A language police is not a tyrant

The Spanish Royal Academy provokes and reconciles language wars. With its roots in the Spanish Golden Age and Renaissance writers, since 1713 it has overseen and regulated the use of Spanish. Not an easy task. Leading a network of national Spanish academies and with more than 400 millions of speakers of Spanish from Castilla to Bogotá and to the US, the institution has faced criticism for being imperialist, archaic and authoritarian or out of touch with the language users. In Madrid, next to the Prado Museum, 46 academicians meet weekly for debate. Among the academicians there are the authors Mario Vargas Llosa, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Antonio Muñoz Molina and the founder of El País newspaper Juan Luis Cebrián. We visited the Academy to see how the panhispanic spirit is being forged and to discuss with the director, José Manuel Blecua, the ardent fights over language use, to whom a language belongs and the importance of sensitive diplomacy among linguists.
For Helsingin Sanomat in 2012.

photo by stefano buonamici