TO further its programme of boosting the use of the Catalan language in the Balearic Islands, the regional government is investing 90'000 euros to fund an integration programme for immigrants who will be channelled into using Catalan, as opposed to Castillian Spanish, as their first language for communication, education and business.

The scheme will be initially applied to the districts of Majorca which have the highest number of foreign residents: Sa Pobla which houses a high percentage of Moroccan immigrants and Sant Llorenç des Cardassar which is home to a large number of people from other countries in the European Union.

Joana lluisa Mascoró, minister for Culture and Heritage explained yesterday that the linguistic strategy had become necessary to bring a sense of “unity” to people living in the Balearic Islands so that in future generations, pockets of foreign communities do not develop separate societies remaining unable to communicate linguistically or culturally with their host population. Island director for linguistic policy, Rosa Barceló said the project would embrace not just the immigrants themselves but also Balearic social services who would have a first contact with the newcomers, using the opportunity to impress upon them the importance of integration with Island society through learning Catalan. Foreigners would be offered the chance not just to learn a new language but to become involved at a social level through sporting and cultural activities where they would become familiar with the use of the Islands' language as a first means of communication. Toni Sanso, councillor for Tourism, Culture and Linguistic Policy at Sant Llorenç des Cardassar Town Hall, said yesterday that of the 9'000 inhabitants living in the district who are of foreign origin, only 16 percent are German and 4 percent come from the United Kingdom.

Mascaro added that although the programme at adult education centres (pictured) is starting off in two areas, its results will be keenly evaluated. Other districts will benefit from further investment if the pilot scheme is a success.