Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Corsican: Attempting to Make the Minority a Majority

by Alexandra Gecas |

Image source: worldatlas.com
Our world is in a perplexing situation when it comes to linguistics: many more people are becoming fluent in several languages while multiple minority languages are facing an uncertain future. Alexandra Jaffe acknowledged various aspects of any minority language (truly any language) such as the difference between “native”, “partial”, and “learner” as well as the differences between a language learned traditionally and a language taught in school. Her focus was on Corsica and Corsican is influenced both by the French and Italian language. She noted that Corsican, a polynomic language, is no longer the first language acquired and has been replaced by French or English. It is not the mother tongue or the foreign language, but rather “a creative source of identity.” In an effort to preserve the language, Corsican is now offered at all levels of public schooling in Corsica and is seen as a “passport to other romance languages.”

Image source: http://wn.com/french_conquest_of_corsica
A key aspect, as mentioned earlier, of her lecture focused on ways to promote the minority language to younger people. “Fields of Minority Language Activism (Part One)” noted the importance of teaching minority languages in schools as well as promoting the languages through mass media like the radio and television. This article specifically mentioned the successful attempts of these strategies by Corsicans, which resulted in the promotion of Corsican in school systems. I agree that a resource for minority languages is the mass media, but I also believe that this may not be realistic due to the fact that mass media utilizes common languages in order to reach a larger audience. For instance, mass media in America is broadcast in English and mass media in Corsica is typically broadcast in French. Mass media outlets, including the Internet, would not see the benefits of broadcasting in a minority language, even if the intentions were just. Here are two YouTube videos that express the conflict over the Corsican language: NO to the genocide of the Corsican language and The mass in Corsican language.

Although I applaud efforts made thus far to increase the use of minority languages (for example, offering Corsican at all school levels) and I understand the importance of keeping these languages alive, again I am not sure how viable these goals are. I fear that most people see more use in learning English, Spanish, or Mandarin, as they are prominent languages. If Corsican is considered foreign as opposed to a “mother tongue”, I think that further proves how difficult the language is to promulgate. It is evident in young adults today and recent generations of immigrants where the language of the parents is often not spoken at home in the hopes that children will learn the more common language spoken in that country (such as English in America). I believe that it is critical for children to learn languages at a young age, and I support multilingualism. I learned French and Spanish in kindergarten and have continued my Spanish studies because I recognize the utility in today’s society of speaking Spanish. This begs the question: should we try and promote minority languages or chose to learn a language that may make us better suited for society today?

Alexandra Gecas is a senior majoring in Global Studies with minors in Italian and Spanish. She will attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduation and in the future she hopes to work with the European Union in a legal capacity. She is continuing her Italian language studies through the FLAS Fellowship. She is actively involved in Model United Nations and other organizations on campus.

Works Cited: 
Heidemann, Kai. "Fields of Minority Language Activism (Part One)." Mobilizing Ideas. 05 Sept.     2012. Web. <http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/fields-of-minority-language-activism-part-one/>.

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