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Number 137 - November 2017


The Mercator newsletter informs you about the news of the Mercator Network partners:

Mercator Research Centre (Fryske Akademy)
Mercator Media Mercator Legislation / CUSC-UB
Stockholm University Research Institute for Linguistics

Newsletter focusing on multilingual regions dealing with regional or minority languages, but also immigrant languages and smaller state languages, with emphasis on language needs arising from migration and globalization. Submit your subscription request, comments or suggestions to: Johanneke Buning (Fryske Akademy).

Interesting Links

November 9th: NPLD conference Brussels

  NPLD conference Brussels

By: Helga Zandberg

On november 9th 2017, Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning and the European Bureau for Small Languages (EBLT) attended the conference on “Current Challenges for Minority Languages in today’s complex societies”, organized by the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD) and Centre Maurits Coppieters.

President of the NPLD Sietske Poepjes discussed Brexit and the current events in Catalonya in her opening remarks. She also stressed the importance of the Minority SafePack Initiave, which aims to strengthen the position of minorities and minority languages within the European Union. The initiative still needs a lot of signatures to become valid! All European citizens who agree that minorities and minority languages should receive additional protection within the European Union, can sign:

Sign the initiative here.

Mrs Poepjes presentation was followed by others, including one by Michael Teutsch of D-G education, youth, sports and culture, who discussed the European Union's focus in the coming years on border regions and developing new materials for multilingual classrooms. Dafydd Trystan from the Welsh National College discussed research showing that speakers of both Welsh and English do more exercise (and are healthier), and are employed more quickly after graduation than monolingual English speakers. Cor van der Meer from Mercator European Research Centre presented on the trilingual schools in Fryslân, the Netherlands, and the introduction of the "inclusive model", an innovative educational model that takes into account the linguistic backgrounds of immigrant and refugee children in the class room.

Tatar language education in Tatarstan will be reduced


The president of Tatarstan - one of Russia’s republics — has announced that the teaching of Tatar will be reduced from the current 6 hours per week to 2. President Minnikhanov added that his government will not fire any Tatar language teachers, but that the number of Russian language teachers will be increased.

The Russian presidency has admitted it has “given instruction” to Tatarstan authorities regarding a reduction of Tatar hours in education. The decision is taken despite a protest on November 6 by 150 people in Tatarstan’s capital Kazan. Protesters demanded equality of Tatar and Russian, which both are official languages according to Tatarstan's Constitution. The use of Tatar is receding among younger sectors of society, being unable to resist the pressure of Russian.

These events take place after Russian president Vladimir Putin said in July that “it is impermissible” to force ethnic Russians to learn languages other than their mother tongue. One month later, the power-sharing, bilateral treaty between the Russian Federation and Tatarstan, which was signed in 2007 for a 10 year period, expired. The Russian federal centre still has not renewed the agreement.

Source: Nationalia

Updates from the Critical Skills, Teaching in Diversity, and COMBI projects

  Kick-off Critical Skills for Life and Work

By: Anna-Fardau Schukking, Marlous Visser, and Jorrit Huizinga

The project Critical Skills for Life and Work had its kick-off on the 17th of November at the University of Newcastle. In collaboration with the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK), Action Foundation (UK) and the Universitaet Graz (AU), Mercator Research Centre is trying to enhance the employability and integration of highly skilled refugees.

Project aim is to design and implement effective training tools for enhancing key skills and competences of skilled refugees and the language teachers who work with them. The project outcome will be a toolkit which is comprised of two training modules, one aimed at highly skilled refugees, the other at the teachers who work with them. For more information about the project Critical Skills for Life and Work, click here.

On November 13 and 14, a partner meeting of the Teaching in Diversity project took place. DANMAR Computers in Rzeszow (Poland) hosted the meeting.

In this meeting, which was considered very fruitful, the focus was on the development of a training module and package. The goal of the project is to equip school teachers with the necessary knowledge and understanding for teaching in diversity, to establish an international educators' network, and to develop open educational resources, a training module, and an online training package for teachers. The next partner meeting will take place in Bulgaria (Sofia) on March 27 & 28. For more information about the Teaching in Diversity project, click here.

On the Friday 24 November, the partners in the COMBI project convened in Helsinki to discuss the progress of the project and plans for the coming period. The meeting was hosted by the Finnish partner, the education institute Axxell.

At the meeting it was decided that the next COMBI multiplier event will be in Palermo, on 11 June 2018. At this event, various COMBI products will be officially presented, including the Teacher Training Toolkit and its accompanying online training modules. More information on the project can be found on the COMBI website.

Events at CUSC: interview with the director of Mercator Partner CUSC and one of its students; CUSC linguist instructs the Catalans on the new spelling and grammar rules


F. Xavier Vila Moreno, member of Mercator Network partner CUSC, and Xavier Mas Craviotto, a student at CUSC were interviewed by El Periódico to talk about the situation of the Catalan language and about the role of Catalan philologists in society. Topics under discussion included the importance of translations, career prospects for Catalan Philology students and the internalization of the Catalan language.

Read the Catalan version or the Spanish version of the interview.

In addition, to introduce Catalans to the new spelling and grammar rules of the Catalan language, Neus Nogué, linguist at CUSC, gave the course “Main features of the new rules of the Catalan language” (“Característiques principals de la nova normativa”) at several locations in Girona.

For more information about the course, click here.

Macedonia Lawmakers Advance Albanian Language Bill


Macedonia's parliament has given preliminary approval to legislation that would extend the official use of the Albanian language to the entire country. In its first reading on November 15, lawmakers voted 66-41 in favor of the bill, which is meant in part to make it easier for members of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority to communicate with institutions such as municipalities, hospitals, and courts.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had promised to bring in the law when he struck a coalition deal with Albanian parties earlier this year. Ahead of the vote, lawmaker Ilija Dimovski of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party described the text as unconstitutional and discriminatory against Macedonian and the other languages spoken by the country’s citizens.

The proposed legislation needs to pass two more readings in the legislature before it is sent to President Gjorge Ivanov for signing.

Read more at Radio Free Europe.

Catalonia up-close: understanding Catalonia

By: Helga Zandberg

27 November the EBLT, the University of Groningen, Tryater, and Mercator Research Centre organized in Ljouwert (NL) an evening full of insights and discussions concerning the Catalonian situation.

The evening was kicked off by Froukje de Jong en Cor van der Meer. Prof. dr. Goffe Jensma fan de RUG made a comparison between Fryslân en Kataloanië by discussing the regions' history and their economic situations. Sybrand Grasdijk, journalist in training from Groningen, had visited Catalonia during the prelude to the referendum, and made a documentary about it, of which a shortened version was shown. Dr Eva Daussa, linguistics teacher at the University of Groningen, discussed the cultural, historical and political context of the conflict. She related the words from Franco: they could do with Spain as they saw fit, as long as it would remain a whole. It's one of the reasons that, for the government in Madrid, Catalonian independence is simply not an option. Dr. Tilman Lanz discussed Catalonia's pacifistic nationalism, and Guillem Belmar, a Catalonian himself, addressed the Catalonians' need to be heard.

Many reactions came from the public that evening: those attending appreciated that the events in Catalonia were discussed, and were critical of the one-sidedness of the Dutch media.

The long-term future of the Gaelic language in the Outer Hebrides is under threat, according to a leading academic.


October 12th - This warning came after new figures showed a decline in pupils studying Gaelic in parts of the Western Isles. Once regarded as the traditional stronghold of the language, numbers sitting Gaelic exams in the third and fourth year of secondary school have fallen from 78 to just 24 in the past decade. The decline mirrors a drop across Scotland with a nine per cent fall in entries for all Gaelic exams in 2017.

Professor Rob Dunbar, chair of Celtic languages at Edinburgh University, said he was concerned for the future of the language: “The number of children from Gaelic speaking homes seem to be declining and we are now at a point where just a bare majority of the population are Gaelic speaking." “Based on the numbers of young people learning the language it won’t be too long until Gaelic speakers are in a minority in the Western Isles." “It raises questions about whether parents are passing on the language and, in these circumstances, the long-term viability of the language on the islands is in serious trouble.”

Mr Dunbar called on Western Isles Council, which is responsible for four secondary schools on the islands, to do more to promote Gaelic.

Read more at The Herald

Symposium on mixed languages in It Bildt.


11 October, the Fryske Akademy organized a symposium on mixed languages in It Bildt (the Netherlands). Chairman of the day was Mercator Research member Cor van der Meer.

First to present was Dr Hans van der Velde of the Fryske Akademy. Van der Velde discussed what was to be done next, now that the Dutch government had rejected an official language status for It Bildst. How to best preserve a language without status such as It Bildts? Afterwards, Dr Alex Riemersma discussed language policy of the province of Fryslân, Abel Darwinkel of the "Huus van Taol' (House of language) spoke with heart of the Drent language, and Liesbeth Varkevisser called out for more educational materials to teach the Bildt language.

It was a small gathering of 25 people that day, but as Cor van der Meer said, it's only the beginning, the Dutch language Union and the province of Fryslân supported this, and that's a good thing.

Call for Papers,
1st Conference on Frisian Humanities | Multilingualism

  first Conference on Frisian Humanities

On 23 to 26 April 2018, the Fryske Akademy organizes the first Conference on Frisian Humanities, as part of the project Lân fan taal (Land of language) of Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture 2018.

On 25 and 26 April, the focus of the conference will be on multilingualism. The purpose is to bring together practitioners, policy-makers and researchers of multilingualism. This part is organised jointly by Mercator European Research Centre and AFUK (Frisian language promotion).

Invited speakers:
Jim Cummins (University of Toronto), John Edwards (St Francis Xavier University), Jasone Cenoz (University of the Basque Country), Yaron Matras (University of Manchester), Durk Gorter (University of the Basque Country), Itesh Sachdev (SOAS University of London), Daniel Cunliffe (University of South Wales)

  logo lan fan taal.png

Call for papers
We invite papers in all fields of multilingualism to stimulate discussion and novel ideas in the field of multilingualism. We are particularly interested in papers covering new trends on multilingualism research such as: Long-term effects of fostering multilingualism, Language promotion, Multilingual practices in social media, Encounters between different languages (e.g. minority, migrant and foreign languages), Approaches for teaching multiple languages.

Abstracts (maximum of 500 words) should be sent to Work in progress and research plans are very welcome in the poster session. The main working language of the symposium will be English. Some sessions might also take place in Frisian and Dutch.

For more information, download the call for papers (Frisian version) (English version)
Or visit the website of the first Conference on Frisian Humanities.

Interesting Links

Mukurtu CMS, The free, mobile, and open source platform built with indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage.

15th issue of the CUSC scientific magazine “Llengua, Societat i Comunicació (LSC)”, (in Spanish) .

Website of the Protocol to ensure language rights, document drafted to support the 1996 Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights.

“Reality and evolution of the (Balearic) Islands on the basis of original groups and uses of languages”, VILA, F. XAVIER; SOROLLA, NATXO (in Spanish).

The Structure of the European Education Systems 2017/18, Schematic Diagrams, published by Eurydice.

Report of the European Language Equality Network 2017 Valencia General Assembly, November 10th to 11th in Valencia.


2 December 2017, London (UK) Developing Pathways to Impact: A Training Workshop for Early Career Researchers in Bi-/Multilingualism and Education, workshop.

8 - 10 December, Graz (Austria) Language Education across Borders, conference.

18 - 20 January 2018, London (UK) Multilingualism and Multilingual Identities in World Literatures, organised by SOAS London.

1 - 3 February 2018, Dublin (UK) International Conference on Language, Identity and Education in Multilingual Contexts (LIEMC18), held at Marino Institute of Education, Trinity College Dublin.

14 - 16 March 2018, Oviedo (Spain) 1st International Conference on Research in Multilingualism: Innovation and New Challenges, Conference.

16 - 18 April 2018, Cambridge (UK) Global Approaches to Multilingualism and Standardisation, conference.

23 - 26 April 2018, Leeuwarden (The Netherlands) 1st Conference on Frisian Humanities, organized by the Fryske Akademy.

3 - 5 May 2018, Amsterdam (The Netherlands) Contested Languages in the Old World, hosted by the University of Amsterdam.

9 - 10 May 2018, Agadir (Morocco) 1st International Conference on Multilingualism and Multilingual Education, organized by the The laboratory of Values, Society and Development (LVSD), call for papers Deadline: January 15, 2018.

18 - 20 June 2018, Stockholm (Sweden) Exploring Language Eduation: Global and Local Perspectives.

20 - 24 June 2018, Leeuwarden (NL) FUEN congress 2018.

4 - 6 July 2018, Soria (Spain) 4th International Colloquium on Languages, Cultures, Identity, in School in Society, now open for abstract submission. Call for proposals deadline: January 31, 2018.

13 - 15 September 2018, Lissabon (Spain) XIth International Conference on Multilingualism and Third Language Acquisition , now open for abstract submission. Deadline: October 30.

27-28 September 2018, Sestri Levante, Genoa (Italy) 3rd International Conference on the Sociolinguistics of Immigration (Slimig2018), organized by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Modern Cultures of the University of Turin (Italy). Call for proposals deadline: February 19, 2018.