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Legal framework

At state level:
There are three Constitutional articles (31 October 1978) which refer to the issue of languages.

  • Article 3 states that “Spanish is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have a duty to understand and the right to use it. Other Spanish languages may also be official languages within autonomous communities depending on their individual statutes. The rich diversity of the languages of Spain constitutes a cultural heritage which deserves our particular respect and protection.
  • Article 20 specifies that future organisational regulations and Parliamentary control of social communication methods in the public sector “must be done with respect for the pluralism of society and the diverse languages of Spain.”
  • Article 148 numbers among the competencies of autonomous communities “the development of culture, research and, where appropriate, the teaching of the language of the autonomous community.”

At the level of autonomous communities:
Each ‘historical’ autonomous community (Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia) possesses laws on the use of Spanish and their language. The other communities (the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community, Navarre and Asturias) have progressively implemented various legal provisions to promote the use of their language within the education system and civil society.

Basque Country: law of 24 November 1982 (law of linguistic normalisation). The Government of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country also has, within its Culture Department, a specific Linguistic Policy Department, which has created a Service to Guarantee the Linguistic Rights of Citizens – ELEBIDE (see for further information).

Catalonia: law of 7 January 1998 on linguistic policy (see for further information); the Catalan Government has a Linguistic Policy Secretariat.

Galicia: law of 15 June 1983 on linguistic normalisation (see for further information). In 1997, a local regime law was adopted to guarantee the right of citizens to use Galician.

Navarre: law of 15 December 1986, on the use of euskera (see for further information).

Balearic Islands: constitutional law of 29 April 1986 (see for further information).

Valencian Community: law of 23 November 1985 on the use and teaching of Valencian (see for further information).


Institutional body charged with proposing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislature

Each community has a Linguistic Policy Department to promote the use of its language. This department proposes, implements and controls the application of diverse legal measures which have been taken to promote the languages and provide guidelines for their use. It works closely with the community’s Education Department. Legal provisions have been made in the context of the new education law of 3 May 2006 to guarantee the teaching of and equal status as an official language of the second language in bilingual communities (Articles 18, 24 and 25).


Legal provisions concerning the integration of migrants and public facilities for their linguistic training

As far as legal provisions about foreigners are concerned, it is stipulated that all foreigners under the age of 18 have the right (and duty) to be educated under the same conditions as Spaniards. This means access to an elementary education from six to 16 years of age, to include primary teaching (6-12 years) and compulsory secondary schooling (12-16 years).

Different provisions are available to enable young people (in the school system by classes and induction groups) and adults to learn the official languages of Spain. Teaching is also available for vocational training and recap classes with the aim of obtaining specific qualifications.

The relevant induction programmes are the responsibility of the autonomous communities and vary from one community to the other. However, induction and linguistic integration are systematically offered.


Teaching foreign languages within the education system

The teaching of foreign languages within the Spanish education system is regulated at national level by the Ley Organica de Educacion (LOE 2/2006) voted in on 3 May 2006. It does not make it compulsory for students to learn two modern foreign languages; only the first modern language is compulsory from primary school and its study remains compulsory until the end of secondary schooling (16 years).

A second language may be taken as an option from the first year of compulsory secondary education. However, schools are obliged to offer a second modern foreign language.

In the context of decentralising the education system, the LOE reaffirms the sharing of responsibility between the Spanish Ministry for Education and the Consejerias de Educacion in the autonomous communities. For monolingual communities, the State is responsible for 65% of teaching and the community for 35%. For bilingual communities, the State’s responsibility is reduced to 55% and the community’s increased to 45%. The teaching of a second foreign language is also subject to provisions made by the autonomous communities.

Future projects planned by the authorities in the area of linguistic policy

The use of co-official languages is entirely integrated at administrative, political and educational levels in the historic communities. The Basque Country recently proposed a reform of the teaching of euskera to allow a better mastery of the language and real bilingualism for all schoolchildren to the Parliament of the Basque Country. The reform is still being debated. The sums allocated to promoting and using co-official languages remain considerable in the different communities.






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