Galician Today

Susana Seivane is part of a new generation of artists that use Galician in the mass media. Photo by María X.

Since the death of Franco, the situation of Galician, specially regarding its legal status and promotion, has remarkably advanced. A legal corpus has been developed from the Spanish Constitution and the Galician Autonomous Statute, making possible to Galician to be a co-official language in Galicia aside with Spanish, to exist a mandatory teaching in schools partially in Galician and the existence of a radio and television company that broadcasts solely in Galician. Nevertheless, all these improvements didn’t came with what really matters, a growth in the spoken use of the language.
  1. The Legal Framework
  2. The Educational System
  3. The Media and Cultural Industries

1. The Legal Framework

With the arrival of democracy, there was official recognition of Galician. The 1978 Spanish Constitution opened the door to the recognition of other Spanish languages. The 1981 Galician Statute of Autonomy (art.5) declared Galician as co-official and Galicia’s “own” language and the autonomous institutions (Xunta and Parliament) are given full competence in the normalization process. Thus, it is established that the public authorities will guarantee the normal and official use of both languages and will promote the use of Galician in all areas of public and cultural life, and information, and will ensure that the necessary means for it to be learned are available.

As well as the above-mentioned, the most relevant legal text in terms of the language is the Law of Linguistic Normalization (1983), passed by the Galician Parliament. According to this Law, no-one may be discriminated against for reasons of language, establishing Galician as the official language of the autonomous institutions, their administration, local government and those public entities dependent on the autonomous community. In part, the public authorities are obliged to promote the normal use of Galician in their contact with the public and the Xunta in particular is obliged to adopt the necessary means to ensure the progressive normalization of the use of Galician within its spheres of action, including local corporations.

On the whole, it is a fairly ambitious law considering the circumstances when it was passed, that permitted indisputable improvements, and opened possibilities that were not exhausted. Time revealed that the obstacles in advancing the use of Galician did not originate in this law, rather from the persistence of deep-rooted and paralysing passivity of important sectors of Galician society, that the authorities did not always know how to overcome. Since Galician was made official until today, the situation has evolved in a generally slow and unequal manner.

In theory, to enter the civil service and achieve promotion, knowledge of Galician should count, at the very least, as a merit, and in some cases it should be an indispensable requirement; despite this, even nowadays, the administration is still not completely Galicianized. In the Justice Administration and the peripheral State administration, there have been few advances. The autonomous administration presents a more satisfactory balance. The Galician Parliament is probably the most Galicianized institution of its rank in the land, but its administrative relevance is limited. The most important advance were probably those of the councils, where an important role has been played by the services of linguistic normalization (also known as departments of Galician language), which proliferated in a rather irregular manner after 1990. Public organisms such as those of health, businesses and public or semi-public foundations, offer, in general, an unsatisfactory scene.

2. The Educational System

In Galicia, children have the right to receive primary education in their mother tongue, and the educational authorities are obliged to provide the “means necessary to promote the progressive use of Galician in education”, establishing as the minimum aim the “on finishing the two cycles in which Galician is obligatory, students should know this language, on both an oral and written level, to the same extent as Castilian”.

Since the early eighties, an intense task of the linguistic readjustment of the Galician of primary and secondary school teachers was undertaken; this was achieved through intense courses of Galician literature and language, and they were attended by a large part of the practising teachers over the course of the decade. From the early nineties, provision for the creation of teams of linguistic normalization were adopted, and plans of normalization in educative centres were developed; aids to encourage activities that promoted Galician were also established.

In general, it can be said that at present, the different initiatives have been centred around what are considered the two main aims in the area: to convert Galician into the instrument (vehicle language) of the education system; and to ensure that students obtain full linguistic competence in both official languages (Galician and Castilian) by the end of obligatory education. Nevertheless, despite the unquestionable achievements –unequal depending on the educational level- there is still a long way to go before these aims are fully met.

3. The Media and Cultural Industries

The year 2003 saw the launch of Galicia Hoxe, which for almost a decade (until its closure in 2011) was the only Galician daily newspaper printed entirely in Galician. At present, the situation has not changed in quantitative terms, as we have only one daily newspaper written entirely in Galician, Nós Diario. In other newspapers, the Galician language is not totally absent, but it is sidelined to cultural information pages and contributors’ columns. In the non-daily press, the leading general information weekly was for decades A Nosa Terra, which was published regularly on paper until its closure in 2011 (its publication was resumed in 2018 in electronic format). In addition, we should highlight the monthly magazines Tempos Novos, published on paper since 1997, and Luzes, which was launched in 2013. With a more limited circulation, we should mention the quarterly publications Grial (with a longstanding tradition), Encrucillada, A Trabe de Ouro and Agália. For their part, specialised publications that came out at different intervals began to make their way. With regard to digital media, the leading newspapers in Galician were in this period Vieiros (until its closure in 2010) and Sermos Galiza, which in 2020 gave way to Nós Diario (also published in digital format). Other general information publications that are currently active and worth mentioning are Galicia Confidencial and Praza Pública. In relation to local or specialised information, the landscape is even healthier.

With regard to television, in 1985 the Compañía de Radio-Televisión de Galicia was created and owned by the autonomous community, and from then on Galician television began to broadcast, basically in Galician, with a noticeable audience and some outstanding successes.

Regarding radio stations, it is undoubtedly the publicly owned Radio Galega that shows the greatest compromise with the use and promotion of Galician.

The publication of books in Galician has increased very significantly in the period we are describing, going from 187 books published in Galician in 1980 to 1,144 in 2018. However, some problems should be pointed out, such as the overwhelming presence of institutional publications, an excessive amount of small Galician publishing houses and the dangerous dependency on the school market.

As regards musical production, the renewed fashion for “roots” music must be highlighted; In our case, this means music inspired (more or less vaguely) in popular-traditional music, or simply “Celtic”; and also the adaptation, from the Galician perspective, of popular contemporary international music, that is to say, pop-rock. It is perceived that the past years have been particularly fertile in this area, with Galician being used with no inhibitions also in other genres such as hip hop, indie music, trap or electronic music.