The PP's campaign against the Catalan language

Aragon, País Valencià, Illes Balears… these are three Spanish autonomous communities with a historical link to the Catalan language. They are also three Spanish autonomous communities where the PP is in power. And what is the result of this combination of factors? Evidence of a distributed, strategic plan to de-Catalanise these regions.

(Image borrowed from without permission)

Example: I met several people in their mid 20s-early 30s in Alicante province recently. This is an area where the street names are all still in Valencian-Catalan. Not one of the young people I met spoke a work of this language (not that we discussed this much). Why? Because they had attended local state schools (the PSOE also bears some responsibility here). The PP in Valencia also led the charge for redefining Valencian as a different language to Catalan, something which the Valencian Academy clearly rejects.

Example: The attempts to relabel Catalan and its dialects as part of Aragonés Oriental (Eastern Aragonese) with the support of the PP in Aragon. This despite the fact that Eastern Aragonese is a different language.

Example: Repeated attempts to change place names and street names in Valenican towns, against the wishes of the people who live there.

Example: In the Balearic islands, the PP has started to rename cities. Palma has changed to Palma de Mallorca (Spanish version) and Maó has changed to Maó-Mahon (mixed version). Simultaneously, Catalan has been downgraded from being a compulsory subject in Balearic schools and will no longer be a requirement for civil servants.

Example: Education minister Wert has proposed a new education plan for Catalonia which would take the level of education in Catalan back to how it was in 1978. Making it an optional subject, not needed to complete high school, and abolishing 'immersion' represent a complete redrawing of the Catalan education system. The PP, knowing that Catalan students do perfectly well in Spanish, has opted to put children at a disadvantage – not being able to speak Catalan – purely for the purposes of creating a cultural divide in Catalonia.

When we talk about attacks on culture and the threat of ethnic division in Catalonia and Spain, much is made of Catalan nationalism and the dangerous game it plays. I've never bought this theory because the Catalan separatist parties are now much less ethnically-centred than they were 15 or 20 years ago.

However, the PP is a retrograde party. It cannot deal with the problems it has created in the present and so it turns to policies from the past to fix things. They talk of banning strikes, banning protests… simultaneously, they make people redundant and then cut unemployment benefits, and everywhere they have power, they are now attempting to de-Catalanise Spain. With all the evidence (and what I've presented here is actually just a fraction of what's going on), it seems difficult to deny that the PP is following a concrete, organised campaign in territories where it has power and at a national level.

Frankly, this strikes me as another good argument for independence.

29 thoughts on “The PP's campaign against the Catalan language

  1. Dude, just because you're chained to a shuffling anti-PP flagellant sect doesn't give you a licence to invent.
    * In Valencia the school system and a substantial part of the civil service is dominated by the Catalanist (sorry, Valencianist) mafia, and although many children regard the old vernacular as a useless joke, generalising across the region Valencian continues to be the most important vehicular language in the education system. The fact that Ms Catalá proposes giving parents some say about the linguistic regime is the only peek of light.
    * Who gives a fuck about la Franja, except as a source of post-independence wars? What difference is there between PSOE and PP policy there?
    * Part of the reason why the Balearics have such a dreadful education system, and why provision of other state services is so poor, is that, given the drastic reduction of the labour supply created by the imposition of the Catalan language requirement, gross incompetence was tolerated as long as Catalan was spoken. As the anaesthetist puts the mask over your face, are you really worrying about what language the surgeon speaks?
    * Wert's proposal would merely guarantee equal treatment of Spanish and Catalan in the education system, in which, despite the constitution and rulings by the constitutional court, it is currently impossible to study in Spanish, the maternal tongue of a majority of the citizenry. That sounds to me like an excellent way of avoiding the cultural divide currently being created by monstrous school failure rates among Spanish-speaking children. I happen to regard it as unacceptably dirigiste – if parents in the Raval want their children to study in Berber, I figure they should be allowed that privilege – but one lives in the world one lives in.

    1. Apparently, it is also impossible to study in Berber or Arabic in Ceuta and Melilla, where the majority of the population are speakers of these languages. It is also not possible to get an education in any of the co-official languages in Spain outside the regions where these languages are official. Moreover, I don't know of any country that grants children the right to get an education in the language of their choice. So why should Catalonia be different?

      Also, I think that it would be better if you provided some evidence of the "monstrous failure rates" among Spanish-speaking children, and about the "poor quality" of state services in the Balearic Islands due to the requirement of knowing Balearic. Otherwise, sounds like you just made it up.

      1. My point about Berber (or whatever) is one of simple democracy: taxpayers should have some influence over spending, and if there is sufficient demand for X-language education here or anywhere else the state should respond accordingly.

        The Generalitat itself says that "A l’hora de descriure les característiques de l’alumnat amb menys competències, la llengua parlada a la llar resulta útil: només entre el 10 i l’11% de l’alumnat amb famílies catalanoparlants es troba en els nivells més baixos de competències, xifra que es duplica en el cas de l’alumnat amb famílies castellanoparlants i que es quadruplica o més en l’alumnat amb famílies que parlen altres llengües." Mother-tongue education is generally acknowledged to reduce failure rates, and the same document notes that "Hi ha estats amb més tradició de rebre persones estrangeres, com ara Alemanya, Àustria, Holanda i Suècia, que disposen de polítiques d’estrangeria des dels anys setanta i que ja preveien mesures específiques de l’àmbit educatiu, tot i que basades en una doble estratègia: d’una banda, d’assimilació (que comportava mesures de suport a l’adquisició de la llengua del país d’acollida) i, de l’altra, de reintegració (mesures per a la promoció de la llengua materna dels nens), des de la creença que l’estada de la població estrangera seria temporal, que transcorregut un cert període de temps, retornarien al país d’origen." In the context of mainly Spanish-speaking Barcelona such a strategy would consist of Spanish language education with provision for minority languages like Catalan, Berber and, of course, Welsh. This would improve the performance of poor pupils and their subsequent employment rates and labour mobility – Catalan is completely useless south of Tarragona, west of Lérida, and north of Figueras – and such an assault on the class/apartheid system is unlikely therefore to be contemplated any time soon.

      2. Hi, thanks for the link. I'm afraid you're misreading the report. The parts that you quote refer to an observed correlation between low academic performance and speaking Spanish at home. However, the authors of the report say clearly on page 105 that causal relationships cannot be inferred from this kind of analysis. Indeed, the results also show that low performance is positively correlated with the number of pupils per class, i.e. the more crowded a class room is the better the academic results are. Yet, we all know that it would be foolish to suggest that in order to improve academic results the government should increase the density of students in class rooms. So, when they try to figure out the causes of academic failure using a proper statistical model that controls for correlated factors (section 4.5.3), the language spoken at home appears to be non-significant. "Per acabar, cal destacar que, si bé l’efecte de la condició immigratòria és rellevant, no és significativa la llengua parlada a la llar (ja sigui alguna de les oficials a l’Estat o estrangera)." (page 139).

      3. Ernest you're wrong. "In its 2003 publication, Education in a Multilingual
        World, UNESCO reiterates the points made in its 1953 report and states that virtually all research since 1953 has served to confirm the earlier arguments in support of mother tongue education programs. The 2003 report argues forcefully for the use of the mother tongue in primary education." More here. There are further studies, here & here.

        You might not know of any country that grants children the right to get an education in the language of their choice but there are many states which do. Hawaii allows citizens to be either educated in the English or Hawaiian, the two official languages of the state, California Illinois, Montana, Arizona, New York, Florida, Utah, to name a few, are currently offering a choice dual immersion programs in a variety of languages in their public schools. Here's a list and an article.

      4. Jeremy, I suggest that you read the CTESC report (find the link in trebot's comment) which provides an analysis of the results achieved by actual Catalan children in the PISA tests. It concludes that given two children with a similar social background, the language that they speak at home does not increase or decrease their risk of performing badly in school. I think this should be enough to dispel the myth that Spanish-speaking children are at disadvantage because of the Catalan language being used as instructional language in schools.

        As for schools offering bilingual programmes, maybe I didn't make myself clear. There are plenty of those in Catalonia too. This is not what I was talking about. I was talking about countries where children are granted the right to be taught in whatever language they have as mother tongue, because not doing so would be a violation of human rights according to some people. For instance, if a Dutch kid emigrates to California, will the state of California grant him the right to be educated in Dutch (provided that his parents ask for it)?

      5. Ernest, I suggest you read the various reports I linked to which shows there is a strong correlation between academic performance and learning in ones native language. This isn't really debatable. If there was a large enough Dutch population in California, chances are there would be a school as there is for Spanish, Chinese and Korean immigrants, not to mention Italian, Armenian and German. Again, read the article. In states that are historically bilingual, like Catalunya (Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana), you can be either educated in English, or Hawaiian, Spanish, French respectively, as the vehicular language in public schools (elementary through high school). Puerto Rico which has petitioned to join the union offers Spanish or English. What harm is there offering people the choice if its proven to boost academic performance? It seems like the fair thing to do.

      6. Jeremy, I read the reports that you linked. I think they make sense and I'm not questioning what they say. The point is that it's been shown empirically that in Catalonia the mother tongue of a student (be it Catalan, Spanish or any other language) is not a determining factor of the academic achievements of that student, and therefore the idea that Spanish-speaking students perform badly because Catalan is being used as vehicular language is groundless.

        Second, the argument that in Catalonia children should have the right to be taught in their mother tongue or that parents should have the right to chose the language in which their children are taught doesn't stand up either, because apparently not a single country has ever granted such rights. As you say, only if there is a "large enough" population speaking that particular language, and most of the time not even then (see the example of Ceuta and Melilla that I mentioned earlier and countless others). So, at the end of the day, it seems clear that the language of instruction used in schools is just a political decision, in Catalonia and everywhere else.

      7. Ernest. There's been over 60 years of study that shows learning in one's mother tongue improves academic performance, especially in science and mathmatics. Why would Catalan / Spanish be the exception? I have given numerous examples where, as with Catalunya, places with 2 languages (some codified in the constitution, some based on nothing but historic precedent, some because of changing demographics), offer people the choice of vehicular language. This is actually the trend outside Spain. Perhaps the debate should be expanded to Ceuta and Melilla, allowing the people there to be educated in Berber. I would have no problem with that. Just as if the situation were reverse, I would say let the Catalan population be educated in Catalan. But as you say, this is a political decision, not one based on fairness or the educational performance of the children.

      8. Jeremy, do you realise that Catalan and Spanish are closely related languages, unlike say Filipino and English? Do you realise that teachers in Catalonia can speak Spanish and use this language when they see that kids don't understand Catalan well enough, unlike their Californian counterparts who for the most part can't speak Filipino at all? What is true for a pair of languages, is not necessarily true for a different pair.

        Regarding the supposed trend outside Spain of offering people the choice of vehicular language in education, for which you gave exactly zero examples (as I said, bilingual programmes are not it), I'm against it. Do you really think that the Catalan government should hire, say, Chinese teachers to teach Chinese-speaking children in Chinese? I think it would be a terrible idea. Granted, it would improve the chances of first- and maybe second-generation immigrant students, but at the same time would lead to closed communities and ghettos. That's probably the reason no country is doing it.

      9. Ernest. I'm aware of the similarities between Catalan and Spanish, but if as you say, kids don't understand and teachers have to re-explain then there is a problem, no? It adds an unnecessary step and slows down the process. Then there is the probablility that children remain silent so not to feel stupid. It does happen. Kids are self-conscious. Last I checked Catalunya isn't a country. I have given examples where bilingual regions offer parents a choice which language they want their children educated in. If you choose to blithely ignore my examples, then that says more about you wearing blinders. But there are countries too. Right here in Europe. In Austria, Carinthian Slovenes are allowed to receive a bilingual education, the Burgenland region offers Hungarian and German. The Republic of Cyprus, it's Greek or Turkish. In the Czech Republic, the municipality of Zaolzie offers Polish and Czech. In the Netherlands, Friesland offers Dutch and Frisian. In Finland, Swedish or Finnish. Some of these languags are similar (like Catalan and Spanish) Some are different. This isn't a novel or radical concept. Closed ghettos? Immigrants tend to congregate in neighborhoods regardless that's why there are Chinatowns, Little Italys, Russsias etc. In Barcelona, Spaniards tend to live in Santa Coloma and L'Hospitalet. Recent immigrants from South America and Pakistan live in El Raval and Barri Gòtic. The Chinese near Arc de Triomf. There aren't too many self-identified Catalans living in these neighborhoods, are there?

        Look, if you take away the names and say that there is a place which has 2 official languages, but only allows its citizens to be educated in one, despite the majority speaking the other, then that comes across as unjust because it is.

      10. While all this is very interesting, it's not really the point. A few weeks ago, Wert said that he intends to 'Spanishize' Catalan school children. This is the philosophical basis for making Catalan an optional subject in Catalonia.

        The concept of bilingual education in Catalonia has almost no real support. No political parties, except Ciutadans have adopted this position. A tiny minority of families have complained about this and the only other people I've ever heard complaining about it are a few expats, half of them commenting on this blog. I don't mean to say that this is an entirely meaningless debate, just that we have to be serious about how little support it has.

        The Catalan education system works. It can also be improved. More teachers and more government investment in schools, colleges and universities is vital. Instead, CiU is firing teachers and slashing education spending. The PP is doing the same. And to make things worse, the PP is pressing on with proposed reforms to create divisions in Catalan society and foment ethnic tensions that do not currently exist. That's Wert's aim.

      11. Jeremy, I told you that I know that there are schools with bilingual programmes in many parts of the world, including Catalonia. You keep insisting on that, but this does nothing to refute my point that no country in the world grants its citizens the right to be educated in their mother tongue. If you happen to have this privilege, it's just an accident owing to the fact that you spoke one of the few languages, usually just one, that the government has decided it is to be used as language of instruction in schools, be it for practical or for political reasons.

        Regarding the issue of immigration, I think it's pretty obvious that the situation would be much worse if every community had their own schools run in their particular language.

        Regarding the situation in Catalonia, I would ask you why you think is unjust.

        Is it unjust because Spanish is official? So, if it wasn't, automatically would cease to be unjust? Note that there are many other languages spoken in Catalonia other than Catalan and Spanish, none are official.

        Is it unjust because Spanish speakers are a majority? If you happen to speak a minority language, then does it not matter if the government does not provide you with an education in your language?

        Is it unjust because Catalonia is not a country?

        Because some other reason?

        If it's any of first three, I would say straight away that your idea of injustice is 100% arbitrary. Also remember that Catalans who have Spanish as their first language are a majority and are first-class citizens. They have the right to vote. Yet, in every single election, the parties that oppose language immersion in Catalan have come as a small minority. Is it still unjust? Maybe what we need is an enlightened dictator, who just "knows better", that decides for us about all these issues.

      12. Tom, to insinuate that this has only nominal support, mostly among expats, doesn't match the findings of a poll which found 81% of the population are in favor of bilingual education. Do I agree with Wert's terminology of "Spanishfication?" No. But you can look on Candide's blog for similar quotes from the other side that seem to stoke ethnic tensions. Do I think these are an accurate reflection of Catalan society as a whole? No.

        I look at this as an education issue and I don't see why people shouldn't be given the choice in language of instruction when a sizable part of the population speaks a language. This is how most multilingual places handle the issue. What's everyone there afraid of there? All three major parties have supported cuts in services. Does that make them ok and not worth debating?

        Ernest, you getting tied in knots, with false equivalences, dictators and such. California may not be a country but it has an economy bigger than Italy's and if you had read the article, they're beginning to there as a pilot program. Los Angeles County has more people (9,889,056) than Catalunya (7,535,251). I wouldn't dismiss what happens there or the rest of the state as insignificant. Obviously, there needs to be a certain threshold in order to offer courses. But I wouldn't be opposed to immigrants in El Raval learning in Urdu and Catalan for example. A Catalan kid could receive an education in Catalan and English. As I said, if it were the other way around, I would be supporting Catalan being offered, just as I support the use of Spanish, Chinese, etc in California. You would be applauding all the studies I have cited to explain why.

      13. Sorry, I've only just had time to look at that survey. It's very cleverly worded, isn't it? It doesn't ask about approval of linguistic immersion, presumably because the newspaper publishing it isn't interested in knowing that. Not sure why you didn't just link to the ABC story but there you go. What it finds is 45% in support of 50-50 bilingualism and 37% in favour of 'Mostly Catalan and some Spanish'. This is, clearly, widespread support for 50-50 bilingualism as framed in the survey. I don't have any problem with that kind of system if it can be made to work (though I think English should have a look in too). I was wrong to say that bilingual education has no real support in Catalonia.

        But the real question is whether there should be a choice as to the vehicular language in public schools in Catalonia. This is the main focus of Wert's new law, which attempts to replace or duplicate Catalan with Spanish in this important function. The survey, surely by intention, doesn't ask about immersion, doesn't ask about vehicular language and doesn't ask about approval of the current system. It is not particularly helpful, therefore, to anyone on either side of the debate.

      14. Jeremy, did I dismiss what is happening in California? I am not aware of that. I am aware that you mentioned that Catalonia is not a country, presumably because you think this is a relevent fact to the discussion. How this is relevant, I don't know, that's why I was asking. I have had this discussion many times, and sooner or later the other guy always mention this. They always also mention that Spanish is an official language and that a majority of Catalans have Spanish as their first language. They always say these three things, exactly like you did. If they do this, it must be because they think that these things are important. Yet, when I ask them to explain why they think these things are important, they are unable to respond. I guess I will never find out!

      15. Ernest. You kept asking what countries allow for people a say in the language of instruction. I mentioned Catalunya isn't a country because it isn't. For correct equivalence sake, I thought it was better to compare multilingual regions. I later gave countries as examples because you seemed determined to keep the focus on countries as if that made a difference. Why is it important that Spanish is recognized as an official language and spoken by the majority of the people? Because in similar cases, as I have detailed, countries and regions offer their citizens a choice. This appeals to my progressive roots and sense of fairness. The policy you support is associated with the xenophobic nativist wing in most places. I wouldn't support it in California so why would I in Catalunya? Just as if the situation were reverse, I would be supporting Catalan being an option for the same reasons. It's called intellectual honesty. Does that clear things up?

      16. No, it's not clear. It's clear that you think that the situation is unfair. The reasons are not clear.

        In any country, region or part of the world, including all of Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, you can always find at least one person (and probably also large groups of people) who speak a language that can't be chosen as vehicular language in state-owned schools. Do you agree? Like it or not, this is pretty much how it is.

        So the question is why do you think that when this happens in Catalonia it's more "unfair" than when it happens anywhere else? Is it because Spanish is official? Is it because Spanish-speakers are found in large numbers? (Now we know it's NOT because Catalonia is not a country, if I understand correctly, so we can forget about that one.) Is it because Catalonia or Spanish are special? These are the questions that you don't answer.

        You say that in "similar cases" countries and regions offer a choice, but this does not explain why your criteria for similarity includes that the language is recognised as official and that is spoken by the majority of the people. The fact that you chose these criteria tells us that you think that this is important, but it does not tell us why you think it's important, which was what I was asking in the first place.

        Lastly, I don't think that I would qualify as xenophobic, because I don't discriminate on the basis of origin or race. I do think that immigrants have a moral duty to learn the languages of their host country, if this is what you meant. Even then I'm quite moderate, understanding that languages are difficult to learn and that some people simply can't. Anyway, here most people would see YOU as xenophobic, right wing and colonist. Also, name calling is the last resort of stupid people.

      17. Ernest I'm starting to wonder if you are a human or some bot that rehashes the same talking points and can't compute an argument when the parameters exceed the normal debate. One final time, in most places where there is a sizable multilingual population the citizens are given a choice, especially when languages are codified in the constitution, sometimes to reflect changing demographics or historical injustices. I have provided examples. It's your turn to show me when this doesn't happen, Why do I think this is important? Because 50 years of studies say this will boost education performance. Also, I think it's important to respect the different cultures that make up a place, whether it's religious practices, sexual orientation or nationalities and their languages. I believe it helps lead to better integration because it teaches tolerance. I also think diversity adds to the culture for lack of a better term. One of the few countries that doesn't do this is France, where I would support Catalan being introduced in Perpignan along with French for example. I take it you wouldn't based on your logic.

        Now if this makes me a right wing xenophobe in your eyes. Fine. It confirms a theory I have that once you cross the Pyrenees you enter a bizarro world where Superman would be evil, Lex Luthor venerated and the Hulk a weakling.

      18. I keep repeating the same talking points because I think they are important for the debate. If somebody says something is unfair, I think the normal thing to do is explain the reasons, because the idea of justice varies from person to person. Only in your last comment you have started to give reasons, until then your reasons were "since everybody else does it, it must be fair." Anyway, if you want evidence, here's a small list of languages, along with number of speakers, that are not offered as language of instruction in state schools in the corresponding region (either side of the Pyrenees).

        Ceuta – Arabic – 40,000
        Melilla – Berber – 40,000
        Spain – Rumanian – 520,000
        Andorra – Portuguese – 20,000
        Brittany – Breton – 206,000
        Corsica – Corsican – 400,000
        Alsace – Alsatian – 96,000
        Marseille – Italian, Corsican, Comorian, Arabic, Chinese – >105,000
        Paris – Arabic, Turkish, African languages – >1,000,000
        Birmingham – Urdu – 110,000
        Bradford – Urdu – 77,000
        London – Chinese – 107,000

        This is just after a quick search. I can go on, as just about in every inhabited region you can find a sizable number of people who speak a language not offered as choice. Name any region, and I will tell you a language that is spoken there and is not offered as choice.

        Incidentally I have found another study that also contradicts your 50-year evidence than speaking a language at home different than the one used at school is detrimental to students.

        "Muslims in Marseille", Open Society Foundations, 2011, p. 109.

      19. Hey Tom. This was the first survey that came up so I linked to it. It's actually surprising there aren't more. What's disappointing with this and many debates south of the Pyrenees is that everything seems to revolve around putting the Catalan name on Spanish policies when there is a chance to be innovative in the areas of education that would truly separate the region from the rest of Spain. Using English in some cases is one example, although to really improve the English level, the Generalitat would have to do away with dubbing, which is something no political party is proposing. I guess that makes the issue not worth debating. Yes, I know there is the dual option, but it's not the same thing. One need only look at the English levels of the Nordic countries and the Netherlands compared to France and Germany as an example how watching programming in original version helps language acquisition.

        Ernest. You are the master of false equivalences. My cat and the night sky are both black. Does that make them the same thing? I already conceded France. If you want to use Spain to defend your position, feel free. You never did answer the question if it is OK to deny the Catalan speaking population the option in Perpignan? If you want to use the UK as an example, the most appropriate analogy to Catalunya would be Wales where students are given the choice to study either in Welsh or English as the vehicular with 22% opting for the former. Although there is some discussion about this in England too regarding the school choice proposals of the current government. You can read the report here.

        Bon nadal i feliç any nou

      20. Jeremy:

        You are the master of unjustified dismissals of perfectly good equivalences. Are you suggesting that it's okay for the Urdu-speaking community in Bradford to not have the right to choose Urdu, but it'd be unfair if the English-speaking community in Wales didn't have the right to choose English? On what grounds?

        Regarding the status of Catalan in Perpignan, they can continue with French as the only language of instruction, they could declare Catalan the only language of instruction, or they could go with bilingualism or freedom of choice. I think it's the people of Northern Catalonia who should evaluate the pros and cons of every option and make a decision based on that and on the goals that they are trying to achieve. I support their right to make such a decision, and it's not for me or anyone else to tell them what to do.

        Bon Nadal.

  2. I totally agree, Tom, and the historical precedents tell us that we need to watch out.

    Right-wing Castile is fully aware that the language is an identifying and unifying factor here in Catalonia, just as Felipe V, Primo de Rivera and General Franco were before them.

    It's a policy of divide and rule so our only option is massive civil disobedience!

  3. I agree with you Tom, but I don't think this is a PP campaign. The Castilenisation of Spain is a long time goal of Spanish nationalism that has been pursued since the times of the Catholic Kings. They have failed before and they will fail now hopefully. It's still very annoying and it's one of the reasons so many people have come to the conclusion that we should simple say bye bye to Spain once and for all.

  4. For an interesting resistance slogan, print and hand out the following "KEEP CALM AND SPEAK CATALAN" poster, adapted from one used in the UK

    Personally I've decided to boycott the Spanish language until they stop using it as a vehicle of repression. That's quite tough as I've been speaking it constantly with my wife for 20 years, but the switch to Catalan is overdue I suppose.

  5. Apparently the government of Spain has decided to reject the new European Patent System on the basis that patents will no longer be translated into Spanish, only into English, German and French :) As a result Spanish companies will have to pay over 6 times more than their European counterparts to get a patent accepted in the EU :) Talk about mad linguistic policies that hurt competitiveness. Where is the let-languages-die brigade when you need them?

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