Thursday, May 12, 2011
Spanish or Valenciano?
This is a totally unscientific look at the language of Valenciano, it is more a casual observation from someone who lives in the city of Valencia and who has been learning Spanish. The language is spoken to some degree by almost everyone who grew up in Valencia. It is taught in the schools—some more than others. Some students have the option of attending most of their classes in Valenciano with Spanish as a sort of second language but I think most children in the capital have it the other way around. A child’s ability in Valenciano usually depends on whether or not this language is spoken at home.
In my four years in Valencia I have never heard a group of children speaking Valenciano. Never. I have never been addressed in Valenciano in a shop, bar, or restaurant. Not once, at least not here in Valencia. Valenciano seems to be almost like a sort of secret handshake known only by a select few locals. Things are quite different in the villages but I am speaking only about here in the city. I think if about 99% of the people who live in Valencia were to hit themselves on the thumb while pounding a nail with a hammer, the aria of profanities coming out of their mouths would be in Spanish—this is the true test to determine your native language.
I have not been able to find a good grammar of Valenciano for non-Spanish speakers. The one book published by the local government is expensive (€18) and not really suited for a beginner. If there are free classes for people wishing to learn Valenciano they keep them about as secret as Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. I would love to learn some Valenciano but I don’t even know how to begin. The sad truth is that there really is little reason for people living here in the capital to learn. This isn’t meant as an excuse on my part; it is simply an opinion based on much experience. If you are looking to get a job working for the government you are required to know Valenciano although I can’t for the life of me understand why this is so.
It’s a pretty tough market out there for languages with a few strong languages like English, Spanish, and Chinese monopolizing language schools around the world. Something like 14% of the population of this city is comprised of immigrants, both foreign and domestic. Few of these people learn Valenciano. It seems that in a generation or two it will be about as dead as Latin. If people here wish to preserve Valenciano they need to speak it more and then teach it to others.