RE: FWD: 2008 UN Year of Languages. 2008-02-28 International Mother Language Day

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Thu Feb 14 2008 - 00:04:50 CST

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    John Hudson wrote:
    > > Announcement - 2008 Year of Languages
    > > The year 2008 has been proclaimed International Year of
    > Languages by
    > > the United Nations General Assembly. With the slogan "languages
    > > matter!"
    > Thereby demonstrating a remarkable infelicity of language and
    > ponderous cliché. I wonder if the UN has a whole string of
    > such slogans -- woman matter! children matter! minorities
    > matter! water matters! -- the insistent formula of which
    > seems unlikely to inspire the respect that the things
    > themselves plainly deserve.

    It's true that it would give more probant results if the comaign was
    organized by focusing on regional projects that intended to restore the
    usage of regional or minority language and that finally helped into
    developing local economy, and improved the life and peace in a community or
    restore peace between communities, with little help from the goverment, but
    lots of involvement by the civil society, and promotion of the efforts for
    increasing the communication.

    Projects like schools promoting some hours in regional languages,
    translation projects meant to help education or facilitate the use of
    communication technologies, translation of local laws or regulation,
    information for the develomment of tourism including promotion of local
    artistic produtions, or adaptation of medis to local languages (songs,
    theaters, festivals, cinema, TV and radio programs, assistance for people
    not speaking a major language of the host country, including migrants to
    facilitate their integratation and access to essential local services,
    involvement of existing local enterprises to provide translations for
    tourists and migrants, help to provide decent meeting places for minorities
    where they can meet local economic actors, and promotion for students to
    incide them to learn at least foreign languages and basic knowledge of at
    least a second one, not necessarily a major one...)

    And examples taken from large organizations (including international ones,
    when they adopt programs to promote the usage of more languages than just a
    few working languages, for explaining what they are doing, and how they can
    be contacted using a regional or minority language: this involves querying
    the capabilities of their employees, and involving them in new tasks such as
    becoming "ambassadors" of their native community; many organizations are
    employing people from other origins, but that are not involved in decisive
    projects where their opinion may be important to understand the challenges
    and difficulties; instead of using this resource, they prefer paying some
    external communication companies that do not necessarily understand what are
    the products or services being created in the organization, and they don't
    use this resource to control how some translations or business documents or
    ads will be perceived in some targeted area of products delivery). Most of
    these actions are microprojects that are cost-effective, that can be
    intergrated in lots of larger projects, and that can really help an
    organization being well inserted and provide better service to minorities
    whose knowledge and culture will be given value, instead of just focusing on
    delivering services to a "median" customer whose definition severely limits
    their market.

    Of course there are some challenges, such as legal limitations: some
    countries are still restricting the langauge to use for official
    communications and advertizing, but it is very often possible to be
    multilingual: if it's not possible on TV or radio, it is often easy in other
    medias, and within the shops and product boxes, as well as most newspapers
    and magazines to insert at least one page, or reserve some space for other
    languages; on the web, there's no excuse for not supporting more languages,
    by providing at least a collaborative space for several languages (it's true
    that it will be hard to moderate, but moderation most often appears
    necessary only when a thread becomes "hot" between a small count of users.
    And abuses can also be signaled by other visitors knowing the language).

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