enough in order to preserve a language. There is a need for the media, the online services and culture to keep persevering the use of Galician in order to maintain a real right of mother tongue. Dr. Anik Nandi is a Bangladeshi national very much involved in cooperation with the RAG (the Galician Academy of Language). His Dissertation ‘Language Policies on the Ground: Parental Language Management in Urban Galician Homes’ is the most updated work on the current state of affairs. Whenever he has been asked how to tackle this uncertainty, simple words have come out: ‘The most direct solution is to speak Galician’. Rural Galicia literally embodies the deep meaning of Dr. Anik Nandi’s statement.

Being under siege in terms of legal framework does not change the powerful presence in areas like Burela, even when this seashore village holds the record of forty different nationalities co-existing within the same location. They have implemented a community strategy called: ‘Modelo Burela’ in order to preserve, use and promote the mother tongue in place for over a decade now. The perseverance and union of citizen platforms supporting their sense of identity takes many shapes and forms. The creation of an app which identifies nearby shops where our language is being used in North West of Spain, is only one of them.

When right to mother tongue is threatened, everybody loses. More than speaking our minds, we all speak our hearts out when using our native and original language. Love, care, education and community reinforce the uniqueness of our identity. This is how we are all get to be free, show our true selves and build bridges in between all cultures.

Tags : International Mother Language Day , Mother tongue

Paula Lorenzo Geada is from Alfoz, a small area in Lugo region by North West of Spain. She studied Spanish Philology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She has been teaching Galician, Spanish, French and English language in Spain, UK, US, Bangladesh and she is now based in Moscow, Russia. Her Masters in Science of Language and Linguistics allowed her to work on a comparison of the student-professor relationship in Bangla and Spanish for her final dissertation. She is currently working on her PhD in Contrastive Pragmatics while working as a Spanish Language and Literature teacher at Liceo Pablo Neruda Bilingual School and Instituto Cervantes Moscow.