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Sociolingüística catalana
Autumn 2001

Trilingual education in the Vall d’Aran. An analysis in terms of linguistic interdependence, by Jordi Suïls Subirà, Àngel Huguet Canalís and Xavier Lamuela Garcia

In the research that we have summarised below, we evaluated the results (in terms of the competence obtained by students in three languages), of a schooling system that uses these three languages as vehicles of academic subjects – the Aranese education system. (1)



0. Introduction

1. Results
1.1. General results
1.2. Incidence of independent variables

2. Conclusion

3. References

0. Introduction

Firstly, however, we should point out that the organization of the treatment of the three languages in this context has not been unitary or invariable over time. Currently in the Aranese education system, all students between P3 (three years old) and the end of the First Cycle of primary school (second year of primary school: between the ages of seven and eight) are taught subjects in Occitan. In the Intermediate (third and forth years) and Upper cycles (fifth and sixth years) of primary education (between eight-nine and eleven-twelve), all three languages are equally present as vehicular languages and each subject is taught in a different language (mathematics in Spanish, natural sciences in Catalan and social sciences in Occitan; plastic arts is taught in French at this stage). This design is the result of prioritising one of the three possibilities that arose at the end of the eighties as regards the vehicular language between P3 and the end of the Initial Cycle (Spanish, Catalan or Occitan) in favour of the territory’s indigenous language.

At the beginning of the nineties, there were three modes of education between P3 and the end of the Initial Cycle of primary education in the Aranese education system, depending on the chosen vehicular language: Occitan, Catalan or Spanish. Each line of education prioritised reading and writing in that language and the other two languages were taught as subjects. When education in Spanish was abolished, the line of education in Catalan consisted of reading and writing in Catalan; writing in Spanish and Occitan entered the syllabus at the end of the Initial Cycle of primary education. In the Occitan line of education, reading and writing in both Catalan and Spanish entered the syllabus in the final year of the Initial Cycle. Finally, the line of education in Catalan was abolished, leaving the design as it is today.

Our research evaluates knowledge of the three languages in the 1999-2000 academic year of students in the Initial Cycle educated in Occitan or Catalan as vehicular languages (due to the existence of two languages as vehicular languages), and students in the Intermediate or Upper cycles educated in Occitan, Catalan or Spanish as vehicular languages (due to the existence of the three lines of education). Tests are used at all three levels to obtain progressive data, although the same group is not analysed at the three points, but rather in three different groups at successive levels. This means that diachronic extrapolations, although valid, need to take into consideration the differences between groups in terms of independent variables.

Overall, the data we have obtained show the interaction of two groups of factors in terms of the level of linguistic competence obtained: on the one hand, individual or sociolinguistic factors (intellectual quotient – IQ, with the categories of ‘high’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘low’, socio-professional status – SPS, with the categories of ‘high’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘low’, domestic linguistic condition – DLC: three monolingual groups, three bilingual groups, one trilingual group), of which ‘domestic linguistic condition’ is the most significant; and on the other hand, the model applied by the school as regards the treatment of each language in the syllabus, i.e. basically vehicular language –VL- of subjects between the ages of three and eight for each student, with the three corresponding categories: ‘Spanish’, ‘Catalan’, ‘Occitan’.

The dependent variable is linguistic competence in each language: PG in Occitan, Catalan or Spanish. The tests are graded out of 100 and include, on the one hand (PG1), exercises in listening and reading comprehension, writing, spelling, knowledge of vocabulary, morphology and syntax, and on the other hand (PG2), speaking and reading aloud exercises. On average, the PG1 tests last around 90 minutes, and are given to all informants, whilst the PG2 tests usually last around 15 minutes and are given to only 25% of informants. The data we have provided are taken from the PG1 results (the PG2 results are not as valid in statistical terms, but showed parallel contrasts to those of PG1).

The sample was formed by 231 students from ten schools in the Vall.

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