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Vitality and use of Valencian at the Local Government offices of Sagunt. Results of the application of the IndexplÓ Information tecnology programme, by M. Llu´sa PÚrez Castilla


CONTINUA


While, intuitively, the term linguistic competence is likely to be understood by any non-expert, we would explain briefly as follows:

With this factor we refer to the way the linguistic knowledge of the staff is fitted for the post they occupy. To know whether the linguistic knowledge of the workers is adequate for the work they do (according to the category or group they belong to, if they have to deal with the public and the functions they carry out) we can provisionally establish preliminary standard linguistic profiles.

We describe the meaning of the term linguistic profile as relation the individual linguistic profile with the post occupied in consonance with the Certificate awarded by the JQCV (Board of Qualifications for Knowledge of Valencian) at the Chancery of Culture of the Generalitat of Valencia:

"When we speak of linguistic profiles we refer to the sum of the linguistic abilities necessary to carry out satisfactorily the range of communicative acts required by a given employment. Accordingly, the more reference points there are in the job description, the easier it will be to identify the linguistic requirements needed.

The formulating of some basic guidelines by which to define linguistic profiles is necessary above all if we wish to have a practical guide with which to orientate the management of a given company when deciding the degree of linguistic competence that a worker needs to occupy a given post.

(…) The profiles require sufficient competence for the demands of the labour market, and this means, often, the need for employees to undergo a flexible cycle of ongoing training and refresher courses".(4)

A proposal for establishing correspondence the levels of Valencian recognised by the Knowledge of Valencian Qualifications Board and the different professional groups is as follows:

Professional
Groups

Level of oral comprehension (understand)

Level of written
comprehension
(read)

Level of oral expression (speak)

Level of written expresion (write)

Certificate issued by the JQCV

Personnel who have no contact with the public
(groups D-E)
Oral Oral Oral Oral Oral
Personnel who attend the general  public
(groups D-C)
Elementary Elementary Elementary Elementary Elementary
Higher
management,
middle
management,
managerial staff
(groups B-A)
Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium

Thus, 37 % of the employees at Sagunt Local Council do have sufficient linguistic competence for the post they occupy. While this percentage is low, it (the Linguistic Competence factor of the employees) is above the mean established for the organisation as a whole.

Factors where the employees have a direct effect, such as the production of documents for both internal and external use is not quite 34 % overall (mean). On this basis, it could be thought that workers at the Sagunt Local Council do not have sufficient linguistic competence for the work they do.

In part it is true that they do not, in the majority of cases, have adequate linguistic knowledge for the linguistic profile of the posts they occupy. On the other hand, however, we will see that in the case of the linguistic profile for the elementary standard, (5) some 31% of the council staff have sufficient level to be able to speak and write in Valencian.

Thus, despite the existence of local government employees with sufficient ability and linguistic competence, and the fact that this linguistic competence is backed up by technological and human resources (information technology, dictionaries, translation service, etc.) the majority do not use Valencian habitually, in their official writing.

One could put forward as a possible cause the existence of insecurity, diffidence, fear of making spelling mistakes or the general lack of linguistic knowledge. Additionally, there is the absence of specific guidelines for writing in Valencian.

We note here that a Municipal By-law for Normalisation, agreed to by the politicians and workers' representatives supports the use of Valencian among the workers themselves (at least among the 37% that are able to do so).

We now proceed to analyse factors 1 and 3:

FACTOR 1: IMAGE AND LABELLING

36 %

FACTOR 3: LINGUISTIC GUIDELINES

36 %

To evaluate the image and Signs factor, researchers looked at the notices and both internal and external indications, the advertising carried out in informative campaigns and the announcements the organisation publishes in the press.

The score, in the case of the Image and Signs factor, 36 %, is far from attaining the level of an ideal or normal situation where all signs and similar elements are written in Valencian.

The guidelines for language use, also with a score of 36 %, refers to the adoption or otherwise of linguistic guidelines (Valencian or Spanish) in the different activities carried out by the Council.

Both factors are situated above the overall mean for the organisation. However both factors are low precisely because related to the language planning carried out by the institutions.

Even so, the factors that have raised the score here, while still evidently being a low percentage, are the existence of items of linguistic autonomy and back-up, basically dictionaries and grammars, distributed by the Gabinet de Promociˇ del ValenciÓ (6) (Office for the Promotion of Valencian).

FACTOR 4: DOCUMENTS FOR EXTERNAL USE

15%

This factor, defined as printed documents for external use, provides us with the lowest score of all the factors looked at.

To arrive at the percentage, we looked at the documents generated by the Sagunt council for external use. Besides documents, we looked at stamps and seals, the elements that traditionally give the seal of officialdom to the documents produced by local government.

The fact that this is the factor with the lowest score of all is explained by the fact that the stamps and seals had not been renewed or replaced in a long time.

The immense majority of these elements are produced in Spanish so that their renovation and normalisation to Valencian included within a campaign on image for the outside world, is not a priority line of action. It would involve extra spending and in many cases there is no political will for this.

The result is that there is not an overall external image which would give Valencian the "official" prestige it so much needs.

FACTOR 5: EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION

33 %

FACTOR 6: INTERNAL DOCUMENTATION AND COMMUNICATION

32 %

In referring to external communication we refer to texts, both oral (7) and written, put out by the organisation, and not in printed form.

Internal documentation and communication include elements such as internal circulars, calling of meetings, orders of the day and the minutes of meetings, budgets, memorandums, the language(s) used in meetings, etc.

In external communications and internal documentation we find the lowest scores for linguistic competence.

This result is surprising since, despite the fact that the staff have a general score for linguistic competence which is above the mean (37% for linguistic competence, compared with the overall mean of 34 %) the internal documents achieve a score of less than 34 % as a weighted average.

The score on this factor for the workers, 37%, does not match the scores for internal and external communications, 32% in both instances.

5. Conclusions and challenges for the future

After analysing the results of this study we have arrived at the following conclusions.

In general there is, at the Sagunt Council offices a fair percentage of workers who could write in Valencian, but they don't in fact do so.

Similarly, Valencian is not used at the same level for interpersonal oral communication (speech between co-workers) nor when dealing with the public.

It could be said, in any case, that a part of the staff at the Sagunt Council are fluent enough with the necessary theoretical knowledge to write and speak in Valencian.

On the other hand there are attitudes among the population (8) (and we need to include the Town Hall workers of Sagunt in the latter) in favour of the fostering and promotion of Valencian: the population and their institutions are predisposed to the use of Valencian to increase in all ambits.

All in all, and despite the above, the impression produced by the IndexplÓ results at the Sagunt Local Council is one of dispersion and incoherence owing to the lack of unification of linguistic criteria or guidelines, or we could actually say the absence of such criteria or guidelines.

Looking at the IndexplÓ results, it is surprising that the linguistic ability of the employees should be the highest-scoring factor despite the fact that it still leaves much to be desired.

Our evaluation is that the factor which presents the lowest percentage of normalisation, external documentation, would be the least costly to adapt to Valencian. It would constitute a first step forward toward a change of image as well as an incentive for the workers.

It would be possible, at this very moment, to co-ordinate and direct the group of town hall workers who have sufficient linguistic competence to write in Valencian.

Recall that at the present time there are already enough information technology tools to enable this step to be taken. There is an internal computer network, there are dictionaries and vocabularies that can be adapted to the new situation.

The comments made by Marc Leprŕtre in his article on the language situation in the PaÝs ValenciÓ (Valencian Country) continue to be pertinent.

We are totally in agreement with the causes he suggests for the slow progress (we would say absence of progress) towards language normalisation in the Valencian Country:

"Catalan apparently has a high degree of legitimisation in the region (Valencian Country) since it is supported by a considerable amount of legislation. Despite that, the weak institutionalisation of the language in the community does not permit the homogeneous extension of progress in all sectors. In effect, the extension in the social use of Catalan in day-to-day life is less than what we find in more formal ambits, for example in the school system. (…)

Within this context, the 1983 Act (LUEV. the Use and Teaching of Valencian Act) presents very patchy results depending on the ambit of application. Thus, a considerable amount of effort has been invested in education (…) while the use of Catalan in the Autonomous Government (Valencian Government) and private companies leaves much to be desired. Thus these latter seem to be acting in favour of language shift away from Catalan, which will be irreversible if a set of language policy strategies are not immediately set in motion". (9)

The absence of a language policy process in the Valencian Country leads to poverty, in the quality and quantity of the sociolinguistic studies of our territory. Not just in the area of the Autonomous government (government of Valencia), but also in other seemingly more accessible areas such as the local or county levels of government (town halls and county halls).

The main characteristic of the few studies we have found is the lack of a clear diagnosis and adequate solutions.


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