Spanish not doing so well in Equatorial Guinea - French and Portuguese are

Monday, January 02, 2012

This article in Spanish shows the point of view of a pro-Spanish language professor regarding Equatorial Guinea, which has Spanish, French and now Portuguese as official languages. Equatorial Guinea is one of the few places where Spanish is on the defensive, and Africa as a whole has very little of it; French and Portuguese are the Romance languages spoken there by far more people.

The following is a short excerpt of the general idea, but the article itself is much more detailed and I would recommend reading it even through Google Translate.

Spanish is dying in Equatorial Guinea - the negligence of the authorities in this country is permitting Spanish to be lost, threatened by the growing influence of other languages such as French and Portuguese.

Professor Justo Bolekia gave a talk at University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, organized by the Aula Cervantes supported by the Spanish embassy in Senegal...The professor spoke of the historical moments that the Spanish language lived in Equatorial Guinea. First there was a "process of initial acquisition, when people imitated the colonizers and when they forced people to speak and communicate in the language of the whites." This was the start of colonization. After this was the period of learning the language in a more formal manner with the construction of the first schools in 1866 to 1868...Through this process, according to Bolekia, Spanish became the second language of the population regardless of ethnicity. This resulted in the designation of Spanish as a sovereign language in 1968 and even single language until 1973. In those years Spanish had total hegemony. In 1973 however, with a new constitution that, though written entirely in Spanish, omitted all mention of Spanish as an official language, it began to decline.

What happened in 1973 was the rule of the dictator Francisco Macías, who promoted an anti-Spanish agenda. Instead of teaching people to read and write it correctly, they carried out slogans against Spain and a dis-Hispanization in the schools and media. In 1979 there was a change of regime to the current president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and though the constitution of 1981 recognizes Spanish as an official language, "those that were children during Macías were all fed anti-Spanish sentiment and are now leaders of the country."

In 1986, also due to economic pressures from powerful countries, Spanish was forced to share its status as official language with French. The professor says that "this was imposed without asking whether the population spoke French or not. And this process has completed itself for now with the imposition of Portuguese, in 2011, as a co-official language."

And meanwhile, what is Spain doing? "In all the countries where France was a colonial power one finds the Alliance Francaise, not to colonize, but to protect the use of the language. In Equatorial Guinea there should be an Instituto Cervantes to ensure the correct use of Spanish...Equatorial Guinea is an orphan in the Hispanic world."


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