- Minority languages
- Research & Projects
The former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, the 2008 Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, was the "celebrity" of the annual conference organised by the Kulturfonden in Brussels. In his speech, Martti Ahtisaari, referred to the Finnish Action Plan for the two national languages of Finland: Swedish and Finnish. The Action Plan consists of 25 measures for the protection and promotion of both languages in various domains, such as public services, health care, and education. He welcomed that the actual government of Finland (elected 2011) has taken the majority of the proposed measures into account. He stressed that Finland needs a long-term pro-active strategy and systematic implementation plan. Although there is indeed strong Language Legislation in Finland, from time to time problems arise regarding the implementation of the rights, for example Sami in health care, and Roma in public services. He also explained that at the European level, we need a Road Map to a new EU Language Policy. This new EU policy should consist of a policy document as a complement to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In his view, a coherent and well-balanced European language policy also can help in conflict prevention. Bearing in mind that every linguistic minority has its unique history and position in EU society, getting to know each other and studying each other's backgrounds are essential for mutual respect and understanding. He finally recommended to use the suggested measures in the Finnish Action Plan (2010) to draft the said EU policy document.
The morning session of the conference was dedicated to Language Promotion Actions in the public sector: From Act to Action. The director of the hospital district of Helsingfors/Helsinki and Uusimaa, mr. Aki Linden, explained the language policy of the health sector in Finland. Each hospital district has a Steering Group of Ambassadors for the language issues in the hospitals. The language policy includes a language supplement grant (around 70 euro monthly for those who are qualified to use Swedish in addition to Finnish). In 2011, 12% of all employees received that language supplement grant. Mr. Linden showed interest in the Language Promotion Gift Bag for newborn babies which is developed in Friesland. This Gift Bag contains also a copy of the Brochure for Parents, developed in the MELT project (2009-2011). In the relevant Swedish and bilingual districts of Finland, every year around 20,000 babies are born, a huge target group!
Alex Riemersma of the Fryske Akademy / Mercator Research Centre explained why the Frisian language as a minority language in the Netherlands is vital not only as mother tongue, but also as second language: on top of the 55% of the inhabitants of Friesland that are mother tongue speakers of Frisian, 10% more can read the language, 20% more can speak the language, and 40% more can understand the language. Although there is a decline in intergenerational language transmission, the number of speakers is rather stable at 350.000. Frisian is a relatively strong oral cultural language, but weak in writing: only around 20% of Frisian are fluent writers. Riemersma also mentioned special promotion activities for the younger people in terms of ICT tools, interactive teaching and learning materials, and cultural affairs such as song contests and interactive radio and tv-programmes. He made reference to the European dimension of the language promotion activities such as Liet International which strengthen the self-esteem of students and young adults, who through the multilingual approach and European feel at ease in more languages, not only at home and in the region, but also at national and at European level.
The afternoon session was dedicated to language promotion in the private sector. Istvan Horvath from Rumania presented the project "Yes, please", a campaign on Hungarian language use aimed at small enterprises in Transsylvania (Rumania). He summed up the advantages for the company: added quality of the service, without extra costs.
For the community: reassessment of the value of language diversity; extra opportunities for community language use. He also mentioned some limits: local SME (small and medium enterprises) versus transnational retailers or service providers; community affiliation versus marketing interest; and, business versus community interests.
Furthermore, Ann Beynon (Welsh section of British Television Service = Welsh British Telecom) presented the pro-active Welsh medium language policy of British Telecom in Wales, in operation since 1994, offering, among others a Welsh Language Bureau, Directory Inquiries, Welsh Bills, Dual language phone books, and Bilingual signage on all BT properties etc. In particular, she stressed the importance of supporting the Welsh speakers: promoting the language skills for those who want to improve their language skills, Welsh languages in the workplace (CWU, a multi-annual project using funding from Welsh Government). Furthermore, she paid attention to several projects for youngsters: Internet Rangers, which means young people helping older people; and URDD and WiseKids to develop a Welsh Language internet safety program – the first of its kind. And finally: Antur Waunfawr: supporting people with learning difficulties to use IT. All in all, she argued that good legislation is not enough, plenty of provisions are fine, but those will only work when the language will and attitude on the ground are supportive.
The Bildts language and region in the north of the province of Friesland (the Netherlands) is a very good example for other minority language regions in Europe, concludes Dr. A.M.J. Riemersma, lecturer Frisian and Multilingualism in education. He handed over the first copy of the Bildts-Dutch brochure for parents and educators to councillor Mrs. N. Haarsma of the municipality the Bildt (see picture).
On November 7, 2012 there was a regional seminar for primary schools teachers (4-7 year old pupils) from the municipalities Ferwerderadiel, Leeuwarderadeel, and the Bildt. The day's theme was multilingualism and special guest was "Sinterklaas" (Saint Nicholas), a traditional Winter holiday figure whose name day is celebrated in the Netherlands. Lectures and creative workshops were held.
This seminar was a great opportunity to translate the brochure "Multilingualism in daily life" into the minority language Bildts. The translation of the new brochure is a result of a collaboration between Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, part of the Frisian Academy in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, and Kemissy Meertalighyd, a working group that is very active in the municipality the Bildt.
The original brochure is a result of a European project: MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission, Comenius LLP 2009-2011), a project involving the minority language regions Brittany, Friesland, Wales, and the Swedish-speaking region in Finland. The MELT brochure has already been translated into the languages: Frisian-Dutch, Welsh-English, Swedish-Finnish, Breton-French, Arabic- French, Portuguese-French, Bildtsk-Dutch and new translations are planned into: German, Niederdeutsch, and Corsican.
This year and in 2013, the brochure "Meertaligens in 't daagliks leven / Meertaligheid in het dagelijks leven" will be distributed to parents and educators in the municipality the Bildt and the province of Friesland.
Mr. Hans de Haan, head teacher of the trilingual primary school "De Tsjelke" in Holwert (Friesland) has been honoured with the award of the Association for Frisian Education at the annual seminar of the teachers of Frisian. Mr. Hans de Haan is one of the pioneering teachers who has been active from the very beginning of trilingual education in Friesland. The concept was introduced in Friesland by dr. Jehannes Ytsma of the Fryske Akademy, and the project is organised by the school guidance institute "Taalsintrum Frysk" of Cedin.
From the start of the project, 15 years ago, Hans de Haan has contributed to the further development of the concept in school practice, through the development of teaching materials and by making the three target languages more visible in the classroom and in the school environment. He has done so in close co-operation with his colleagues at his own school and at neighbouring schools that have adopted the concept of trilingual schooling after the example of "De Tsjelke" . He also continuously inspired student teachers during their internships, as well as colleagues from other schools in Friesland and from abroad.
His work is very much appreciated for bringing together school practice, teacher training, and theoretical aspects of the trilingual school concept.
During the general Assembly of the NPLD held on Corsica on 4 October 4, mrs. Jannewietske De Vries was elected president for the next three years. Mrs. Jannewietske De Vries is member of the Executive of the provincial government of Fryslân (Netherlands), responsible for finances as well as for Frisian language and culture. Mrs. De Vries is from a Frisian-speaking family, she studied law and economic management. Since the 1980s, she has been active in the field of Frisian language planning, both as a civil servant and as a politician of the PvdA (= Labour Party). Currently, she is particularly dedicated to the strengthening of higher education in Fryslân, including a Master on Multilingualism. The presidency of the NPLD might be of great help for the nomination of Ljouwert/Leeuwarden as Cultural Capital of Europe 2018.
As of September, the Coleg Cymreag Cenedlaethol has started its work. This consortium initiated by the Welsh Government supports Welsh-medium higher education at the 6 universities within Wales. Universities can apply for the Welsh-Medium Premium to increase the number of modules taught through Welsh; at least one third of all lessons of various subjects, ranging from history and arts to health care studies and linguistics is, to be provided in Welsh, . At the eligible universities at least 40 credit points per study year shall be offered and at least 6 students per year shall participate. A full curriculum through Welsh (120 credits) shall be attended by ten students per cohort and 4 members of permanent staff shall be involved. However, students of all institutions in Wales will also study together through the learning platform Y Porth (www.porth.ac.uk).
Mercator research fellow Tjeerd de Graaf was one of the participants and speakers at this conference, which was organised by the Foundation for Endangered Languages and Te Ipukarea, the National Maori Language Institute at AUT University. At the conference, more than 20 papers were presented within the general theme: "Language Endangerment in the 21st Century: Globalisation, Technology and New Media". In many conference contributions special attention was paid to the position of the Maori language in New Zealand. An interesting technical application that was reported about is related to the online bilingual dictionary Te Haka for which also an App for mobile phones is available.
The study and safeguarding of the Maori language is supported by the International Centre for Language Revitalisation (ICLR). In this organisation academics, researchers, students and practitioners work together in the field of community work and endangered language revitalisation.
More details on ICLR
Photo impressions of the conference
Over a quarter of the 'living' European languages are virtually being ignored by the creators of software and digital information resources. If nothing happens, these languages will not be able to keep up with the digitisation of daily life and disappear.
This warning comes from leading language technology experts from across Europe. For 30 of the 80 European languages, they determined to what extent these were digitally supported. Their conclusion is that the digital support for 21 of the 30 languages either does not exist or is of poor quality.
Examples of language technology applications that are often inadequate for these languages according to these experts are: programmes for checking spelling and grammar, interactive personal assistants on smartphones (like Siri on the iPhone), telephone voice menus, automatic translation systems, web search engines, and language use in car navigation systems.
Source (in Dutch only)
In 2018 the Netherlands and Malta will provide the Cultural Capital of Europe. Leeuwarden wants to present itself as a candidate on behalf of Fryslân. Therefore, on October the 8th, the Foundation "Kulturele Haadstêd 2018" (Cultural Capital 2018) presented the Bid Book "Lwd2018" to the City Council of Leeuwarden. In a public presentation, the content, themes, and several projects were presented.
The presentation was part of a "Cultural Stew". Many young and creative artists performed various acts and there was a plate of stew for every visitor. It resulted in a big stew of cultural organisations.
During the presentation, the audience-friendly version of the Bid Book was symbolically presented to Mayor Ferd Crone. Afterwards all visitors got a copy, too.
In October, the City Council of Leeuwarden will decide on the candidacy of Leeuwarden as European Capital of Culture in 2018. If they decide positively, the bid book will be presented to the Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science and the SICA (Dutch centre for international cultural acitivities) in Amsterdam.
With a conference called "Fryslân Connected" the 10th anniversary of the International song contest Liet International and the 25th anniversery of the Mercator European Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy were celebrated in Leeuwarden. The event was organised by Mercator, Liet International, and the minority language platform EBLT.
In 2002, the Frisian capital of Ljouwert/Leeuwarden was the first to host a unique song contest. As an experiment, the Frisian foundation Liet '91 organised the first edition of Liet International, the song contest for the best new song in a European minority language. Ten years later, Liet International has become one of the largest events when it comes to promoting European minority languages and minority language music.
The Mercator Research Centre was actually founded in 1988, but the foundation of the Research Centre was laid in 1987. At "Fryslân Connected" , Durk Gorter, research professor at Ikerbasque and one of the founders of Mercator, spoke about the pre history of Mercator. Alex Riemersma, researcher at Mercator/Fryske Akademy, presented the history and activities of Mercator in a video presentation. The actual anniversary of Mercator will be celebrated in 2013.
Other speakers at the conference were Marco Stolfo from Udine, Italy, the author of a book about minority languages and rock music; Saskia Bak, director of the conference venue "Fries Museum"; and Alexey Kozhemyakov, Head of the Charter Secretariat for Regional or Minority Languages. The Irish band Fiach provided the musical entertainment.
The Asturian website Les Noticies published an article (in Asturian) about 10 years Liet International.
Jildou Popma and Truus de Vries have participated in the Eighth International Conference on Third Language Acquisition and Multilingualism. The conference took place from September 12th-September 15th in Castelló de la Plane (Spain). The keynote speakers were Jasone Cenoz, Larisa Aronin, Ofelia García, and Vivian Cook. Approximately sixty presentations were held. Both Popma and De Vries presented results of the Frisian-Basque research project (the so-called FRY-EUS project). Popma's focus was on differences between teaching English at secondary schools in Fryslân and in the Basque Autonomous Community, whereas De Vries presented what secondary school pupils in both regions think of learning English and how much they are exposed to that language outside school.
At Stenden University for applied sciences, the Netherlands, a new curriculum has started in September: International Teacher Education for Primary School (ITEPS). After four year of preparation in close co-operation with partners in Scandinavia, the 4-year curriculum has started with 25 students; around half of them are from abroad (e.g. Curaçao, France, Singapore, UK). The lessons will be conducted in English, but the students will also be assessed in Dutch because of Dutch legislation. Students will do their internships at international primary schools mainly, but they may be involved in the trilingual education system in Friesland as well.
At the opening ceremony, Alex Riemersma introduced the students to the world of multilingualism and multilingual education, asking them about the number of languages spoken globally (6.500) related to the number of member states of the United Nations and the number of participants of the Olympic Games, respectively (around 200). He furthermore stressed the importance of other languages than just English, both in education and in daily practice, starting with the language of the neighbours: cross-border state languages as well as regional languages spoken in the actual neighbourhood.
On October 15, after two years of preparation, the Advisory Committee to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) launched its third Thematic Commentary Report on the Language Rights of Persons belonging to National Minorities. The launch consisted of a one-day meeting in Strasbourg with twelve keynote speakers or panel members from all relevant sectors in the field of human and linguistic rights. Special themes of interest were the "Effective participation in public life", "Linguistic rights and full and effective equality", and "Personal and group identity".
The thematic commentary is an anthology of all state reports of the first and second cycle of the monitoring of the Framework Convention in the treaty parties (almost 40 out of 47 member states of the Council of Europe). It proves that the FCNM is a living instrument which continuously urges the member states to take relevant measures for the full participation of minorities in public life, to guarantee their access to public services such as health care and access to the labour market. With regard to the smallest national and linguistic communities the term "proportionality" was discussed in terms of thresholds and barriers on the one hand, and inclusion and integration on the other hand. Most important of all, however, is the function of the FCNM as a legal instrument against discrimination and intolerance. The FCNM functions as a guidance tool for member states, for education aiming at shared responsibility of minority and majority communities, for mutual respect and intercultural dialogue. www.coe.int/
On 26-28 September 2012 the Conference "Multilingualism in Europe", took place in Limassol, Cyprus. Cor van der Meer (Mercator Research Centre) was invited to participate in this event organised by the European Commission, the Directorate General Education and Culture, and the Multilingualism Policy Unit, in cooperation with the Directorate General Translation and Directorate General Interpretation.
Part of the conference was the Expo-pavilion where the nominated European Language Label projects were presented. The European Language Label is an award that encourages new initiatives in the field of teaching and learning languages, rewarding new techniques in language teaching, spreading the knowledge of their existence and thereby promoting good practice. Furthermore EuroNews and European Voice were presented there, and the European Parliament and the European Commission, Directorates General Translation, Interpretation and Education and Culture.
Keynote speeches were given by: Mr Miguel Angel Martinez, Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for Multilingualism, Dr George Demosthenous, Minister of Education and Culture of Cyprus, and Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
“Sprache(n) als europäisches Kulturgut” is the newest publication by the Herbert-Batliner Europainstitut in Salzburg (Austria). The book is the result of a seminar with that title which was held in Salzburg in March 2011. The book contains 14 contributions (6 in English, 8 in German) presented at a seminar in March 2011. The book presents a number of studies and essays on language and identity as well as on linguistic matters and minority languages. The European language policies (EU and CoE) are presented from the perspective of the official institutes and discussed from critical perspectives.
The former EU Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban explains that the promoting of foreign language learning and the respective EU programs prove a key contribution to intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and competitiveness for businesses. The EU in his view need to be more ambitious, and take language-learning beyond the school gates. In order to reach drop outs and people who are struggling with their first foreign language, new approaches and methods shall be developed: edutainment, media, interactive technologies. The latter are the more important for young professionals during vocational training courses adapted to their professional needs.
“Inclusive, Plurilingual and Intercultural Education for Europe” is the title of the article by Waldemar Martyniuk, director of the European Centre for Modern Languages, a Council of Europe institution based in Graz. He focusses on the role of the Council of Europe and the remit of the ECML and its program for the next years: “Learning through languages: promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education.” Summaries are given of the Language Policy Documents of the Council of Europe as well as the five Language Education Instruments: Guide for the Development of Language Policies; the CEFR; the European Language Portfolio; the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters; and the Guide for Plurilingual and Intercultural Education.
Robert Phillipson (Copenhagen, Denmark), well known for his provoking style, fulminates against the linguistic McDonaldisation of the EU and European higher education in particular. Despite of the formal equality of languages in the EU, the hegemony of English in EU institutions can be considered as in effect practising linguistic ‘apartheid’. In practice, application shall be either drafted in or translated into English, documents for consideration in member states are often set in English rather than in the relevant national language(s). The Bologna process is very much favouring English as the global language of higher education. The evaluation of the Erasmus program (2009) did not even take into account language education and language of instruction. The European University Association, however, could for its own language policy refer to the initiative of the Nordic countries’ Declaration of Language Policy; and in particular the language policy of the Aalto university in Helsinki/Helsingfors.
Education results of native children of immigrants in Austria are described in detail by Rudolf Muhr (University Graz, Austria). He discusses the results both from the Austrian and the international perspective of education policies aimed at the integration of migrant children. The PISA results of the native children of immigrants in Austria are much lower than of those in for example Sweden, Finland, Australia and Canada. In his view this is due to the fact that in those countries the education for children with another language as mother tongue than the national language is much better organised: special classes for new comers and positive attention for the home language. Rudolf Muhr therefore recommend strongly the implementation of bilingual/multilingual education for all children – also for native children. Most important principle any education policy should be that every child during the years of obligatory school attendance shall acquire the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. That principle in his view is the basis of the success of Finland at the PISA test.
Alex Riemersma (Mercator Ljouwert, Netherlands) argues that the official language policy documents of the EU and the Council of Europe need to be accompanied with a common European language policy. To date, no action programmes and earmarked budget lines of the EU aiming at the protection and promotion of linguistic diversity for the 60 regional and minority languages are foreseen in whichever EU program. In his view that should not refrain the EU from including special measures within the EU Agenda 2020 aiming at the strengthening of those languages as part of the European heritage. The EU itself should become a formal treaty partner to the European charter for regional or minority languages.
The 2012 edition of the bi-annual world congress of IBBY (= International Board on Books for Young Children; www.ibby.org) took place in London in August, just in between the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.
IBBY was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War. IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman, believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people. Currently, IBBY is active in 77 national sections in reading promotion programmes and related activities. Alongside those activities, IBBY is particularly active in areas of crisis such as Afghanistan, Lebanon and Japan after the tsunami of last year. IBBY’s work with children in crisis draws upon deeply held convictions that books and stories can change lives, bring understanding, and empower the powerless people and that reading and books can change lives. IBBY believes that every child, rich or poor, safe or in danger, with a home or without, has the right to become a reader.
In London, over 400 delegates came together from 77 national section, some of which representing more than one language communities in the biennial Honour list of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators. For example: Belgium (Flemish and French), Canada (English, French and Ojibwe), Finland (Finish and Swedish), Netherlands (Dutch and Frisian), South-Africa (Afrikaans and English), Spain (Basque, Catalan, Galician and Spanish).
The theme of the 2012 IBBY congress “Crossing Boundaries: Translations and Migrations” was celebrated during lectures and workshops, and by the launch of book with poems and short stories from 48 different countries, presented in the original languages with translations into English and occasionally in the authentic scripts such as Arabic, Greek, Japanese, Thai, Urdu (Pakistan). This book titled “We‘re all from the same big land” includes also texts in Luritja, the common language of five aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory of Papunya, Australia, and in Dari (Afghanistan), Farsi (Iran), Haitian Creole, Scottish Gaelic. Some text are specially written for this occasion, others are traditional tales such as the ‘Pigeon and the Net’ from the Indian collection of animal tales “Panchatantra”, the oldest collection of stories for children in the world. All these texts together present an outstanding example of linguistic diversity for children.
The Hans Chrisitan Andersen award was given to the writer Maria Teresa Andruetto (Argentinia) and to the illustrator Peter Sis (Czech Republic). Their work as well as that of the other national nominees (27 authors; 30 illustrators) for the H.C. Andersen award is highlighted in the special of the volume of Bookbird (april 2012). The Asahi Reading Promotion award was given to the organisation Sipar in Cambodia. That non-profit organisation is active since 1991 in developing school libraries, commun and mobile libraries, reading corners in pediatric wards in hospitals and even libraries in prisons. The activities include also the training of librarians and the publishing of chilren’s books.
Special attention was given to the Basque children’s literature by means of a performance of story telling (simultaneous in more languages), music, spontaneous drawing and the presentation of a book + CD on Basque children’s literature: “Literatura infantile y juvenile Vasca contemporanea”. Furthermore, alongside theoretical aspects such as translating (“Why and How?”), story telling in bilingual practice was presented by Michael Rosen (Yiddish and English) and Michael Harvey (Welsh and English).
The Department of Applied Linguistics of Erasmushogeschool Brussel is organising the Final Conference of the EUNoM network: “Globalization, Modernity and Knowledge. Opportunities and challenges in a Multilingual world”. The conference will be held at the European Parliament in Brussels (Belgium) on 18th October 2012 and will be hosted by MEP Maria Badia i Cutchet (S&D, Spain).
The EUNoM project is supported by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union. It looks at multilingualism, not in isolation, but in the context of globalisation, the information society, and the knowledge economy.
Speakers include rapporteurs on the five EUNoM symposia (Silvana Schiavi Fachin, Alex Riemersma, Lucija Cok, Heidi Rontu, Daniel Cunliffe) and Glyn Williams, work package leader responsible for dissemination and exploitation, who will present a paper detailing the outcomes and policy recommendations derived from the work done in the EUNoM project as a whole. The keynote speakers will be Piet van de Craen (Vrije Universiteit Brussel and European Language Council) and Jeroen Darquennes (Université de Namur).
For more information, go to the conference website: http://taalkunde.ehb.be/eunom.
From June 13th to 15th, the Fryske Akademy organised the 19th Frisian Philologist's Conference. This conference is a platform for the scientific debate about Frisian Studies in the broadest sense, and, like other years, it was a meeting place for scientists who have won their spurs and new talent. A total of 45 lectures and presentations were held in the fields of linguistics, sociolinguistics, education, literature and (cultural) history.
On the first day of the congress, Dr. Johanneke Sytsema (Oxford University) spoke about the Junius edition of the Codex Unia (an important West Frisian legal manuscript) in the section Old Frisian. The digital version of that edition was presented at the conference. By the end of the first day, mayor Crone received the conference participants at the town hall of the municipality of Leeuwarden.
The second day was opened by Piter Boersma. In his plenary lecture, he gave an overview of Frisian literature as a small literature within the world literature. The small reading public, the situation of the Frisian language and the competition of Dutch literature complicate the position of Frisian writers. Why do they still write in Frisian? Boersma paid attention to the possibilities of Frisian literature, the distinction and attractiveness of it and the difficulties writers and readers face.
The third day opened with a key note by Alex Riemersma, Lecturer for Frisian and Multilingualism at the Stenden & NHL universities for applied sciences in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden. He gave an outline of the growth of bi- and trilingual education in Friesland and its quality factors. He stressed the importance of a holistic vision on the goals and models of multilingual schooling, aiming at synergy of teaching and learning of the target languages, both as a subject and as medium of instruction. He made a plea for a balanced system of student monitoring assessment - with comparable tests in all target languages and based on the levels and kills of the Common European Framework of Languages. A school language policy with clear goals, investment in time and materials, continuous (in-service) training as well as parents’ support will serve to integrate language learning and language use, orally and in writing, and help the student to develop towards multilingual, multi-literate adults .
The themes of the last day were sociolinguistics, cultural history, and cultural studies. Mercator employee Truus de Vries presented the results of a study of the mastery of English by Basque and Frisian pupils.
The conference was closed with the acceptance of a resolution in which the participants expressed their support for maintaining a full academic programme in Frisian Studies at the University of Groningen.
This is one of the main conclusions of the latest general assembly of the civil society platform to promote multilingualism held in Brussels last 29th June 2012
The civil society platform for the promotion of multilingualism held its latest General Assembly on 29th June 2012 in Brussels with a renewed spirit to continue its efforts to promote multilingualism in Europe as one of the key elements to foster European Integration and contributing to the promotion of intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding, cultural diversity, but also mobility, employment and economic growth in Europe.
The meeting was chaired by Uwe Mohr, President of the Platform, and Belen Bernaldo de Quiros, Head of the Unit of Multilingualism at the DG EAC of the European Commission. They both highlighted the strategic developments in multilingualism policy and the Council conclusions on language competences to enhance mobility. The European Commission also presented the results of the latest Eurobarometer 2012 on Europeans and their Languages published a few days before, as well as the results of the European Survey on language competencies. The participants in the meeting, representing 23 organizations working at European level on the promotion of multilingualism in Europe and representing all UE countries, had also the opportunity to debate and dialogue about the future role of the Civil Society Platform in the new political and economic context, and discussed about new objectives and working methods to achieve its goal. During the meeting good practices were presented by the Goethe-Institut in the field of Professional Mobility Language Learning, and by the Instituto Cervantes in the area of Online Language Learning/project AVE (Virtual Spanish Classroom). Miguel Martin, from the European Academy of Yuste Foundation, one of the members of the Platform, launched a debate about how to create an effective structure dialogue within the Platform and with the EU Institutions to raise the importance of multilingualism in the political agenda.
In this sense, the Platform will continue to promote multilingualism and policy developments within the European Union in a way that aligns with the new challenges and priorities that the European Commission has outlined for the coming years, especially with regard to the upcoming Erasmus for All programme that will come into effect in 2014. At the same time it will emphasize and advertise the acquisition of languages for professional growth and mobility for a more dynamic and competitive Europe, and will reveal avenues for stakeholders to collaborate and get involved at the EU policy level for a more effective promotion and development of EU-wide multilingualism policy;
In order to achieve its goals the Platform will address the following themes, during the following two years:
In 2002, the European Council meeting in Barcelona called for action “to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age”. This objective, summarized in the formula “mother tongue plus two”, has guided the policy discourse for multilingualism within the European Union up to the present day.
In 2009 the Commission published a call in order to give non-governmental organizations in the fields of cultural, non-formal and informal education and learning, as well as other sectors of civil society and the media, the opportunity to participate in a structured dialogue concerning multilingualism in practice. 29 European organisations complying with pre-established criteria were then selected by the Commission, and the Civil Society Platform on multilingualism was established in September 2009. Thus, the Civil Society Platform to promote Multilingualism is a forum for the exchange of best practices for the media, cultural organizations and those involved in non-formal and informal education. The aim is to encourage public debate on how best to promote the wider use of different languages. Priority target groups of the platform's work are school dropouts, people in vocational education and training, senior citizens as well as immigrants. "The importance of languages in the pursuit of social cohesion and overcoming barriers to integration cannot be overstated", said former Commissioner on Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, at the launch of the platform. The platform also developed proposals to be examined by national governments as part of their co-operation on multilingualism issues in the fields of education and training.
Since then, the Platform focused on three main priorities as outlined in the 2008 Communication "Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared priority", which were as follows:
The mandate of the Civil Society Platform terminated in July 2011 following the submission of its final report to the European Commission (Available here). The success of the platform has encouraged the drafting of a renewed mandate for 2012 and beyond that will take into account the research conducted thus far, as well as the Council Conclusions on language competences to enhance mobility of 28 November 2011.
List of platform members:
Fifteen students of various vocational training programmes of the school AOC Friesland Heerenveen in the Province of Fryslân (in the Netherlands) were awarded the certificate “Frisian in the professional work situation” on Monday 21 May, 2012. Mrs. Jannewietske De Vries, the Frisian Minister of Language and Culture, handed out two different certificates: "Understanding the Frisian language" and "Understanding and speaking the Frisian language.”
Multilingualism and the Frisian language are still often neglected in vocational training. However, it is very useful to have a good command of the Frisian language, because in the professional situation and during internships it is often the language of the customer. So, multilingualism can be a plus on a resume.
In 2011, the school AOC Friesland Heerenveen started offering the module Frisian. Six students completed this module successfully. This school year, 18 students have enthusiastically followed the module Frisian. The government of the Province of Fryslân stimulates the implementation process of the Frisian language in the curriculum of the different vocational training institutes in Friesland, by subsidising these provincial certificates.
On 14-15 May, the 5th EUNoM European Symposium was held in Barcelona. It was organised by the Open University of Catalunya (UOC), one of the seven partners of the EUNoM project. This two-day seminar analysed the role of universities in a society that is increasingly multilingual, globalised and technological, and facing the challenge of adapting to ICT and providing students with the right tools. The symposium brought together academics from fourteen countries and focused on language e-learning and how ICTs can help overcome both linguistic and cultural barriers.
Linnar Viik (Estonia) reflected on the paperless decision making structure of the Estonia government. He argues that universities should move towards a technology that is at the service of education. Likewise, Norbert Pachler (London) said that “mobile learning has become a new way to understand learning,” given that social network-style applications to share photographs and experiences can also let people share the cultural nuances of different languages. Cor van der Meer (Mercator, Ljouwert/Leeuwarden) stressed the importance of e-learning and social media for the vitality and revitalisation of regional and minority languages.
Daniel Cunliffe (Glamorgan, Wales), in the summing of the symposium, invited everyone to “break down the current barriers” and “stop seeing virtual systems as not real”. In his opinion, it is key that ICT be adapted to students’ actual needs because “we want individuals who are able to interact not only in a virtual multilingual world, but in a real one too”.
The EUNoM project received EU funding (2009-2012). The project’s conclusions will be made public at the final conference to take place on 18 October at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Àngela Plaza covered the EUNoM Symposium, you can read her report here:
"The challenges for the university sector in a multilingual society under debate" (in English)
"Els reptes del món universitari en una societat multilingüe, a debat" (in Catalan)
"Los retos del mundo universitario en una sociedad multilingüe, a debate" (in Spanish)
This year’s international CLIL conference was held from 19-21 April in Utrecht (Netherlands), organised by the European Platform (www.europeesplatform.nl ). The theme “From Practice to Visions” was introduced in three key note speeches by Catharine Snow (Harvard), Roy Lyster (McGill Montreal) and Kees de Bot (Groningen University), and discussed in 60 workshops. In the closing session, Rick de Graaff and Peeter Mehisto discussed the future of CLIL in terms of broadening the access to CLIL in vocational training, broadening the method for other school subjects, as well as the introduction of other CLIL target languages. They concluded that CLIL should be developed in the context of subject pedagogy and the training of subject teachers.
Roy Lyster from McGill University (Montreal) in his plenary key not “Connection and Complementarity Across CLIL and Immersion Contexts” discussed the similarities and differences between immersion and CLIL. Whereas immersion mostly starts in (pre-)primary school, and is conducted for more than 50% of teaching time by native speakers of the target language which can be a foreign, migrant or indigenous language. CLIL is applied in secondary school for less than 50% and conducted by non-native speakers of the target foreign language(s).
Around 250 participants of the Clil conference enjoyed the opportunity of a half day school visit to one of the 20 selected schools for bilingual primary or secondary education. They not only attended classes of biology, mathematics and arts, but also discussed with teachers and students. Students at the age of 12 or 13 explained in well pronounced English their experiences, findings and appreciation of bilingual schooling.
Reitze Jonkman and Alex Riemersma of the Lectureship Frisian and Multilingualism in Education at NHL and Stenden universities of applied sciences (Leeuwarden) presented the project on Trilingual Education in Friesland (Netherlands) and in particular the comparison of testing results between Dutch, Frisian and English as target languages at the end of primary and the start of secondary school. It is the ambition of the Lectureship to create a tool for comparison based on the levels of the CEFR and the Dutch national framework as well as on the level of Anglia.
We cannot ignore multilingualism any longer. The education sector, too, is becoming more and more aware of that.
Language is around us in different forms and shapes. Shopping streets in big cities display more and more English, and the word ‘sale’ has almost completely replaced Dutch ‘uitverkoop’. Commercially, there is no room for Frisian or another regional language, but in other domains there are many examples of small languages or dialects; especially in daily life and culture. Think of music, theatre, cabaret, and other cultural expressions in Frisian, Bildtish, Gronings, or Stellingwarfs. In the newspapers regional languages, dialects, and minority languages can be found in family announcements, whereas English is hardly ever used. Language is then not used as a commercial means of communication, but it is related to emotions, to identity. Isn’t it great to be able to express yourself in your mother tongue and to stay close to you own emotions? Isn’t it great that you are free to use your own language everywhere?
The full text is available in Frisian here.
What are the results of the MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project, which focused on minority language acquisition in the early years? Alex Riemersma (Mercator/Fryske Akademy) talked about this in his presentation to the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday March 15. The MELT project was carried out by the Mercator Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy in cooperation with partners from Brittany, Finland, and Wales (2009-2011).As a guest speaker Riemersma presented the products of the MELT project. These include a pamphlet for parents about multilingualism and a guide for pre-school practitioners with practical examples that are theoretically-founded. Both publications are available in eight languages. Furthermore, a research paper has been published, written by Idske Bangma (Mercator) and Alex Riemersma, which includes contributions by three international experts. This year the products of the MELT project will be further disseminated in the province of Fryslân, in cooperation with the SFBO (Centre for Frisian-medium child care provisions) and the Afûk (foundation to promote the knowledge and use of the Frisian language as well as the interest in Fryslân and its culture).Follow-up projectThe Fryske Akademy has submitted a new project proposal to the EU for 2013-2015: Promotion of Early Linguistic Diversity (PELD). This new project will put more emphasis on pre-service and in-service training of pre-school practitioners. The Institut für Niederdeutsch, located in Bremen, which represents 2.5 million speakers of Low-German, is a new project partner.
On 21 March the website of the Europeesk Buro foar Lytse Talen/ European Agency for Smaller Languages (EBLT) is launched. The EBLT was previously part of the European umbrella organisation EBLUL and had its own place on their website. Since 2010, that umbrella organisation no longer exists. The members of the EBLT have decided to join the European organisation Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD) and the EBLT continues its commitment on national and provincial level. Therefore, a new logo and a website are developed. Both are now visible on www.eblt.nl
The EBLT consists of representatives from 21 organisations who strive for the position of Frisian and Low Saxon. Regarding these two languages, the Netherlands has obligations to the international community, after the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe entered into force (1998).
The EBLT ensures the promotion and protection of Frisian and Low Saxon in the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe, and their institutions. For this purpose, legal and political support is sought at European, national and provincial level.
In May and June the country results of the Language Rich Europe project will be presented at various national events throughout Europe.
Questions that will be addressed at those events are: What is the situation in the country/region concerned with regard to language policy and practice and how does it compare to other European countries? What are possible areas for improvement? Is there enough attention and space for languages other than the national language? What is the importance of linguistic diversity in the fields of media, education, public services, and business?
The results for the Netherlands and Fryslân will be presented in Utrecht, on May 31st. In May and June results will also be presented in Switzerland, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Hungary, Barcelona, Madrid, Italy, the Basque Country, Estonia, Austria, Portugal, and the UK.
More dates and more information about the national events will be available on the LRE website in due course. You can also send an email if you have any questions about the presentations or about the project in general.
Language Rich Europe aims to create an informed dialogue with policymakers in government, educational institutions, public services, business and the media across Europe, highlighting the importance of multilingualism in achieving more prosperous and stable societies. It aims to encourage and enable these leaders to take a more strategic approach and increase investment in language education and use of languages across society. Multilingual policies and practices have been investigated in over 20 European countries. The results will be used to feed into the dialogue about multilingualism.
A summary of the news for February 2012.
The Centre for Research on Bilingualism of Bangor University held a seminar on 27 February. Guest speaker Alex Riemersma discussed the formal European policies on multilingualism based on the 23 working languages vis-à-vis the linguistic reality of millions of European citizens who speak an autochthonous minority or a migrant language. With both the Unesco Language Vitality Index and the European Charter for RMLs as points of reference he compared the relatively strong position of Catalan and Welsh with the much weaker position of Frisian. In all three cases, however, the transmission of the language within mixed-language families is under threat. Both Catalan and Welsh are strongly present in public life and in the linguistic landscape; Frisian is a strong oral cultural language, but much weaker in writing.
With reference to the Mercator study on Minimum Standards on Language Education in Regional and Minority languages (2007) he proposed two further comparative studies: one on the application of the Charter as instrument for language vitality in society; another on the Common European Framework of Reference for language command (and use) for individual European citizens, students and adults alike. Those studies might contribute to the further development of the concepts and subscales of the Unesco Language Vitality index.
The powerpoint presentation can be found here
A number of Hungarian Organisations “extra muros” held a conference in Düsseldorf (Germany) on 23-24 February. The aim of the conference was the exchange of experiences between Hungarian minorities outside Hungary and other European linguistic minorities such as German, Polish, Danish communities outside their respective ‘kin states’ as well as unique minority language communities such as Breton, Cornish, Frisian, Gaelic, and Welsh.
In his plenary speech, Christoph Pan (Südtiroler Volksgruppen-Institut in Bozen/Bolsano) mentioned the change of political perspective on minorities in the 20th century. He also referred to new perspectives within the EU Treaty of Lisbon, with respect to cross-border activities.
Karoly Kócsis discussed the situation of the 2,4 million Hungarians outside Hungary, 30% of all Hungarian speakers. In his view, the Charter on Regional or Local Autonomy of the Council of Europe could be applied in order to safeguard the position of those communities.
Alex Riemersma of the Mercator Research Centre presented (in German) the actual vitality situation and the official recognition of Frisian in the Netherlands as well as the application for Frisian of the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The powerpoint presentation can be found here (in German)
On March 29, a symposium “The future of Languages - more than just words” will be organised in Amsterdam, by the Club of Amsterdam. The symposium is organised within the framework of the Language Rich Europe project. The evening starts with three presentations and after that there will be an open discussion.
As a part of the Language Rich Europe project the current state of play as for multilingualism policy and practice has been researched in 20 European countries. Its results will be published in a publication as well as on an interactive website in May 2012.
The project advocates "multilingualism for stable and prosperous societies". We learn all our life how to communicate with each other. In the contemporary world with various borders becoming more and more blurred, it is even more tempting to use one common language. The most widely spoken constructed intralanguage, Esperanto, comes to mind.
What would the consequences be if we all spoke one language? History shows that languages that we use are not only about words. Federico Fellini, an Italian filmmaker, once said, "A different language is a different vision of life". But is there really a relationship between the language and the thought? If we do decide to learn another language, what is the easiest way to get a good grasp of it?
The newest technology offers stunning solutions for language learning. CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) is an immersive virtual reality environment where projectors are directed to three, four, five or six sides of a room-sized cube. It is used in experiments for language learning as it offers the unique opportunity to immerse into a different world and language. (The name is also the reference to the allegory of the Cave in Plato's Republic, where a philosopher contemplates perception, reality and illusion). On the other hand, the newest solutions for machine and real-time translation seem to undermine the effort required to speak other languages. Where will it lead us?
More information & registration
More about Language Rich Europe
New report: "Multilingualism in Secondary Education: A Case Study of the Province of Fryslân and the Basque Autonomous Community"
Recently, the Mercator Research Centre has published the report “Multilingualism in Secondary Education: A Case Study of the Province of Fryslân and the Basque Autonomous Community”, written by Truus de Vries and Elizabet Arocena-Egaña. This report is part of the research of the FRY-EUS project, which is carried out by Frisian researchers of Mercator and Basque researchers of the university of Donostia. Two reports have already been published about the educational systems in both regions and the use of the minority and dominant language within these systems.
For the current study, four researchers visited four secondary schools – two in Fryslân and two in the Basque Autonomous Community – every day, for one week, in order to observe which languages are used by pupils and teachers (amongst and between each other), to interview language teachers about their language attitude and about language policies, and to record the linguistic landscape in the school buildings.
In the Basque schools, the minority language proved to be much more visible than in the Frisian schools, both with respect to classroom conversations and with respect to the linguistic landscape. In both regions, teachers have a positive attitude towards multilingualism, but one can perceive that at the Basque schools that were visited, the use of the minority language is encouraged more than at the Frisian schools.
The report can be downloaded here. Later this year, a report about the proficiency levels in the minority, dominant, and English language of Frisian and Basque secondary school pupils will be published. In addition, a report will be written about the social context of English language learning in both regions (i.e. attitude, motivation, use, and exposure), and a report will appear about the teachers’ didactical approach.
For more information please visit the FRY-EUS page on our website.
A summary of the news for January 2012.
On 23-25 January, the Committee of Experts of the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, paid an on-the-spot-visit to the Netherlands. The delegation, consisting of Alexander Bröstl (Slovakia), Vera Klopcic (Slovenia), and Marieke Sanders (Netherlands), had meetings with representatives of the Limburgian language in Maastricht and the Lower Saxon language group in Assen; both which languages are recognised in part II of the Charter. The Lower-Saxon language community aims at recognition in part III.The meeting on the Frisian language in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden was divided in four sessions: public authorities & judiciary, education, culture & media, social & economic affairs.
The session on education covered all phases of the teaching and learning process. The main message of all representatives was that although the Netherlands has signed a reasonable number of 48 articles from part III of the Charter for Frisian, the implementation can be improved. Although the Netherlands were among the first countries to sign (1992) and to ratify the Charter (1996), the implementation of legislation and adequate measures is not taken seriously by the Dutch government. The third national report (2003-2007) was published with a considerable delay and the fourth (2008-2011) was very short (64 pages). The intended devolvement of legislative power to the provincial administration seems nice, but in practice it is hard to strengthen the position and the continuity of teaching and learning of Frisian from pre-school provisions through primary and secondary education. Alex Riemersma asked the Committee to further investigate and develop common standards with regard to the level of “substantial part” and “integral part” of education respectively. Similarly it is hard to implement the signed articles for teacher training and university level due to national legislation and financial constraints. The need was expressed that the Netherlands should sign (and implement) the relevant articles on vocational training.
On behalf of Mercator Research Centre Cor van der Meer highlighted the function of Mercator as “bringing Fryslân to Europe and Europe to Fryslân” – by means of several networks (Mercator Network, Network of Schools, Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity, Poliglotti4.eu as part of the Civil Society Platform, Language Rich Europe). He also stressed the need for structural basic funding for the Mercator Research Centre to sustain its existence and activities.