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Sociolingüística catalana

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 order to render precise the contrasts produced by the VL factor (which particularly interested us), we separated the DLC groups within each VL group and then compared the VL groups in each DLC group (i.e. for the typology of each domestic linguistic condition, we compared the results of the different educative models according to the vehicular language used). Thus, we were also able to find out which of the two factors (DLC or VL) produced the most differences between groups. The only significant differences appeared when we contrasted the VL groups in the monolingual Spanish-speaking DLC in the Upper Cycle. These groups obtained very low averages in Catalan and Occitan in the Catalan and Spanish VL groups, although in line with the earlier analysis of the VL variable: the Catalan VL group, made up mainly of Spanish-speaking DLC monolingual students, obtained particularly low marks in Catalan and Occitan. However, overall, this DLC group obtained higher marks in the three languages (including Spanish) in the Occitan VL line (figure 7).

Figure 7. PG1 averages according to VL groups. Spanish-speaking monolingual DLC. Upper Cycle

PG1 averages according to VL groups. spanish-speaking monolingual DLC. upper cycle

2. Conclusion

When choosing the best model for dealing with linguistic diversity at school, we need to take into consideration the habitual language used by each student at home and choose the syllabus that makes the most of the confluence of the presence of each language at home and at school.

The most appropriate model, in terms of linguistic competence, will obtain the highest results in all three languages without reproducing the imbalances of these languages in the social context. Such a model would affect that context positively, paving the way for a plurilingual society in which the minority language can benefit.

The notion of interdependence between languages was implicit in the proposal by the community of Aranese teachers who pushed through the creation of a line of education in Occitan. We have taken this hypothesis and broken it down into hypothesis 1 (a) (that there is indeed a correlation between the competence reached in each language) and 1 (b) (that placing an emphasis on the minority language ensures a more effective transfer of skills by which all languages benefit).

The data that we have summarised above has allowed us to validate these two hypotheses and to confirm how placing an emphasis on the most marginal minority language has positive effects on the competence reached in all three languages.

As well as offering the greatest guarantee that students will be fluent in all of the languages, the presence of the minority language also guarantees the best results (in terms of competence), in all of the languages taken in isolation, because a model that favours the minority language will also favour the acquisition of skills between languages in a balanced way. This bears out the contribution of Huguet, Vila and Llurda (2000). The fact that competence correlates general linguistic skills (PG) in one language with those in another, also confirms the comments of González Riaño and San Fabián (1996) on how the teaching of Asturian favours Spanish (particularly in the areas of spelling and reading comprehension) and, generally, Cummins’ statement (1979) that interdependence between languages goes beyond basic linguistic skills. Moreover, the positive results of a well-applied education system in the minority language are significant regardless of the domestic linguistic condition of students: those who speak the majority language (taking "majority" in the widest sense of the word: a language that has adequate social support) do not experience any difficulties being educated in a minority language. On the contrary, they obtain a higher level of competence in their own language by learning the minority one.

As regards our own particular case, we should make one final point about the tables we drew up earlier: the system that we have assessed does not compensate for the imbalances caused by the different social presences of the languages. Thus, Spanish always obtains the highest results, while Occitan obtains the lowest. The conclusion is that favouring education in Occitan has been the correct choice in terms of results of the linguistic competence obtained by students, but the results as a whole suggest that this choice still needs decisive development. It is important to note that there is a marked contrast between the proposal described for primary education and the situation found in secondary education: in the case of the latter, the presence of Occitan is not guaranteed (unless it forms part of the two hours a week that correspond to Aranese as a subject). The idea that students must have a knowledge of all three languages when they finish their compulsory education is not guaranteed sufficiently, and this contributes to the continuance, at least for the time being, of the secondary (effectively, tertiary) position of Occitan in its own territory. However, our comments should not excuse other agents involved in the social promotion of the indigenous language of the Vall d’Aran, from continuing in the areas in which they carry out their activity. As we know, education cannot do everything and the disadvantage of the social presence of Occitan is clear in areas that are not immediately affected by schooling (see Llengua i Ús, 22, which contains a summary of the relevant details of a survey on the knowledge and use of Occitan in the Vall d’Aran in 2000).

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