Welcome to Linguis Europae, the EUC's language blog!

Linguis Europae is dedicated to a range of topics involving official state, regional, and minority languages in the EU. Posts are written in five languages by UI students and faculty! Check back regularly for updates!

Bridging the Gap: Language and Community in Action in East Central Illinois

Skye Mclean discusses the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECRIMAC), which provides services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and aids in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures.

Place and Space: Another Perspective on Crimea

Senior Andrey Starosin offers his perspective on the current events taking place in Crimea.

French Professor Revamps Course on "Language and Minorities in Europe"

Linguis Europae's own Zsuzsanna Fagyal and her course "Languages and Minorities in Europe" were featured in a recent issue of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Un'Ode al "Dialàtt Bulgnaiś": An Ode to the Bolgnese Dialect

Kaitlyn Russell muses on her fondness for the Italian dialect, Bolognese.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Welsh, the Powerful

by Alex Joyce |

Editor: Jessica Nicholas (PhD candidate in French)

Alex Joyce was a senior in Political Science in the spring of 2012 when she took the ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ (418) EUC survey class. In this blog entry, she argues passionately in favor of official bilingualism, as demonstrated by Wales, home to one of the best protected Celtic languages (Welsh) in the world.

To begin, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPYkYfi_IiM
You’ll hear that it was difficult to learn English for Adam who was learning in Welsh for so many years. And Adam still enjoys speaking Welsh! This video is great because it shows how one individual finds Welsh unique and important.
Image Source

The maintenance and promotion of Welsh in Wales (United Kingdom, see map) has proven to be successful despite the prevalence of English as a dominant language in the UK.  The purpose of this blog is to show all those who think that it is impossible to maintain one official state language simultaneously with a minority language that this is anything but impossible. It simply requires effort and belief that differences can and should prevail.    

From a somewhat uninformed (but irrationally common) American point of view, everyone in the world speaks or should speak English.  Although thousands upon thousands of Americans can speak more than one language, our political and educational systems seem quite narrow-minded. 

Take Welsh. Welsh as a language existed for many, many, MANY years. Some may say it’s been around longer than English has, but that’s beside the argument.  Today, there are only 582,400 people who can speak Welsh fluently, while 797,700 people “have some knowledge of the language.”1  In percentages, those who speak it fluently make up 20% of the population and those who know the basics of the language make up 28% of the population in Wales alone.2  More info here: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/welsh.htm.

100 years ago, nearly 50% of Wales spoke the language fluently.  Since Wales was absorbed into the United Kingdom, English has become the more commonly used language (Wales History). To many, the domination of English may seem like a bad thing, and understandably so. As English has become the lingua franca throughout Europe, it has become necessary for many to know how to speak it in order to communicate internationally.

Economics, politics, religion, and culture have all been affected by the spread of English and the culture that comes along with speaking the language. This article has some interesting viewpoints on the matter; it’s definitely worth checking out: “English as Global Language: Problems, Dangers, Opportunities.”

Minority languages in some countries, like Gaelic in Ireland and the northern region of the United Kingdom, are seriously threatened because of the domination of English. In my opinion, political leaders seem to think that in order to succeed, or even survive in some cases, they need to switch from their ancestral language to English.  However, as smart as this may be politically, it has been damaging to the use of ancient languages that have been around for centuries and have bound members of the local community together. 

In Wales, this is not the case. The Welsh have rebelled against all powers that have tried to push their language down and separate them from their beliefs and cultures that are different from the UK.  In recent years, the English government has given Wales the right to remain autonomous (in certain definitions of the word), that is when it comes to their language policies.  Since 1993, Wales has been doing an especially excellent job of keeping its population informed about the importance of learning the language to maintain their culture. For more details on the actual legislation that was passed to enforce the use of Welsh, here is the full act.

I think remembering our differences as people keeps us human. It reminds us to be accommodating and sensitive to beauty. The variety of languages in our world is a beautiful thing.  I think this video shows just why languages like Welsh should never be forgotten.

1Ager, Simon. "Welsh (Cymraeg)." Welsh Language, Alphabet and Pronunciation. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/welsh.htm.

2Ager, “Welsh.”


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dancing to a Different Tune

by Alyssa Shroyer |

Editor: Jessica Nicholas (PhD candidate in French)

Alyssa Shroyer is a Senior in Early Childhood Education. In the ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ (418) EUC survey class, she focused on bilingual education in the Autonomous Territories of Spain that possess political power to enact their own measures on local languages and cultures. In this blog entry, she asks whether local pride should take precedence over global utility when opting for types of bilingual education.

I recently read an article by Julie Kaminski regarding two schools in northern Barcelona, the Oriol Martorell School and Colonia Guell that have undergone change in the past decade, incorporating the teaching of Catalan as the primary language of their curriculum.  Spanish is minimally taught for all ages.  English is taught as a second foreign language in early elementary school, only 3 hours per week.  Italian is also a part of the curriculum as “it goes well with music.”  Oriol Martorell has a teaching philosophy that emphasizes the importance of multilingualism and the arts. 

Both schools are said to be quite low in the number of students they accept.  In reading about these two schools, there seemed to be value of fair and equal education placed high on the priorities of these schools.  I am interested in readers sharing their thoughts on whether or not they believe this is actually the case in Spain.  Unfortunately, the trend tends to be opposite in most areas of the United States, where monetary ability tends to weigh out equal opportunity  The emphasis on linguistic equality, regardless of prestige, amazed me in reading Kaminski’s observations of these two schools.  She states, “The Generalitat, Catalonia's autonomous government, has produced a series of manuals to help teachers get to grips with the most commonly spoken immigrant languages, e.g. Chinese, Arabic and Berber” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/nov/05/schools.uk2). 

As a future teacher, I admire Spain’s policy to teach children in their native language for the first two years.  The article went so far to state that in Spain’s educational policies, students who attend a school that does not teach in their mother tongue should, in theory, be provided a tutor for their first two years to help them keep up academically.  The head of both schools claim that thier students rarely fall behind academically, even when immersed (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/nov/05/schools.uk2).  Students in the United States, similarly, tend to be thrown into an immersive environment for language learning in many schools, but here, the reality is many fall behind academically. From courses I’ve taken as part of my major in Education, I have learned that the immersion method proves to be problematic in many cases because of the focus on language learning instead of content, and so I would like to know some of the people of Spain’s opinions regarding their children being immersed in a language like Catalan.

Kaminski of The Guardian describes Spain’s policy on multilingualism.  “In Spain generally, they tend to be much more aware than we are in the UK of the importance of foreign languages. In Catalonia, the academic year 2002/03 has been declared ‘year of languages’” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/nov/05/schools.uk2). In a more recent article by Professor Cabrera of Catalonia at the Autonomous University of Madrid, he suggests no teaching of Spanish in Catalonia, which is quite opposite of what these two schools have done near Barcelona (http://catacciouk.blogspot.com/2010/04/should-not-be-taught-at-all-in-schools.html). He expresses fears about the superiority of Spanish over languages like Catalan, Basque, and Galician, and states that “[He fails] to see [pride] in the so-called Catalan nationalism, nor in the Basque or Galician.”  His main argument is that Catalonian pride must increase in order to keep this language as one of importance to the people, and therefore, Spanish should not be taught in the schools. 

In my unfamiliarity with the area and policies, I wonder why two schools in Spain have found it important to teach primarily in Catalan, while Professor Cabrera firmly believes that Spanish should be done away with in schools of Catalonia to promote more use of Catalan.  What do the people of Catalonia think about this?  In what language do you believe your children should be educated?  Likewise, those who live in Barcelona, would you send your children to a school where they would be taught primarily in Catalan?  Please leave comments in the section designated below.  I would love to hear from you.

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