Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Instituto Cervantes and Those Co-official Languages

14 February: The Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s cultural agency abroad, ‘...is the institution created by Spain in 1991 to promote, teach Spanish and spread the culture of Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. The headquarters of the institution is now in Madrid, although it began in Alcalá de Henares: the hometown of the writer Miguel de Cervantes...’. In fact, some branches of the Instituto Cervantes offer courses in all of Spain’s official languages –  castellano, catalán, galego and euzkera – to foreign students out of its total of seventy five offices worldwide. The first to offer these languages to students was the Dublin office (then known as the Instituto Cultural Español) here back in 1975. Curiously, it is almost impossible to study regional languages in other parts of Spain, whether in language institutes or universities. In November 2015, José Antonio Sierra at La Opinión de Málaga asked this very question – ‘why can’t we take classes of Catalán?’ Now, two years later, things are beginning to change, and the schools themselves are asking whether there is enough demand. Perhaps a better understanding of the different languages and cultures shared by Spain would contribute to easing regional tensions.
Just this week, the PSOE has proposed a new (and perhaps a trifle silly) law to push for translators of the co-official languages in Spain in all public departments and for citizens to be able to ask for Officialdom to deal with them in any of the aforementioned languages. 
To return to our subject, the Instituto Cervantes is worth visiting if one is nearby, as no one enthuses more about his subject – here Spain – than an expert – and where better to find one than in a cultural centre?  Each office holds a useful library and offers meetings, congresses, film, concerts, exhibitions and other entertainments, although its main thrust has always been to promote the Spanish language. Unfortunately, two years ago this week, the local Gibraltar branch was abruptly closed by the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García Margallo, since ‘everyone except the apes speak Spanish in Gibraltar’. Of course, if Gibraltar were to become Spanish territory, then English would no doubt become another co-official language of Spain (heh!)...

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