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Learning and language unite

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Jason D. Cox
Staff Writer

About 50 students, staff and faculty attended the event titled “Linguistic Pluralism and Education in Spain: Past and Present” at noon Monday, in the President’s Dining Room.

This event, coordinated by Assistant Professor of Spanish Gabriela Capraroiu, was designed to spark conversation about the academic value of multilingualism.

The speaker for the event was the Education Adviser and Consulate General of Spain in Los Angeles, Carmen Fernandez Santás.

She facilitated a round table discussion regarding plurilingualism in Spain.

Santás’ educational background is in communications and she has worked as an English teacher in Spain before.

Before the main concern of the event was addressed, Santás mentioned the last time she was here, which was in 2010 for an orientation for the Embassy of Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain program.

“Going to Spain was the same as being a cultural ambassador for your country,” Santás said.

This program allows U.S. and Canadian junior and senior college students or holders of a university degree the opportunity to work under the supervision and guidance of English or French language teachers in a Spanish elementary, secondary or adult school.

Being in Spain is also a chance for these scholars to learn about Spanish culture and language because they are immersed in it.

Santás was born in Galicia, Spain, in 1957.

When Santás first arrived in California in the 1960s she saw situations similar to ones she saw back home.

People would speak one language at home and a different language at school, which helped them become bilingual.

“I noticed that sometimes there were not enough words for things in the home language,” Santás said.

“And in English, there was not enough emotional language as for the home language.”

In Galicia, curriculum is required by law to be half in Spanish and half in Galician beginning when students reach the age of 6.

Santás began the event with a presentation that gave a brief look into the culture and the background of the Galician language.

The slideshow contained facts regarding the last several centuries of the Galicians’ history.

The facts began with Galician’s origins in Celtic, Roman and Arab cultures.

Other facts included the first poem written in Galician in the year 1200 and Galician being recognized as the official language of Galicia for the first time in 1936.

Another fact divulged about Galician culture was the appearance of Galician-speaking publishing houses and theatre companies in the mid-1980s.

Numerous images were also shown during the presentation that displayed beaches and other coastal areas such as La Playa de Las Catedrales.

Pictures of churches and cathedrals such as Catedral de Lugo as well as of Celtic stone structures that have not disappeared after hundreds of years, were also shown.

Besides emphasis on plurilinguism, the other focus of the event was a film made in 1999 called “La Lingua de las Mariposas” or “Butterfly Tongues.”

The film was adapted from three short stories that were all written by Manuel Rivas before 1999.

The film centers on a young boy named Moncho and follows his coming-of-age experience in Galicia in 1936.

The next portion of the event consisted of selected readings from Rivas’ short stories in three languages.

The stories were told in Galician, then in Spanish and English.

Next, a scene from the film that corresponded with the stories was shown to those in attendance.

A poem about bilingualism was also read in this fashion, after which a student commented, “It always sounds better in the language you don’t understand.”

Jason D. Cox can be reached at

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