In Canada, Nova Scotia province’s Office of Gaelic Affairs has recently allotted over $40,000 to nine non-profit organisations with the goal of preserving and revitalising the Scottish Gaelic language. According to the Office’s website, one-third of Nova Scotians trace their roots back to Gaelic-speaking Scottish migrants who began arriving in the province in the late 1700’s.
The leader of Greek Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades, has filed a motion with the European Union Presidency to have Turkish registered as the 25th official language of the European Union. The move is generally being seen as part of a broader spectrum of initiatives and agreements between Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus leading toward reunification of the two states as a single federal political entity with two autonomous divisions.
The city council of Monmouthshire, Wales will request special exemptions regarding a set of Welsh language standards later this year. Those standards include the establishment of bilingual telephone services and the translation of council papers into Welsh. The Monmouthshire council could be fined if it fails to meet these standards in time and fails to be granted special exemptions.
High school students in Florida will now be able to take computer coding classes to fulfil their foreign language class requirements, after the approval of a new bill by the Florida Senate, reports USA Today. In spite of the support for the new bill, local groups have spoken out against the bill, citing the need for foreign language skills in order to “compete in today’s global economy”.
Colombia’s National Commemoration of Native Languages Day took place on the 21st of February, recognising the importance of its 68 native languages, widely representative of the country’s indigenous and migrant communities.
Commentaries and Features
In a strongly-worded commentary for The Conversation, Rachel Nordlinger ponders Australia’s rich linguistic landscape that seems to favour English on a national level, and implores Australians—and their monolingual politicians—to embrace the country’s multilingualism. “Some believe that language diversity is problematic, and that speaking one language produces harmony and unity. Interestingly, however, those who express this view seem to assume that it should be their language, English, that is chosen for this purpose. Would they feel equally strongly in favour of moving towards a single language if it were Mandarin, Arabic or Warlpiri?”
What does it mean to be a global citizen, and what does it have to do with the dwindling number of mother tongues around the world? The Costa Rica News warns of the harm done in denying students the access to education in a familiar language, and surveys studies that have proven this. A February 2016 paper by UNESCO’ s Global Education Monitoring Report (titled If you don’t understand, how can you learn?) says that “40% of the global population—the combined population of China, India, and the United States—does not access education in a language they understand”. The author reminds us that International Mother Language Day is celebrated on 21 February, to mark the day in 1952 when students were shot in Dhaka, Bangladesh for demonstrating for the recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of two national languages of what was then Pakistan. Through UNESCO’s studies, Ghana Business News highlights that children in rural areas were significantly left behind in the bid to make education accessible for all. In Ghana, “12% of underprivileged children have never been to school”.
Nigerian newspaper Vanguard News has published an editorial calling on the Federal government to lead (nationalist) initiatives in promoting local languages and dialects lest they go extinct: “We must, as a nation, wake up to the dangers of losing our local languages and dialects. Every great nation on earth socialises the populace to communicate effectively in their local languages. They do not speak English or French in China, Russia or any part of the Arab world. They speak their local languages.”
“We’re at a juncture where if we don’t do something drastically different, it will fade out.” In North Carolina, USA, the Cherokee language is in dire straits. To save the severely endangered language and in the hopes of making learning easier, Barbara Duncan and John Standingdeer Jr. have developed and are teaching students a method to “parse the [‘notoriously complex’] grammatical structure of Cherokee”. Previous strategies like free Cherokee language classes and apps have so far not been able to stop the declining number of Cherokee speakers.
Over in Montana, the Crow Tribe is using the Crow Apsaalooke language app to teach and revive fluency in their traditional language. The app was released in 2015 and jointly developed by the tribe and the Thornton Media company. Surveys indicate that among Crow Tribe adults, fluency in Apsaalooke has dropped from 86% to 26% in a span of 45 years.