Report: Germany's minority languages in danger

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Sep 15 12:56:23 UTC 2008

Report: Germany's minority languages in danger
Published: Friday 11 July 2008

Minority languages in Germany are in danger of extinction and
legislation must be drawn up to protect them, according to a Council
of Europe report released on 9 July. The report  , which is the third
on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages in the country, identifies North Frisian, Sater Frisian and
Lower Sorbian among those particularly at risk. The European Charter
for Regional or Minority Languages was adopted by the Council of
Europe in June 1992 and came into force in 1998. It seeks to promote
threatened languages as part of Europe's cultural heritage and
facilitate their use in daily life. So far, it has been ratified by 23
countries and signed by a further 10.

Based on the report, the Council calls on the German government to
introduce "specific legal provisions" to preserve its threatened
languages, lamenting that many of the recommendations of previous
reports have not been acted upon.  Primary and secondary education
should be made available in regional and minority languages and steps
taken to boost their use on radio and television, urges the report,
which calls on the German government to provide adequate education in
Upper Sorbian, Low German and Romani in particular.

Moreover, the Council asks Germany to ensure that all its languages
currently under the charter's protection – among which Danish features
in addition to the above - can be used in dealings with the
administration and the courts. In response, Germany said its
"competent authorities do not invariably share the views and
evaluations" of the Council. But it would not do the report justice to
comment further before consulting with the Länder, said the Interior
Ministry in a statement, explaining that the government will be able
to react in detail when the next such report is published.

French regional languages: a threat to national unity?  Meanwhile,
language issues also caused a stir in France last month, where a bid
to include the statement "regional languages are part of France's
heritage" in the constitution stalled in Parliament. Such tongues
include Breton, Corsican, Occitan and Alsatian, but Article Two of the
constitution states that "the language of the Republic is French".
Despite passing the lower house, the amendment was rejected by the
Senate after the Académie Française - an influential cultural body –
warned that it constituted an "attack on national identity" and a
threat to "national unity". France is yet to ratify the European
Charter, while the amendment bill was returned to deputies for second

At the European level, the Commission is set to publish its new
Multilingualism Strategy in September. At its heart is a
recommendation that EU citizens learn two foreign languages in
addition to their mother tongue - one for professional reasons and
alongside another 'personal adoptive language' (EurActiv 19/02/08).

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