The problem of over regulated societies is that what in some countries is a matter of individual choice in these type of nations they become a matter of state. USA for example does not regulate languages. If a person in USA wants to promote products in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, or any other language say advertising on the street or public transport he/she can go ahead. But in Spain language is unfortunately regulated and this regulation turns language away from a source of understanding into a source of public conflict. And what is more suprising to Latin Americans living in Spain such as myself is that in many parts of Spain you are not allowed to promote yourself and your activities in Spanish or communicate openly in Spanish even when you want to address yourself to a Spanish speaking audience. But this regulations are very inconsistent because while you may not be able to advertise your bread in Spanish on the street you can advertise it in Spanish in the leading newspapers of the non Spanish speaking regions which are in Spanish. Fortunately there´s a new movement that is simply asking for freedom to use whatever language you want whenever you want. And yesterday this movement, which is the first time I hear about it. Started with a massive demonstration in Palma, Majorca. What Spain needs is simply to deregulate languages in any activity that is not in the public sector.

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Antoni Febrer on May 30, 2009  · 

Martin, I agree with you. The question is that in Spain language is used by politics to win some votes. This happens, as you my know, in Menorca with catalan and in Madrid with spanish. I do think that the solution will com simply deregulate all languages and leting people talk in any language.

Languages are made for people to understand and comunicate and they shout be used in freedom.

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marc on May 30, 2009  · 

Interesting post, but in my opinion is not as easy as that.
Those kind of measures were made to promote the use of languages other than spanish, because their use was banned during the dictatorship and they were very damaged, but nowadays some that measures and laws have been taken to the extreme and have been used, as Antoni commented, as a political weapon.
The problem, as in many other places in the world, is in the people that don’t respect the diversity.

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Mankel on May 31, 2009  · 

Does a Doctor or a Nurse have the right of NOT knowing a language that is spoken by a lot of people, including a consisten majority out of the capital? If the patients have the right to be attended in their language of election, the professionals have to know both languages.

This movement in Mallorca is being fuelled by Health Services Unions reacting to a norm from the local government requiring from the public servants to know how to minimally express themselves in the local language. It seems that it is too much of a requisite for a job for ALL YOUR LIFE.

About the demonstration, you can attract a considerable bunch of people with reactionary ideas. Not even the People’s Party (right wing) dared to attach itself officially to it.

Martín, I wonder what you mean by:
“in many parts of Spain you are not allowed to promote yourself and your activities in Spanish or communicate openly in Spanish even when you want to address yourself to a Spanish speaking audience.”

It sound totally alien to me. The only norm I know, and it is only in Catalonia is that the street signs have to be AT LEAST in catalan.

I’m sure you are very aware of the meaning of the acronym FUD… this post, no matter how well intended, is a good example.

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Guillermo on May 31, 2009  · 

“… in many parts of Spain you are not allowed to promote yourself and your activities in Spanish or communicate openly in Spanish even when you want to address yourself to a Spanish speaking audience.”
Can you provide a proof for this statement?

I don’t believe this is true. I would think that in some regions you’re forced by law to promote yourself in *every* official language (and i would agree with it). Also, i would like to promote my products to as many people as i could, even if i have to hire some translators on the way…

In the other hand you have to consider the common situation of disadvantage of the co-official languages against spanish. The government must promote laws of “positive discrimination” for these language that in most cases, as with basque, are in some degree of danger. This is *just the same* as with work-related regulations in favor of women.

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Ernesto on May 31, 2009  · 

At this time we must know that “positive discrimination” is bad, and if needed it mas be with limited scope on time.

Is easy to forget that Catalonia is part of Spain, and the common language is the spanish, but besides of that… we must remember that are the persons the ones whom have rights.. nor the languages, so now in order to defend the rights of a language they are going against the right of the citizens to use their language in certain parts of their own country.

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Paul RODTS on May 31, 2009  · 

Sorry Martin, I respect you a lot, but I urge you please to think again about this matter….
Why should Spain be different than for exemple Canada, Switzerland, Belgium or even Italy (Sud-Tirol), where the price of appeasement between communities is the cultural protection of the minority languages….?
For this appeasement you need delicate, preserving rules and balance for improving and keeping the health of the Nation….
If you don’t allow this protection of minority cultures you create the risk of following the former Yugoslavia-scenario, which isn’t what you Martin as a peace maker and bridge builder wants…
Many greetz to you…from Flanders in Belgium where the official language is dutch…

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Pedro on June 1, 2009  · 

Creo que no estas muy bien informado, Martin. De donde sacas que no puedes poner el cartel de tu panadería en castellano? Por otra parte, según la Constitución, la única lengua que es obligatorio conocer en España es el castellano. Eso si que es libertad, no?? Por no hablar del centenar de leyes que obligan al uso del castellano en varias actividades económicas…. Vas a escribir otro artículo sobre esta regulación?

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Martin Varsavsky on June 1, 2009  · 

I am pretty convinced Pedro that you are not allowed to promote your business on the streets of Barcelona only in Spanish in Catalonia even though there are no people who speak Catalan and do not understand Spanish. I also understand that it is ok to do the same thing in a newspaper. I am in favor of businesses and people deciding on their own how to promote themselves. I never heard non Chinese Americans complain that when they walked into Chinatown they did not understand a word of what the signs said. I lived in NYC for 18 years and I guess the answer is that when a sign is in another language it´s not meant for you. Same for teaching. People should be allowed to teach in any language and then see if they have a students or not for what they teach.

Miquel on June 1, 2009  · 

the law says that signs need to be at least in Catalan, and, despite what is being repeatedly stated in the Spanish media, nothing prevents you from having it also Spanish. After all, this norm has been modeled after Spanish laws that say, for example, that a product needs to be labeled at least in Spanish (I wonder if the demonstrators were also complaining about this set of regulations…), not to say anything about the obligation to learn Spanish enshrined in the Spanish Constitution (I spot another difference with the USA here…). I am no fan of regulation but as some readers have pointed out before, these might be a little cost to pay to prevent the weaker language from disappearing, bulldozed by the demographically stronger one (this is not just theory, it has happened already in Roussillon/Rosselló and most of Valencia and is going the same way precisely in… Palma, Majorca). This might involve a degree of positive discrimination but this is actually what peaceful and economically successful countries like Switzerland, Canada or Finland have been doing for a long time. And finally, how do you guarantee that you can use any language anywhere, for example in basic services, if only one of the languages is universally known? For most Catalan speakers using any language anywhere remains no more than a distant dream…

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Martin Varsavsky on June 1, 2009  · 

As I say in my post I am in favor of deregulating languages. I am not in favor of at least in Spanish. I am in favor of Chinese if you want to and it serves a purpose.

sainete on June 2, 2009  · 

Anybody remembers in Catalonia the FM radio are forced (by law) to deliver the 30% of their content in Catalan. Is that freedom?

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pepitogrillo on June 2, 2009  · 

Buenas noticias Martin. Tienes un montón de lectores catalanes.
Malas noticias, opinan que en Cataluña se debe enseñar en Español menos tiempo que en Inglés.
Y luego querias hacer una zona Franca de emprendedores en Barcelona.
Mira,como la LSE seleccionó Majadahonda frente a Barcelona para su primera sede fuera del Reino Unido.

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Juan GF on June 4, 2009  · 

I completely agree with you: people should be free to choose the language they want. Sadly in Spain (and in other countries) languages are used as political weapons. I cannot understand why the state forces me to use a language. In Cataluña and in other parts of Spain the situation is deeply gloomy.

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Martinez on June 4, 2009  · 

“in many parts of Spain you are not allowed … or communicate openly in Spanish” –> dubious.

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