U.N. proclaims 2008 the International Year of Languages

Don Osborn dzo at bisharat.net
Mon Dec 31 18:35:48 UTC 2007


Thanks for this - I'm afraid there may be too much truth to the humor here
if there are not imaginative approaches to promoting substantive discussion
of language issues. The fact that this coming year has the name
"International Year of Languages" provides a platform or pretext for raising
various important issues. Such as the state of language policy and planning.

 

FYI, David Crystal has a short article entitled "What do we do with an
International Year of Languages?" at
http://www.crystalreference.com/DC_articles/Langdeath20.pdf . It's the only
serious consideration of IYL outside of the UN that I'm aware of, and seems
to be a good basis for discussion.

 

Dennis Baron's quip that "While the rest of the world lines up to support
the U.N.'s International Languages Year, U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad has announced that America's participation
remains problematic. ." is one of those that hides a truth but also could
mislead the casual reader. The issues like linguistic diversity that are
highlighted in IYL do not necessarily have broad support, and are even
opposed, as Crystal mentions and members of this list are more than aware.
The concept of linguistic diversity is misunderstood and/or dismissed by
some outside of the US too. So raising the profile of IYL, language issues,
and entities that work on them is a challenge as well as an opportunity.

 

I'm actually wondering if one practical step might be to set up a kind of
umbrella consortium framework of organizations concerned with language -
sort of like the civil society group connected to WSIS. The idea would be to
give a higher collective profile to the various entities working on various
aspects of language and linguistic diversity. It would not probably be able
to make any collective statements other than about the IYL in general and
the activities of members.  (Press releases or whatever mentioning the IYL)

 

One notes that 2008 is also Year of the Potato, Year of Planet Earth and a
couple of others, but the two named have central websites set up by
organizations independent of the UN or UNESCO (but collaborating with them).
An umbrella consortium (or however best to describe it) could host the a
website on IYL for instance.

 

Is there any interest or feedback on the concept?

 

Don Osborn

 

 

From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Dennis Baron
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2007 2:26 AM
To: web.of.language at expredir6.cites.uiuc.edu
Subject: U.N. proclaims 2008 the International Year of Languages

 

There's a new post on the Web of Language: 

 

U.N. proclaims 2008 the International Year of Languages

 

Insisting that everyone in the world should speak a language, the United
Nations General Assembly has declared 2008 the International Year of
Languages. Matsuura Koichiro, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will coordinate
international efforts to stress the importance of languages and promote
their study. . . .

 

To Matsuura, languages are essential both for individual identity and for
peaceful coexistence. Language eradicates poverty and hunger. Literacy and
education are useless without language to back them up. And language is
instrumental in fighting "HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases." UNESCO
underscores the connection between cultural diversity and linguistic
diversity, and with only about a quarter of all languages are used in
schools or in cyberspace, U.N. experts warn that up to half of the 7000
languages in the world are in danger of disappearing over the next few
generations. . . .

 

In conjunction with the International Year of Languages, UNESCO is
encouraging government policies that support the use of first languages
together with the learning of regional, national and international
languages, to ensure that everyone can participate in a globalizing world.
UNESCO also encourages everyone to "take a language to lunch" by learning
additional languages, both big and small, and it sponsors the annual World
Language Day, on Feb. 21, 2008, to celebrate everyone's right to use their
native tongue in all aspects of their daily lives and to honor the martyrs
who have died to preserve their linguistic rights.

 

While the rest of the world lines up to support the U.N.'s International
Languages Year, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad
has announced that America's participation remains problematic. The Bush
administration is claiming that languages were theories, not
scientifically-proven facts, and the president himself recently affirmed his
belief that God created English in just six days and promised to veto the
use of federal funds to teach language evolution to impressionable children.

 

Read the rest of this exciting post on the Web of Language,

 

www.uiuc.edu/goto/weboflanguage

 

and a happy New Year to all,

 

 

Dennis Baron

Professor of English and Linguistics

Department of English                    

University of Illinois 

608 S. Wright St.

Urbana, IL 61801                                               

 

office: 217-244-0568

fax: 217-333-4321

 

 <http://www.uiuc.edu/goto/debaron> www.uiuc.edu/goto/debaron

 

read the Web of Language:

 <http://www.uiuc.edu/goto/weboflanguage> www.uiuc.edu/goto/weboflanguage













 

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