[lg policy] Fwd: Language Symposium Discusses Sustainable Development Goals

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Apr 29 10:35:53 UTC 2016

 Forwarded From: <lpren at caltalk.cal.org>
Date: Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 12:04 PM
Language Symposium Discusses Sustainable Development Goals

*Language Symposium Discusses Sustainable Development Goals*

*New York, April 22, 2016.  *Language and the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) was the topic of a symposium held at the Church Center for the
United Nations, in New York, on April 21 and 22, 2016.  Over one hundred
academics, diplomats, NGO representatives and UN officials attended the
gathering, which examined the linguistic implications of the SDGs, set by
the United Nations General Assembly as the basis for the UN’s development
agenda for the period 2015-2030.

The keynote address was given by Suzanne Romaine, former Merton Professor
of the English Language at the University of Oxford.  Michael Ten-Pow,
Special Adviser to the UN Coordinator for Multilingualism, described his
work in the promotion and maintenance of multilingualism within the United
Nations itself.

The event was held to highlight the importance of language as a means for
the communication of the SDGs to all of the world’s peoples, and as an
element in the successful realization of the goals themselves. Referring to
the fourth SDG, on quality education, Timothy Reagan, of the University of
Maine, pointed out that “in spite of the centrality of linguistic issues
for this goal, and others, it is interesting to note that language is not
explicitly mentioned anywhere in the goals themselves, nor in the
articulation of the targets to be met in meeting these goals.”  “Despite
their lofty goals,” added Professor Romaine of Oxford University, the SDGs
“still fail to acknowledge the central role of language in the global
debate on poverty, sustainability, and equity.”

The symposium discussed language not only as an element in individual goals
themselves, but also as the means of communicating the goals and engaging
in dialogue with a multilingual world.  Stress was laid on the importance
of two-way communication in which everyone could participate fully.

Speakers included: Katalin Buzasi, of the University of Amsterdam; Terrence
G. Wiley (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, DC); Kurt Müller
(National Defense University, Washington, DC); Lisa McEntee-Atalianis
(Birkbeck, University of London, UK); Theo Du Plessis (University of the
Free State, South Africa); Carol Benson (Teachers College, Columbia
University), Dragana Radosavljevic (University of Greenwich, UK); Francis
M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden); Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow,
UK); and María Barros and Anna García Álvarez, of the UN’s Spanish
Translation Service.  Presentations were given by NGO representatives from
World Education, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, RTI
International, SIL International, the Internationals Network for Public
Schools, Linguapax International, and UN Academic Impact.

“Education is key to the success of post-colonial development efforts to
eradicate economic and social inequalities,” declared Rosemary Salomone,
professor of law at St. John’s University.  “And the other SDGs are equally
important linguistically,” added Humphrey Tonkin, of the University of
Hartford, chair of the symposium; “How can you have equality before the
law, or livable cities, or even a worldwide concerted effort to eradicate
disease or deliver clean water, if you do not have people speaking and
working together, through languages that they all understand?”

It was the general consensus of the gathering that more attention needs to
be paid to language in the formulation and execution of the SDGs. While
development experts may be fluent in English, many of the people they seek
to serve know none of the major world languages.

The symposium, convened by the Study Group on Language and the United
Nations, a loosely-organized group of academics and practitioners,  was
sponsored by the Universal Esperanto Association, an organization in
cooperative relations with the UN’s Economic and Social Council and its
Department of Public Information, and by the Center for Applied
Linguistics, along with the Center for Research and Documentation on World
Language Problems and its journal *Language Problems and Language
Planning.  *The symposium was funded by a grant from the Esperantic Studies

Humphrey Tonkin

President Emeritus & University Professor of the Humanities

*Office:  *Mortensen Library, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT
06117, USA

Tel: +1 860-768-4448    Fax: +1 860-768-4274

*Home: *279 Ridgewood Road, West Hartford, CT 06107, USA

Tel: +1 860-561-2669

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