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Studies relating to the sociolinguistic situation of the Galician language (1990-2002), by Anxo M. Lorenzo Suárez


The results of the two studies, in terms of the main sociolinguistic indicators, are very similar, so that it would seem that the period of five years that had elapsed between the two studies was not enough to consolidate sociolinguistic changes in Vigo society that could be detected by macro-sociolinguistic inquiry. We should lastly mention another piece of work that the Consello da Cultura Galega commissioned via the Arquivo de Planificación e Normalización Lingüística (Archive of Language Planning and Normalisation); the carrying out of an external quality control evaluation of the language normalisation services, concentrating on county-level linguistic service (cf. Fente, 2000) and a service concentrating on language use in companies (cf. Lorenzo, 2000). The results of the evaluation were presented in 1999 in the seminars on language normalisation organised annually by the Consello da Cultura Galega.

In the evaluation of the county-level linguistic service, a series of conclusions were presented relating to the organisational design of the service, the activities and results, and the degree of user satisfaction. This process of external evaluation, a total innovation in the context of normalisation management in Galicia, seems not to have significantly changed the organisation and development of the activities of the language services and the work of the technicians engaged in language normalisation.

5. Non-university education

The non-university sector of education was the object of several pieces of research, concentrating in the main on the obtaining of data and information on the presence of Galician in the school community and, more specifically, on the achievement of objectives relative to education specified in the Lei de Normalización Lingüística (Language Normalisation Act) passed in 1993. The most relevant of these are shown below, in chronological order.

At the beginning of the nineties, the Xunta de Galicia published a piece of work on the situation of Galician in elementary and primary education (cf. Rubal, 1991). This work, resulting from research carried out by a team from the Instituto de Ciencias da Educación (ICE) of the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, aimed at determining whether the central objective for non-university education fixed in the Ley de Normalización Lingüística was being achieved or not. This was the stipulation that the Galician education system should guarantee the acquisition, by the student population of Galicia, of a similar level of competence in both the official languages. The information was obtained by using the teaching staff and management of pre-schools and primary (EGB) schools as consultants for the research. Three types of questionnaires were sent out to the schools, and were to be answered anonymously. The intention was to obtain information on the competence and patterns of language use of school pupils, the competence and use patterns of the teaching staff -in a addition to attitudes towards language normalisation- and the degree of use of Galician and Spanish as languages of instruction. To check the validity of the answers, these were compared with data obtained directly by the research team with a sample of 36 schools distributed across 12 counties, with the same proportions as applied in the main sample.

The conclusions to be drawn were very clear: the position Galician found itself in education at that moment was largely thanks to individual efforts; there needed to be more and better planning, and greater involvement on the part of the institutions, or there would be no significant improvement in the situation.

As regards diffusion and impact, the results were frankly worrying in terms of the (non-) fulfilment of the linguistic objectives set in the Ley de Normalización Lingüística for non-university education. Soon after this, in 1995, the Xunta de Galicia modified and updated linguistic practice in non-university education (in accord with Decree 247/1995). This modification was not unconnected with the quite alarming findings to be observed in research evidence such as this.

During the academic year 1997-98, the Dirección Xeral de Política Lingüística (Directorate General for Language Policy) carried out a statistical survey on the use of the Galician language in all non-university centres of education in Galicia, both in administration and in teaching. This was an exhaustive study which included all state schools and private schools in Galicia, obtaining information on almost all schools and on every classroom within them (cf. Dirección Xeral de Política Lingüística, 1998).

Unlike the previous research, this study did not select a representative sample but instead included all scholastic centres in non-university education in Galicia. Interestingly, it employed a different questionnaire for each of the cycles and stages: infant education, primary education (first cycle), primary education (second and third cycles), compulsory secondary education, BUP and COU, and professional training in further education. This division corresponded to that established in Decree 247/1995 which regulates the use of the languages in education, since a fundamental aim of the study was to find out to what extent this ruling was being put into practice or adhered to. Each questionnaire contained three types of forms: one, to be filled in by the management (school hierarchy); a second, for the person in charge of ENL; and a third, to be completed by the teacher who was tutor of each of the classes of the school. In the first two types of questionnaire there were questions on the school taken as a whole; in the third type, the questions referred to each of the classrooms in particular.

Diffusion of the results of this investigation was very limited indeed, and it did not even get to be published in book form. We can take it, therefore, that exploitation of this valuable information was left exclusively in the hands of the admin department of the Xunta.

In the case of the school situation in the Galician-speaking areas beyond the borders of Galicia (the so-called ‘Outer Galicia'), in the provinces of Asturias, Leon, Zamora and Caceres– we have a study promoted and published by the Consello da Cultura Galega at the beginning of the noneties (cf. Rubal Rodríguez, X., D. Veiga Martínez & N. Arza, 1992). This study deals with the Galician of the school population and their teachers in areas where Galician is spoken, but where the language has insufficient official recognition.

Before closing this section on non-university level education, we should recall that in section 3 (Language policy) we made reference to the report of the Consello da Cultura Galega entitled El proceso de normalización del idioma gallego (1980-2000) devoted specifically to education. At the time of writing this is the most up-to-date and in-depth study of the situation of the Galician language and the process of linguistic normalisation in infant and primary school education in Galicia.

6. University Education

Turing now to university education, two research projects were carried out by the universities of Santiago de Compostela and Vigo, respectively. In the Santiago de Compostela study, this resulted in the report O idioma na Universidade de Santiago de Compostela (languages at the University of Santiago de Compostela (cf. Rodríguez Neira, 1998). This was based on a questionnaire administered during academic year 1995-1996 to the three sections of the university population: students, lecturing staff and administrative and service staff. The information gathered in this study was subsequently used as an empirical basis for the design of a significant part of the USC's linguistic normalisation plan (cf. http://www.usc.es/~snlus/pnl.htm), which was eventually passed by the Senate of the University in October 2002.

In the second case, in 1995 an interdisciplinary team produced the sociolinguistic report of the University of Vigo (cf. Lorenzo Suárez et al., 1997). This, too, was to be based on a questionnaire given to the students, teaching staff, administrative and service staff in order to gauge the use of the Galician language. In the case of the students a stratified sample was used and in the case of the teachers and administrative/service staff a questionnaire was sent to individual people and was answered by those who cared to do so. The contents of the survey were the usual ones in this type of quantitative survey. Special attention was accorded to the patterns of language use of the three sectors in the functions, tasks and activities within the university itself, to be able to gauge the extent to which Galician was used in the university as an institution.

The surveys indicated a population that was very castilianised (i.e. had become increasingly Spanish-orientated) with, however, an excellent interest in knowledge and use of Galician but with scant use of that language in such centrally important areas as research and teaching. In contrast, the administrative and service staff showed a greater tendency to use Galician in their ordinary everyday activities, especially in writing. Up to the time of writing, this sociolinguistic report and the information it contains has not been used for any applied end.

7. The media

The reports and studies on the use of the Galician language in the mass media are few and far between. Nonetheless, it is important to note the sociolinguistic information forthcoming from the series of reports on communication in Galicia, which are issued regularly by the Communications section of the Consello da Cultura Galega (cf. López García, 2000; 2002).

This same public institution was responsible for the publishing of a report on the working and professional profiles of employees working in the Galician media (cf. Túñez & López García, 1998). It includes a description of the patterns of use, linguistic skills and opinions of the professionals with respect to the Galician language.

8. Other areas: companies, advertising and church

In this section we include the most relevant research on language use in Galicia, in the areas of business and companies, advertising and the church.

In the world of business and companies we really don't have in-depth monographic studies, but we do have relevant data and information arising out of other studies: for example, Bouzada & Lorenzo (1997) and Ramallo & Rei-Doval (1997).

In the Bouzada & Lorenzo (1997) study, mentioned earlier (see section 4. Administration), a substantial part of the report is devoted to the situation of the Galician language in the workplace and in business. To do so they utilised flexible and varied research methodology. On the one hand, they selected a representative sample of all the important social actors involved in the socio-economic activity of Galicia, and they carried out personal interviews using an open questionnaire covering various topics. On the other hand, a questionnaire was used with 118 companies in Galicia in order to obtain direct evaluation on a limited but strategically significant number of sociolinguistic indicators.

The results of the study point up the factors that are behind patterns of language use (use of Galician) in these sectors, factors relating to the weakness of the status and social prestige of the language, at the same time as it registered the good predisposition of the social agents and employers in Galicia to gradually introduce Galician into their routine commercial activities.

Again, specifically in the commercial world, in another study published by the Consello da Cultura Galega, Ramallo & Rei-Doval (1996) looked at consumers and commerce, and analysed what the public reaction would be to an increase in the use of Galician in firms and in businesses (shops, etc) and, complementing this, the opinion was also sought of the employers and business people, who would actually have the task of bringing in increased use of Galician.

In the first part of this study, then, the attitudes of consumers to use of Galician in advertising and notices in shops as well as customer - sales person interaction. Quantitative methodology was used for this, and a questionnaire was designed that was administered to a sample stratified by age and place of residence (1209 interviewees).

In the second part the opinions were sought of both company management and people in trade and commerce: a stratified sample of 33 subjects was selected from this population and information was gathered by means of a semi-directed interview.

The conclusions drawn by the investigation are eloquent enough: there was considerable caution concerning the "galicianisation" of economic, commercial and corporate activities -caution based on the inertia of the past, on the additional costs that this would involve, and the supposed wariness of the customer or end user faced with 'linguistic change', but overall the attitudes expressed by this population regarding increased use of Galician were clearly positive and favourable.

In the area of advertising more specifically, the Consello da Cultura Galega carried out a study on the introduction of the Galician language in this domain, and subsequently published their findings (cf. Ramallo & Rei-Doval, 1996). This was an investigation into the fortunes of the Galician language in commercial communication and advertising. The inquiry specifically sought to attain the following objectives a) look at awareness that Galician was adequate and fitted to carry out communicative functions; b) gauge attitudes concerning the use of Galician in advertising messages; c) look at links between the Galician language and the values habitually expressed in advertising (prestige, confidence, status, etc.); d) attitudes towards the use of Galician in labels and signs; and e) receptivity to the use of Galician on a personal level in face-to-face commercial relations.

Methodology: a questionnaire was designed containing 46 questions to be answered by a representative sample of the Galician population (1209 interviewees in a sample stratified according to type of habitat: rural, small town and urban).

The conclusions of the study basically indicate a good level of acceptation for Galician both in advertising in particular, ands in the dynamics of commercial interchange in general. These data pose a direct challenge to the idea that Galician is an inappropriate or impractical medium for advertising and the commercial world. Furthermore, for a growing sector of the population, the use of Galician would encourage the consuming or acquisition of products. As the authors of the study point out (page 81), "we need to revise our vision of the use of Galician in the world of advertising and commerce; this is because the power of communication that this language currently commands gives it enormous commercial value, since it carries values like quality and trustworthiness with great effectiveness".

Finally, with regard to the domain of religion and the church, the Consello da Cultura Galega also carried out a study on receptivity to the use of Galician in the liturgy (cf. López Muñoz & García Cendán, 2000). The aim here was quite simply to seek out the opinions of the Galician population concerning the introduction of Galician as the normal medium for the liturgy. Notice that the main arguments used by the leaders of the Galician clergy to oppose the increased Galicianisation of the mass, were that the general public would reject this, and that there was no demand for religious services in Galician. The purpose of this work was to probe the opinions of individuals on these questions.

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