[lg policy] Interest Drops in Turkey's Minority Language Courses
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Sat Mar 31 14:56:44 UTC 2012
Interest Drops in Turkey's Minority Language Courses
Posted GMT 3-31-2012 1:44:7
Private courses launched in recent years to teach Turkey's minority
languages have not attracted much attention despite the minimal fees
they charge, and some believe the lack of interest in such courses has
to do with Turkey's long-lasting policies.
"Attendance rates for these courses may be low; this goes to show how
far people started losing their connection with their mother tongues.
Imagine a person who knows his roots are Laz (a Black Sea people,) but
who does not know his identity or language. It is very difficult for
this person to attempt to learn the language because this has no
reciprocity in life," Altan Açıkdilli, the head of the Anatolia
Research and Culture Association (AKA-DER,) told Hürriyet Daily News.
The mother tongues of Turkey's minorities ought to be granted
constitutional protection, rather than being forced to wage individual
struggles to survive, according to Açıkdilli, whose organization
launched courses in Istanbul, Ankara and Antakya two years ago to
teach a number of languages, including Armenian, Kurdish and Zaza, a
dialect of Kurdish.
"It is possible to jumpstart the teaching of these languages through
courses, but strength of will, or constitutional guarantees, in other
words, will be necessary for people to follow through with it.
Infrastructure is a primary condition for learning languages, but the
infrastructure needed to teach and learn many such languages is
lacking on this geography," Açıkdilli said.
Some 23 organizations launched a joint initiative called "The
Constitution of the Peoples," including AKA-DER, the European Syriac
Union, Nor Zartonk (a civil initiative of Istanbul Armenians) and the
Georgian Platform, he said, adding they had also appealed to the
national government in Ankara to hold talks on the matter, but to no
avail. "To gain the right to learn one's mother tongue requires a
political struggle in Turkey, and a price must be paid," he said. "We
are endeavoring to make progress in the midst of a great unknown.
Learning one's mother tongue as a child ought to be a natural part of
If you cultivate a tree and give it form, it then becomes difficult to
give it another form," Açıkdilli said. Prohibitive policies have
reigned in Turkey for years, while many languages were banned, and
they ostracized and humiliated, according to Açıkdilli. "This is part
of the policy of denial. Denial also contains annihilation within
itself. This process is unfortunately still in progress. Despite all
the difficulties encountered, language courses ought to move forward
with determination," he said.
By Vercihan Ziflioğlu
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