“Language is core to our identity, it is the carrier of history, traditions, customs and folklore from one generation to another. Without language, no culture can sustain its existence.”  Said Ferran Suay, European Language Equality Network (ELEN) President, in a statement to mark International Mother Language Day on 21 February as well as 2019 as the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Professor Suay continued that. “While it is important that we celebrate International Mother Language Day, it is not enough to just celebrate it and leave things the way they are. Although there has been some progress there is still a lot to be done in order to ensure that we all enjoy the same conditions and receive the same respect, no matter what our language is. Substantive improvements have to be made in terms of domestic as well as European-level language legislation. For example, the recent CALRE Recommendations, proposed by the Valencian Government to the EU, that were jointly developed with ELEN, are a list of improvements which we expect to be implemented by the EU.”

ELEN Secretary-General Davyth Hicks added that, “On International Mother Language Day we should remind States that language rights are a fundamental human right. We need to ensure that minoritised and endangered language speakers everywhere are able to use their languages normally, that they have access to education, justice, media, public services and medical care through their languages, as well as preventing language discrimination. However, regarding European minoritised and endangered languages, the EU and most Member-State governments are yet to fully recognize language rights as a fundamental human right.”

ELEN is working with its member organisations for measures to help normalize European minoritised languages including: linguistic normalization legislation, guaranteed access to immersion education, publicly financed radio and TV, an EU Directive for endangered European languages, a European Languages Commissioner and Observatory for Language Rights, adoption of the Donostia Protocol, community development initiatives aimed at strengthening the communal resilience of minority culture, as well as adequate financial resources to guarantee that these measures are fully implemented.

In his statement for IMLD, UN Special Rapporteur for Minorities Fernand de Varennes, said that. “It is essential to move away from the ideology that societies and states should only have one language to the exclusion of all others when this clashes with the linguistic rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. International Mother Language Day is thus an opportunity to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity – and to recognise and protect all the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples relating to language.”

The Special Rapporteur issued the UN OHCHR statement in 27 languages including Welsh, Irish, Breton, Catalan, Galician and Basque with translations provided by ELEN member organisations.

Language and education will also be the focus of the upcoming UN 2019 Forum on Minority Issues (Europe) to be held in Brussels in May, organised under the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur with the collaboration of the European Language Equality Network. (Eurolang 2019)

UNESCO IMLD page: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/motherlanguageday

UN Special Rapporteur for Minorities Fernand de Varennes IMLD Statement 

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