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Number 139 - February/March 2018

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).


International Mother Language Day 2018 celebrated in Fryslân


By: Helga Zandberg

For International Mother Language Day 2018, it Europeesk Buro foar Lytse Talen (EBLT), Slieker Film, and Mercator European Research Center presented award-winning Roma film Cigán! from Slovakia. For the film, director Martin Sulik and producer Rudolf Biermann, worked together with amateur actors from a Roma community in Eastern Slovakia. The film is mostly spoken in Roma language, which is exceptional. The result is a lively and interesting film, giving an insight in the hard life of the poor rural Roma community. The film Cigán! made a huge impression throughout Europe and was the official Slovakian participant in the Oscar category best movie in a foreign language.

Peter Jorna, who’s been making an effort to improve the position of Sinti and Roma in the Netherlands and other European countries ever since 1991, gave a short introduction to the film. Jorna is a consultant social inclusion and member of the EU Roma Platform.

As a prelude to the main film Cigán!, Maltese film ‘Daqqet ix-Xita’ (Plangent Rain, with Frisian subtitles by Geertrui Visser) by young Maltese filmmaker Kenneth Scicluna was shown. This mysterious film with beautiful imagery gives a totally different view of Malta. The film was inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet. The film was offered by European Capital of Culture 2018 Valletta.

International Mother Language Day also saw actions to collect signatures for the Minority SafePack Initiative. Minority SafePack's organizer, FUEN worked together with Mercator European Research Center, EBLT, the Ried fan de Fryske Beweging, and many more, to set up locations for people to sign the initiative and to spread information about the SafePack throughout the country.

March 15: COMBI presents at the Intergroup in Strasbourg

  COMBI logo

On March 15, two representatives of the COMBI project, of which Mercator European Research Center is coordinating partner, will present at the Intergroup: Petra Elser and Gwennan Higham, will go to Strasbourg’s parliament to discuss minority challenges in the elderly care sector.

A study by the COMBI project has shown that there is no systematic teaching of minority languages ​​in territories where users of geriatric or health care services use both the dominant and the minority language.

In order to change this situation, together with other minority language communities, COMBI needs your help in determining the steps to be taken. Are you a vocational training teacher? Or do you work in the elderly care or health care sector? Do you have an attachment to the minority language in your region or country? Send your suggestions about the following two questions:

- Which option or path do you see to incorporate a minority language into Vocational Training – considering that the greatest part (and, in some countries, all) of Vocational Training is offered in the main language and that many workers in these sectors are migrants?
- What recommendations would you give to the European Union to ensure that workers can learn minority languages for professional use ​​in training projects funded by European Institutions (always bearing in mind the socio-sanitarian and healthcare sector and the fact that these programs include many migrant workers)?

Submit your contribution to Petra Elser and it will be taken into account!

No co-official status for Corsican language


The French president Emmanuel Macron is not willing to grant the Corsican language a co-official status. In a speech that Macron recently gave in Bastia, Corsica, in which he ruled out a Corsican Statute of Autonomy with law-making powers, the president states that he is a supporter of bilingualism, but insists that the only official language in France is French. Eventhough he offered to negotiate and include a specific recognition of Corsica in the French Constitution, in their fight for more autonomy, the Corsican government and Assembly, interpret their president's vision as "humiliating" for not showing any respect for the Corsican people.


For a Regional Dossier on the Corsican language in France, see here.

Position of Catalan language in Catalonian schools under pressure


Currently in Catalonia, Catalan is the main working language at school, while Spanish is taught for several hours a week. However, now that Catalan's self-rule has been absolved under article 155, this policy in schools is under pressure.

Ciudadanos, the pro-unity party that won the most votes at the December election in Catalonia, is demanding changes to correct what it views as a pro-independence bias in regional education guidelines. Also, Spain’s education minister, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo – who is temporarily acting as Catalan education chief – is analyzing formulas that would allow families residing in Catalonia to choose Spanish as the main language of learning for their children.

When Article 155 was triggered in October 2017, the central government in Madrid became in charge of all aspects of Catalan government from public health care to firefighting contingency plans, and also education. Self-government can only be reinstalled once a new regional government is in place. In the recent elections of December 2017, though the pro-unity party Ciudadanos won the most votes, pro-independence parties secured a renewed majority. As of yet, a new Catalan government is still not in place.

Read more on the current situation of Catalan in schools in an interview with Xavier Villa of Mercator CUSC-UB in El Nacional.

Read more about current developments in Catalonia:
Catalonia election: full results
Are new Catalan elections on cards despite the pro-independence majority?
Spanish government plans to end “Catalan-only” school language policy

Call for widening territory Romansh language


On February 20, it was exactly 80 years ago that the Romansh language was accepted as the fourth Swiss national language. For the Lia Rumantscha association it is not a day for celebration, but for a call for more government support, now that Romansh has been classified as a language at risk by UNESCO.

The Lia Rumantscha association, the umbrella organisation for all Romansh-speaking individuals and organisations, calls for a widening of the Romansh official territory. They would like to see the whole of Switzerland to be recognised as the official territory of the language, rather than just the Graubünden canton, in the east of Switzerland. Almost one-third of the Romansh-speaking population lives and works outside Graubünden, and therefore Lia Rumantscha wants the government to make Romansh education and training possible across the whole country.


For a Regional Dossier on the Romansh language in Switzerland, see here.

Spanish court bans preferential use of Aranese


The Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid bans the provision that gives 'preference' to the Aranese language in local administrations, media and education. The European Language Equality Network is worried and states that this ruling is a violation of international treaties that Spain has ratified.

Only seven years ago, the Catalan Parliament agreed on a bill for the possibility of positive discrimination of Aranese, a dialect spoken by less than 10,000 people in the Val d'Aran region in the Catalan Pyrenees. Madrid now claims that "giving more priority to Aranese than to Catalan and Spanish is not in line with the Spanish Constitution."

The Institut d’Estudis Aranesi (the Aranese Research Centre) thinks that the court ruling is a dramatic decision. It firmly believes that the Aranese language is still alive due to the fact that it is socially present as a result of the language policy of local administrations and institutions.


For a list of Council of Europe members that have signed and / or ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, see here. For more information about the difference between signing and ratifying a treaty see here.

United Kingdom fails to provide the Council of Europe with information on Irish and Ulster Scots


Irish language advocacy group Pobal has criticized the British government for not providing information to the Council of Europe on how Irish and Ulster-Scots are being promoted in Northern Ireland. Under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, the government is meant to provide required information every four years.

In a statement, the Department for Communities (DfC), which is responsible for collecting the relevant information in Northern Ireland said: "The periodic input in respect of Northern Ireland under the charter would have required the approval of the executive." "This could not be obtained last year in the absence of a functioning executive".

Janet Muller, Director of Irish language advocacy group, POBAL, stated however that "For the last ten years, there has been disagreement at Stormont about the contents of these reports and no information was supplied regarding Irish or Ulster Scots here". "This shows how vulnerable Irish is within the Stormont institutions. This time round, the British government has blamed the breakdown of Stormont for the last year, but in reality, final responsibility for reporting on the Charter lies with the British government itself".

Source: Irish News

Mercator visits the Parliament in the Basque Country


Friday, March 9, two colleagues from Mercator European Research Center, Joana Duarte and Cor van der Meer, were invited by the Parliament of the Basque Country to discuss language in non-university education.

Points under discussion included the situation of the Frisian language in education in Fryslân and new developments in that area. In addition the formal cooperation, that existed between the Basque Country and Fryslân from 2007 to 2014, was discussed.

The discussion proved highly fruitful.

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.

Though the call for papers deadline has expired, it is still possible to attend the conference

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).

  logo lan fan taal.png

Invited and confirmed 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)

A draft programme of the conference will be available soon. The main working language of the symposium will be English. Some sessions might also take place in Frisian and Dutch.

You can register for the conference here.
Visit the website of the first Conference on Frisian Humanities.

Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative!

first Conference on Frisian Humanities

The Minority Safepack Initiative can be signed until April 3, 2018.
It already has 840.000 signatures but needs 1.000.000, and there are only 3 weeks left.

The Minority Safepack Initiative calls upon the EU to improve the protection of persons belonging to national and linguistic minorities and strengthen cultural and linguistic diversity in the Union. It shall include policy actions in the areas of regional and minority languages, education and culture, regional policy, participation, equality, audio visual and other media content, and also regional (state) support. Any person above 18 years old, who is a citizen of a EU Member State, can sign.

The stakes are high and this opportunity will not come back again! Please sign and share!
sign the Minority Safepack Initiative.

Interesting Links

Changes in language use with peers during adolescence: a longitudinal study in Catalonia, Publication by Mercator CUSC-UB researcher Bretxa, Vanessa et al. in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

Icelandic language battles threat of 'digital extinction', article in The Guardian by Jon Henley.

GPs and dentists will be exempt from Welsh language rules, article on BBC News.

UG/Campus Fryslân co-founder of the Center for Promoting Cultural Continuity, in Warschau.

multilingualism offers little advantages, suggests research by PhD researcher Anna Pot (in Dutch).

“Botifarra d’ou autèntica” (Authentic egg “butifarra”, a Catalan sausage), article by Mercator CUSC-UB researcher Llorenç Comajoan. Llorenç Comajoan, a CUSC researcher on Vilaweb where he problematizes the "authenticity" of languages.


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

3 - 6 April 2018, Leiden (NL) Citizen Science Lab: Sampling Language and Culture , workshop organized by NIAS.

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).

21 - 22 May 2018, Manchester (UK) Multilingual Landscapes: Planning, Policy, and Contact Linguistic Perspectives, organized by the The laboratory of Values, Society and Development (LVSD).

24 May 2018, València (ES) Towards a multilingual society: the value of teaching and learning heritage, home, regional languages at an early age, organized by the NPLD.

7 - 8 June 2018, Stockholm (Sweden) The FIPLV Nordic-Baltic Region (NBR) Conference 2018 "Teaching and Learning Languages in the 21st Century: Linguistic, Educational and Cultural Aspects", Call for Papers deadling: April 5, 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. .

30 August - 1 September 2018, Malta Multilingual Education in Linguistically Diverse Contexts 2018 , hosted by the University of Malta.

13 - 15 September 2018, Lissabon (Spain) XIth International Conference on Multilingualism and Third Language Acquisition .

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.

22-24 November 2018, Talinn (Estonia) Multilingual Awareness and Multilingual Practices (MAMP18), organized by Tallinn University, School of Humanities .