Now you ask for the teaching of Spanish, an aspiration that would be ridiculous if it did not entail such deplorable consequences. For you would add one more language to the more than forty already spoken in these islands, no doubt so that you may understand one another less and less!
“On the contrary,” objected Basilio, “if knowledge of Spanish may bring us closer to the Government, it can also unite all the islands.”
“A gross mistake,” interrupted Simoun. “ You let yourselves be fooled by big words and never get to the bottom of things to study the ultimate consequences. Spanish will never be the national language because the people will never speak it. That tongue cannot express their ideas and their emotions. Each people has its own way of speaking just as it has its own way of feeling. What will you do with Spanish, the few of you who will get to speak it? You will only kill your individual personality and subject your thoughts to other minds. Instead of making yourselves free, you will only make yourselves truly slaves. Nine out of ten among you who presume to be educated are renegades to your country. Whoever among you speaks Spanish is so indifferent to his own language that he can neither write nor understand it. How many have I seen who pretend not to know a single word of their native tongue! Fortunately you have a stupid Government. While Russia compels the Poles to study Russian in order to enslave them, while Germany prohibits the use of French in the provinces she has conquered from France, your Government fights to keep alive your native languages, while you, on the other hand, an extraordinary people under an incredible government, struggle to get rid of your national identity. Both of you forget that as long as a people keeps its own language, it keeps a pledge of liberty, just as a man is free as long as he can think for himself. Language is a people’s way of thinking. Fortunately your independence is secure. Human passions watch over it.
Chapter VII – Simoun
El Filibusterismo. 1891
Translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero (1961)