Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 9 - La Lingua Galega

So far I have written about different things that I have done or places I have seen. Sure, a large part of why I am here is to learn about the Galician culture, but the other, and perhaps primary, reason I am here is to learn the language.

Each day I take Galician language courses. From 9:30 until 11:30 I have what are called theory classes. This is basically a grammar based class. So far I have learned about when and how to accent words, how to conjugate many present tense verbs and about the gender of nouns. Much of this is similar to Spanish (castellano as it is called here), although some of the genders are opposite, which can be a bit confusing.

This course is followed by an hour to two hour long conference by experts in Galician language or culture (more about this in a bit!) and then a two hour long lunch break where I go home to eat and to post this blog!

In the afternoons, from 4:00 until 5:30 I have my practical or practice class. Here is where we try to apply the grammar concepts we have studied with vocabulary through oral and written practice. On the one hand it is easier than if I were starting from scratch with a language that in no way resembled Spanish, but on the other hand, it can be difficult to know when the Spanish and Galician words are the same and when they are different. We kind of make it up as we go along sometimes, but since the majority of the grammar (at least that which we have learned) is comparable to Spanish it’s mostly a matter of correcting our pronunciation. The problem it seems most of us have in my class anyway is using “y” (ee) instead of “e” (eh) when we need to say “and.”

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about mostly in this entry involves one of the conferences that I attended during that middle session. The title was “La situación sociolingüística do idioma galega” and it was presented by Xosé Henrique Monteagudo Romero. It was an interesting title in my opinion especially considering the number of people back home who did not even know that Galego was a language. So what exactly is the sociolinguistic situation of the Galician language?

First Monteagudo discussed the language that people learned in their home as their first language. Within Galicia 47% learned Galego, 27% learned Castellano-Spanish, 23% were brought up bilingual, and 3% initially spoke another language. He then spoke about the language that is most commonly used on a daily basis. 30% speak only Galego, 20% speak only Spanish, 22% use both, but more frequently use Galego, and 22% use both but more frequently use Spanish.

 All of this was interesting to me as there is a part of me that is fascinated by linguistics (although not enough to change my studies Marcus!), but what I was even more intrigued by was the change in linguistic patterns. Monteagudo had looked at changes in the number of Galego and Spanish speakers since 1992 and had found that the number of speakers who only used Galego had decreased by 15%. At first glance this is alarming for the language as the thought of losing it could have a dramatic impact on the culture. However the number of speakers who used only Spanish remained consistent. There was no change downward or upward. So what was happening? Where did all of those Galego speakers go? It turns out that they were now bilingual speakers who used both Galgeo and Spanish in various situations. I consider this a positive thing, although I am not Galician, so perhaps it is not fair to say. I think it is important that the Galician language not be lost, but I also firmly believe in bilingualism and the ability to communicate with those outside your immediate cultural circle.

There is much more I could write on this subject regarding the patterns of age and speaking Galego, but I’m sure this subject is only interesting to a few readers out there so I will let it go. If you want to know more about what I learned during this conference I’ll be happy to fill you in on the remaining details… but for now, it’s off to class!


  1. This is super interesting! Please do share more! As for the spelling, it's always been controversial. Some say that the Academia Galega "Spanishized" the spelling rules so Galician would not look so similar to Portuguese. It does sound very similar to Brazilian, though! As a matter of fact, I've never had any issues when listening to Galician, and it was VERY hard for me to understand European Portuguese (which sounds like a Slavic language, I must say).

  2. Maybe I'm one of the few but this is so interesting, I want to learn Galego so badly now! And I have to tell you about my trip to Galicia sometime... it ended with me lost in a tiny town about an hour outside of Santiago Compostela and missing my flight home, so I am definitely with you on increased bilingualism being a good thing!