Linguistic attitudes are the opinions, ideas and prejudices about a language held by its speakers. For instance, it is commonly believed that a positive attitude towards a language helps in acquiring it. Traditionally, there was a belief that Galician language was not suitable for certain activities and therefore it should not be taught at school. Over the years, this opinion has changed, so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find strong stances against the language.
In general, young people have a positive attitude towards Galician.
However, there are still some prejudices about the language.
Overall, young people agree in considering Galician a useful language.
1. Young people’s linguistic attitudes and behaviour
A report issued by the Council for Galician Culture indicated that the linguistic behaviour of Galician youth is generally determined by the language they have learned and used in their family. Consequently, the Galician language is being used less and less because it is not passed on between generations. School does not seem to be a context in which language transmission occurs among members of the educational community, either, even though it is there that many young people learned to speak and write it.
Nevertheless, it seems that a positive attitude is perceived towards the dignity of Galician and its recognition as a useful language, above all among young people that speak it regularly. However, many young people still consider Galician to be the language used by the rural community and/or the elderly. Young people that usually live in this environment acknowledge that Galician is being used less and less in society, and they are aware that moving to a more urban environment for work or educational purposes may involve a change in the use of their main language.
Young people take a largely favourable view towards the Galician language. Even Spanish speakers feel sympathetic towards Galician and show respect for it. Likewise, Galician-speaking young people stand up for the authenticity and legitimacy of their language, though there are still some prejudices about it.
When it comes to the usefulness of the Galician language, it can be seen that young people’s opinions about this issue vary substantially: on the one hand, some consider that learning this language at school is useful to improve language skills, whereas on the other, some feel that it is nothing more than an obstacle to learning certain subjects such as scientific and technical ones. Those who support the usefulness (or not) of one of the languages are mainly Spanish speakers, whether bilingual or monolingual. Some youths call for the freedom to use Spanish in subjects that are taught compulsorily in Galician, but the opposite does not occur. This opinion implies that the use of Galician language should not be obligatory, though Spanish may enjoy that privilege. It is worth noting, however, that confrontational attitudes towards Galician are a minority.
It should be emphasised that there is a kind of Galician speaker who identifies as a person who speaks a language variety known as ghalegho or castrapo (a variety of Spanish spoken in Galicia, characteristic for using many Galician words and expressions), which they consider different from the official language. In fact, there is a problem of linguistic self-esteem among some young people, particularly those living in rural areas, since many of them believe they are not good at using the language, including those heavily committed to it. As for language skills, young people largely feel that they are not proficient in Galician, as they cannot speak it fluently.
2. Willingness to speak Galician and prospects
A section of the young population in Galicia maintains an activist stance towards the Galician language, mainly among those whose identity is fundamentally based on the language and who therefore use it in all contexts and demand stronger support and social commitment to it. However, this attitude as a mark of identity is held by a minority, since the language with which most young people identify is Spanish, which is considered the common language of a larger community than that of Galicia. As a result of this view of one language holding a higher status than the other, they perceive there is a linguistic conflict prevailing in Galicia.
Young people are willing to speak in both Spanish and Galician, with Spanish speakers more willing to speak Galician than Galician speakers to use Spanish. This attitude may be influenced by, firstly, the emotional connection to linguistic attitudes, followed by the willingness to use it with friends and family and, to a lesser extent, by their exposure to the Galician language and adaptation to interactions in this language.
Finally, the prospects of the Galician language are considered to be uncertain by young people, but this should not prevent them from making an effort to protect and revive it. Indeed, some of them believe that Galician is part of their identity, and they demand stronger support and social commitment to this language, in addition to showing willingness to pass on Galician to their children.