AROUND 30 people from Gibraltar took part in a breakthrough study by Valladolid University academics on the bilingual use of English and Spanish in everyday life.

It was the second fact-finding visit by University of Valladolid Language Acquisition Lab (UVALAL) that especially focused on the ‘code-switching’ between the two most important languages in the world.

Raquel Fernandez Fuertes, who led the research team, gave a lecture on ‘Bilingualism from the outside and from the inside’ as part of the visit.

Fernandez Fuertes said bilingualism was a group effort rather than the decision of one person, making people’s brains work differently to monolingual people.

With studies showing that switching languages has the power to shape the worldview and identity of its users, bilingualism could show Gibraltarians are more unique than they thought.

This is why the UVALAL are interested in the Rock’s linguistics.

Fernandez Fuentes put these ideas across in her lecture, showing the bilingual culture is created by ‘a complex and fascinating process’, according to a Gibraltar government statement.

The wide age range interviewed also helped gather varied data to be studied by researchers, educators, politicians and society.

Language learning

With multilingualism worldwide reaching about 60-70% of the world population according to researchers, Gibraltar is a very interesting for linguists.

“It is hard to ignore this Spanish side that makes you different from UK,” Fernandez Fuertes told GBC chat show City Pulse.

“The danger about bilingualism is that it is very difficult to gain knowledge about language, but very easy to lose it.”

Her team were amazed by how people use the language and keenly observed the different interactions.

Minister for Culture, John Cortes, said: “As we work towards preserving our multi-lingual community, I am very pleased that Gibraltar has attracted the interest of these international researchers.

“A greater understanding of how our languages work together will help cement our uniqueness and encourage us to continue to realise the many benefits of multilingualism.”

The visit coincided with the launch of a group that aimed to try to encourage multilingualism on the Rock.


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