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.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Signora Sindaco: Debate about the Feminization of Professional Titles in Italy

By Robin Wilson

Adapted from Wikimedia
The debate about the feminine form of certain words of profession in the Italian language, specifically job titles, was brought back to the fore with the election of Virginia Raggi, the newly-elected mayor of Rome. She is, in fact, the first ever female mayor of Rome. With her election came the question of whether the word sindaco ‘mayor’ would be used to describe her as occupying the position of the major. Until recently, sindaco had no widely recognized feminine form in the Italian language.

The dominant use of masculine words for titles and professions within the Italian language, however, is not a new phenomenon. Attitudes and inequalities associated with such a dominance was raised as early as 1987 by the researcher and activist Alma Sabatini in her influential treatise Raccomandazioni per un uso non sessista della lingua italiana ‘Recommendations for a non-sexist use of the Italian language’. Although Sabatini’s recommendations were reportedly “listed on the website of the Ministry Equal Opportunities (Ministero delle Pari Opportunità)” until the Ministry was terminated by Matteo Renzi’s government in 2013, it is true that masculine forms continue to dominate when naming professions and institutional roles that were not traditionally filled by women. Examples include medico ‘medical doctor’, ingenere ‘engineer’, and minister ‘minister’ (Robustelli 2013). Many reasons are listed for the resistance of the use of feminine forms for these titles. Some consider feminine forms “ugly” while others believe that masculine forms are also acceptable to use for women exercising the same functions, which makes it unnecessary to invent new forms. On the other hand, there is no resistance to the use of feminine forms for professions and roles traditionally occupied by women, such as infermiera ‘nurse’. As Robustelli (2013) points out, the resistance to feminine forms might indicate a resistance to gender equality and the representation of women in formerly male-dominated professions.
"Mayor" on wordreference.com

La Repubblica, a large Italian newspaper, recently published a piece about how the Italian language is taking a long time to catch up to the new societal norms created in Italy’s increasingly diverse professional environment. Among the most prominent sectors are architecture and surgery (Farinaccio 2016). L'Accademia della Crusca, the oldest linguistic academy in the world and the most revered resource of the Italian language, strongly recommends the feminized versions of the words to be used rather than applying the masculine equiavalents universally. For professional titles and institutional roles relating to crafts, the Academy started recommending a general grammatical guide on how to create the feminine version of these previously solely masculine titles. The National Research Council collaborated with l'Accademia della Crusca and created a “Guide for the Preparation of Administrative Acts: Rules and Suggestions” in 2011. The report specifically mentioned the title sindaco/sindaca, due to its relevance in political life (Istituto di teoria e tecniche dell’informazione giuridica and Accademia della Crusca, 2011). Later, in 2013, the Academy reinforced its recommendations and support of the word sindaca ‘major’ (Robustelli 2013).

In 1987, Alma Sabatini submitted the book “Il sessismo nella lingua italiana" [Sexism in the Italian language] to the Italian Government and to the Commission for Equal Opportunities. This is a crucial piece of writing that is often referenced with respect to the Italian language that derives feminine forms from their masculine equivalents. Sabatini says that such a practice can create negative attitudes towards women (Sabatini, 1897). She also talks about how many conservatives are wary of any linguistic change because they see any adaptation as unnatural and infringing on current habits.

Virginia Raggi (Adapted from Wikimedia)
As Virginia Raggi was one of the catalysts to bring this questioning of the feminization of professional titles back into play, it is of interest to look at her use of the word for mayor. During her campaigning, Raggi used the masculine form sindaco exclusively. Since being elected, Raggi has consistently referred to herself by the feminine form, sindaca, and has proclaimed that gender policies will be an important focus during her term (Aimar 2016).

Changes in the Italian lexicon are undoubtedly important, but they have not yet penetrated into Italian society. Many dictionaries only include the masculine form of various names of professions, and women, specifically mayors, are still more often than not referred to with an all-encompassing masculine titles. Thus, the change from predominantly masculine to a more inclusive grammar in Italy is slow but promising.


Robin Wilson was a sophomore majoring in Global Studies and Italian when she wrote this text in 418, ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’. Robin has worked as an intern in the Illinois Department of Commerce in Chicago over the summer and is studying abroad in Bologna during her senior year. She is interested in migration and international security studies.

Works Cited

Aimar, S. (2016, August 1). What Rome's election of its first female mayor says about women in Italian politics. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2016/06/28/rome-mayor-virgina-raggi/

 “Alma Sabatini e le Raccomandazioni 25 anni dopo”, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from http://www.lauradebenedetti.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:alma-sabatini-e-le-sue-raccomandazioni-25-anni-dopo&catid=55&Itemid=490

“Guida all’uso non sessista della lingua italiana”, LINKIESTA, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from http://www.linkiesta.it/it/article/2014/07/17/guida-alluso-non-sessista-della-lingua-italiana/22264/

“L’Italia non può permettersi di non avere un Ministero per le Pari Opportunità”, Vice News, marzo 8, 2016, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from https://news.vice.com/it/article/italia-ministro-pari-opportunita-donne

Farinaccio, V. (2016, November 18). Sindaco o sindaca? Cinque regole per risolvere tutti i dubbi
dell'italiano di genere. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2016/11/18/news/sindaco_sindaca_crusca_italiano-152283266/

Istituto di teoria e tecniche dell’informazione giuridica and Accademia della Crusca, Guida alla redazione degli atti amministrativi. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from http://www.ittig.cnr.it/Ricerca/Testi/GuidaAttiAmministrativi.pdf

L'Accademia della Crusca. (2011). The Accademia. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

Robustelli, C. (2013, March). Infermiera sì, ingegnera no? Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

Sabatini, A. (1987). Il sessismo nella lingua italiana. Roma: Ist. Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato,

Libreria dello Stato.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Joseph Conrad and the value of immigration in pre-Brexit Britain

by James Warning

Joseph Conrad (source)
The British novelist Joseph Conrad, a man of Polish origins who did not set foot in England until his early 20s, is today considered to have been one of the greatest English prose writers of his time.1 In his novella, Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s narrator Marlow sits on the deck of a ship coming to port in London and meditates on the Roman conquest of Britain and the idea of racism and empire: “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....”2

With the United Kingdom’s 2016 decision to exit the European Union, a decision in part motivated by the racial anxieties of native British citizens towards immigrants, including Polish immigrants, Conrad would probably be dismayed to find that his adopted homeland had irredeemably resolved to offer a sacrifice to “sentimental pretence.” A populist movement has proven willing to do irreversible damage to its own country in an effort to move back towards a sentimentalized past, a past before the troubling influx of an ethnic other.

Flag of the United Kingdom (source)
Census data from Britain’s Office of National Statistics has shown that Polish is the second most commonly spoken language in the UK3 and according to a briefing paper published by the UK House of Commons library there were approximately 984,000 Polish nationals living in Britain as of 2016.4 But since the June 23 Brexit referendum there have been troubling incidents of hostility towards this substantial linguistic minority. As reported in such outlets as the Guardian5 and Reuters6, Polish immigrants in the UK have faced harassment and have been discouraged from speaking their language by locals who believe that low-skilled immigrants are driving down wages and taking jobs.

But are these racial hostilities around jobs and wages grounded in reality? A recent article in the Financial Times7 would suggest not. In interviews with business owners in the warehouse and food processing industries in the East Midlands region, FT found that there was a high level of market anxiety around finding workers to fill the low-wage jobs which locals often refuse to do and which up till now were only able to be kept filled by Polish immigrants. Thus, the uncertain future for Polish immigrants in the region presents an uncertain future to local businesses.

Flag of Poland (source)
Likewise, many analysts have shown, including a London School of Economics report entitled “The Consequences of Brexit for UK Trade and Living Standards” by Dhingra et. al,8 that the damage to the British economy caused by a substantial decrease in trade will most likely lead to a significant decrease in living standards in the UK. The idea that retreating from the EU will allow Britain to raise living standards for locals by getting rid of immigrants, including Polish immigrants, is unsupported by empirical evidence and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

While it may be too late for the UK to back away from its unfortunate decision, it would be both humane and in Britain’s best interest to maintain a tolerant attitude toward its Polish immigrant population. As Joseph Conrad’s contribution to English letters demonstrates, immigrants can be a valuable resource to the United Kingdom, both in terms of their input on the labor market as well as their enrichment of the local culture. Either way, no Polish person should have to be afraid to speak their native language in Britain.

Works Cited

1. The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (2010, February). Joseph Conrad. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Conrad

2. Conrad, Joseph. (1899). Heart of Darkness

3. Booth, Robert. (2013, January). Polish becomes England’s second languagehttps://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/30/polish-becomes-englands-second-language

4. Hawkins, Oliver; Anna Moses. (2016, July). Polish population of the United Kingdom http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7660

5. Ratcliffe, Rebecca. (2016, November) They tell me not to speak Polish https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/nov/27/international-students-life-after-brexit-universities

6. Gumuchian, Marie-Louise. (2016, June). Polish migrants fearful over future after Brexit vote http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-poles-idUSKCN0ZE26X

7. Chaffin, Joshua. (2016, November). Businesses fear losing Polish migrants after Brexit https://www.ft.com/content/209b0f44-a036-11e6-891e-abe238dee8e2

8. Dhingra, Swati et. al.(2016). The consequences of Brexit for UK trade and living standards






James was a senior in Linguistics when he wrote this text in 418, 'Language and Minorities in Europe'.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Languages of Innovation: the tortuous linguistic history of the EU’s Unitary Patent System

By Victoria Bauer and Zsuzsanna Fagyal-Le Mentec

At first glance, the European Union has the most liberal language regime in the world: all twenty-four of its official languages are considered equal and can be used by EU citizens to communicate with their institutions. The EU’s strong commitment to multilingualism holds despite the formidable costs associated with the enormous translation flow. Consider, for instance, that the European Commission's Directorate General reportedly spends over 330 million euros per year on translation (Translation in the EU) and the total costs of language services within the Union are estimated to be close to a billion euros. However, EU language regimes are much more constrained than they might appear.

Source: Wikipedia
In principle, the Council of Europe determines the rules governing language use (Article 342, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), but EU institutions “may stipulate in their rules of procedure which of the languages are to be used in specific cases” (The French Language in European institutions). Typically, a handful of languages are used as ‘procedural’ or ‘working’ languages, but preference for one or another can vary depending on the context and the institution. For instance, the European Commission works exclusively in English, French, and German, while the European Council varies its rules of language use depending on the meeting. The European Parliament has an even greater flexibility: it can mandate up to seven languages per group of interpreters delivering simultaneous interpretation in its plenary sessions. Occasionally, language use in EU institutions can become a political issue.

In the late 1990s, legal and financial experts working on the newly planned European Unitary Patent System were close to a major breakthrough. Having worked for decades on replacing the systems of national patents requiring costly translations by a single European patent, the European Patent Office (EPO) was finally ready for a new era of unity and transparency. Since the EPO has been working in English, French, and German since its foundation in 1997, everyone assumed that patents under the new unitary system would continue to be written and filed in these three languages. After all, they would require no additional translations and would allow patent applications to be handled fast and efficiently. Who would possibly object to such advantages?

As it turns out, multilingualism got in the way...

EPO Office
Unexpectedly, Italy and Spain disagreed. They objected strongly to the idea of a practical status quo in matters of language when filing for patents with the EPO. They cited conflicts with their own national interests and claimed that the proposed trilingual patent system would put their own businesses at a disadvantage over British, French, and German companies. When the Council of the European Union gave the green light to proceed without the unanimous support of all member states, Italy and Spain took the EPO to court.

In May 2011, Italy and Spain filed for the annulment of the language clauses of the unitary patent regulation with the European Court of Justice (CJEU cases C-274/11 and C-295/11). They have argued that the proposed language regime was discriminatory: filing innovations only in English, French, and German would be non-compliant with EU treaties, distorting competition, and causing a misuse of the Council’s powers. Italy and Spain’s goal was to add Italian and Spanish to the list of working languages in which all patents could be translated when filed. Or, as a possible concession: use English only. When the French objected to the latter, the negotiations have stalled.

The controversy has dragged on for years. While everyone agreed that it was a good idea to ‘streamline’ the patent application procedure, how to do it without undermining national interests remained an open question. In 2012, a second version of the patent scheme was debated in the Parliament and the Council. Most state parties seemed satisfied with the idea of proceeding without the agreement of Italy and Spain, as the financial gains of the new scheme looked promising enough to prompt further action. According to the European Commission: "an EU patent validated in only 13 Member States cost on average €20,000, compared to €1,850 in the United States” (see Last hurdle for EU Patent: translation). Translation costs, which then stood at €14,000, would be reduced to approximately €680 per EU patent. It was also estimated that adding a single language to this translation scheme could add up to €1,500 to the cost of a single patent.

Image Source
And yet, it took until October 2015 for Italy to agree on a new version of the Unitary Patent system. On the Spanish side, the opposition remained unchanged. The Spanish Employers Organization (CEOE), among others, explained that it “strongly supported the position of the Spanish Government” resisting the “unbalanced and discriminatory language regime” of the proposed unitary system (see reference). While Catalonia has been ready to join for several years, Spain’s central government continued to argue in favor of an English-only system that the French continued to refuse. Despite a non-binding vote in the Spanish Parliament in March 2017 in favor of joining the unitary patent system, the Spanish government resisted. The Spanish government pointed out that patents are an important way of disseminating and protecting technological and scientific innovations and that the Spanish language could be just as useful in doing so within the EU as it already is everywhere else around the world. Economic and legal reasons for resisting a language regime not including Spanish were foregrounded:

  1. Spanish companies would not be able to file European patents with unitary effect ("Unitary patents") in their own official language;
  2. Since the Unitary patents would not need to be translated into Spanish in order to produce effects in Spain (unlike the case of "traditional" European patents), the Spanish companies would not benefit from the disclosures therein;
  3. The linguistic regime would also produce legal uncertainties for Spanish companies, which would have to respect the rights conferred by more than 95,000 new patents per year (not translated into Spanish).
  4. Spanish companies would bear the translation costs of every new patent;
  5. Spanish companies would be forced to plead in English, French or German in invalidity and non-infringement declaratory proceedings which would be heard by the Unitary Patent Court’s ("UPC") central division.
  6. Spanish companies sued for infringement before the local divisions would also have to litigate in a language chosen by the patentee.
To date, neither the Unitary Patent System, nor the Unitary Patent Court have been ratified in every EU member state. The Brexit vote, unsurprisingly, threw an additional wrench in the works, and this summer Germany's constitutional court has also put a halt to domestic legislation trying to ratify Europe’s single patent system. On the German side, the objections appear to be legal rather than linguistic, but the outcome remains the same: the entry in force of the unitary patent scheme might again be delayed well beyond the currently intended date of December 2017.

Although the winners and losers of this particular language controversy are still too early to call, one is reminded of the warning of the late Joshua Fisher, sociologists and expert in multilingualism: “Do not leave your language alone”, if you want it to make it to the next era of global innovation and language use.


‘Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court’, official site of the European Patent Office https://www.epo.org/law-practice/unitary.html

“Patents: Commission proposes translation arrangements for the EU patent – Frequently Asked Questions”, 1 July 2010, MEMO/10/291 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-10-291_en.htm?locale=en

‘Patent Translations, Language Wars, and the EU Patent’, March 15, 2011 https://www.morningtrans.com/patent-translations-language-and-the-eu-patent-2/

‘Italy and Spain sue over patent language’, EU Observer, June 1, 2011 https://euobserver.com/innovation/32434

‘Language Winners and Losers -The 40-Year European Patent War is (Almost) Over’, byLibor Safar, July 4, 2012 http://info.moravia.com/blog/bid/182942/Language-Winners-and-Losers-The-40-Year-European-Patent-War-is-Almost-Over

‘The unitary patent’, Library of the European Parliament, June 12, 2012 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/briefing/2012/120404/LDM_BRI(2012)120404_REV1_EN.pdf

‘Unified EU patent scheme moves a step closer’, April 16, 2013, http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2261808/unified-eu-patent-scheme-moves-a-step-closer

‘Spain would have been better off inside the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court’, Kluwer Patent Blog, October 20, 2015, http://kluwerpatentblog.com/2015/10/20/spain-would-have-been-better-off-inside-the-unitary-patent-and-the-unified-patent-court/

‘The European Patent Office (EPO) Doesn’t Like Spanish, So Why Should the Spanish Tolerate the EPO?’, January 8, 2016 http://techrights.org/2016/01/08/epo-vesus-spanish-speakers/

‘False alarm: Spain will not join the Unitary Patent System after all’, March 27, 2017 http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=5567f802-70fa-4f48-814e-27fa1378e6b0

“Germany puts halt on European unitary patent”, June 13, 2017 https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/13/germany_halts_european_unitary_patent/


Victoria Bauer is a second year MAEUS student and a French FLAS fellow, and Zsuzsanna Fagyal-Le Mentec is an Associate Professor of French Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They collaborated on this blog post as a follow-up to Victoria’s work on procedural languages in the EU in the FR 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ seminar.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Europeans Choose English as the Winner of Eurovision

by Kirsten Vold

Eurovision: where European nations compete through song, dance, costumes, pyrotechnics, and light shows every summer to an audience of over 200 million people worldwide-compared to the 30 million global viewers drawn to the 2016 Rio Olympic opening ceremonies (O’Connell 1). This summertime tradition has reflected not only Europe’s taste in music, but also language. Previous to 1999, countries generally sang in their mother tongues; then a rule change allowed them to choose any language for their entry (Rosell-Aguilar 2). The effect of this change was seen almost immediately, both the percentage of entries and the percentage of winners who performed in English increased dramatically (Eurovision 1).

The Eurovision Song Contest was created in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union to mend and unify the continent after the previous two World Wars. Since then, Eurovision has been a reflection of political and cultural changes in Europe. Each country sends an entry of a song with at least one performer; the competition has grown to over 40 countries from the original seven in 1956 (Beauchamp 2). The competition promotes cultural diversity among European nations. The winning country hosts the competition the following year and displays their country’s culture in small video clips and skits as interludes to the acts. Following the 1999 rule change, countries can sing in any language including their mother tongue, any lingua franca, and even gibberish (Rosell-Aguilar 2). As well, the contest’s growing popularity and participation has brought in viewers from all around the world, prompting the inclusion of non-European countries like Australia to join in 2015 (Siim 1). This increase in participants correlates and arguably leads to the dominance of English as the chosen lyrical language and mimics the spread of English as a lingua franca in Europe over time.

Looking at all the entries that made it to the semifinals or higher from the beginning of Eurovision in 1956 to 2016, there is a clear shift in the use of English starting at the turn of the century (Eurovision 1). The breakdown of language used by contestants in the first year (1956), middle year (1986), and most recent year (2016) shows three stages of this gradual and eventual dominance by English. In 1956, 0% of the contestants sang in English; in 1986, 10% of the entries were in English; and in 2016, 91%of the countries chose to sing in English. The 199 rule change gave the countries the freedom to strategically choose which language to sing in, and most chose English (Rosell-Aguilar 2).

Previous to the rule change, English shared the title of most popular winning language along with French. From 1956 to 1998, English and French won 14 times each, or about 32% of the time. The closest competition came from Dutch with just 7% of the winning entries. Following the rule change, English shot up to 89% of winning songs with Ukrainian and Serbian trailing it with one win, and 5%, each (Eurovision 1). This dramatic change shows an undeniable trend: English, when given the option, will be the preferred language for Eurovision contestants and the preferred language for Eurovision voters and judges.

Eurovision was created with the intention of bringing a war-torn Europe together, and now does so on a worldwide scale. Viewers pour in from around the world to bear witness to the over the top extravaganza that is Eurovision; last year totaling over 200 million. This increase in viewership, along with the 1999 rule change, have shifted the preferences to favor English over any other language.

Work cited:

Beauchamp, Zack. "Eurovision, the World's Biggest and Best Singing Competition, Explained." Vox. Vox, 14 May 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2017. <http://www.vox.com/2016/5/14/11667716/eurovision-song-contest-2016-logo-timberlake>.

*Graphs produced by me by data gathered from:Eurovision. "History." Eurovision.tv. N.p., 14 May 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/year>.

O'Connell, Michael. "TV Ratings: Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony Falls 28 Percent From London." The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter, 06 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/tv-ratings-rio-olympics-opening-ceremony-how-many-watched-917393>.

Rosell-Aguilar, Fernando. "Parlez-vous Eurovision?" OpenLearn. The Open University, 22 May 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2017. <http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/parlez-vous-eurovision#>.

Siim, Jarmo. "Australia to Compete in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest." Eurovision.tv. Eurovision, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=australia_to_participate_in_the_2015_eurovision_song_contest>.

--------------Kirsten was a junior in Political Science at the University of Illinois when she wrote this blog post in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017. She is currently applying to law schools to pursue a career in global corporate compliance.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Conversations on Catalan: Status, Identity, and Independence

By Emilee McArdle

I spoke with my friend, Albert Lozano, who lives in a Catalonian town, Lleida. He is a graphic designer for several different companies in Catalonia. He is 24 years old. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design 3 years ago from the BAU Design College of Barcelona. He represents one opinion from one person in Catalonia, but I believe that his thoughts on Catalonia are very important in representing Catalonian culture. I asked him several questions to see his impressions regarding the Catalan language.

Flag of Catalonia
What are your thoughts regarding the national government (Madrid) in relation to the region (Community) of Catalonia?
That’s a tricky question. It’s not easy to define feelings about both institutions. If I am honest with myself. I need to recognize that my feelings towards Catalonia are significantly stronger compared to the combined feelings with Spain. I feel Catalonian more so than Spanish. It’s true that since the 20th century, there was a huge migration of people from the south of Spain to Catalonia, which made it so that said territory had a large population from the south of Spain, continue to be larger but in general, I would identify much more with Catalonia.

What language do you speak at home?
Knowing that my parents originally have Aragonese roots, we solely speak Catalan in our house.

What language did you learn in school?
Since I was little, I went to an elementary school in Lleida. In this city, Catalan is the most commonly spoken language, due to very little immigration that we had in our city, for this reason in our elementary school I learned mostly in Catalan. I should note too that the school offered the subjects of Spanish and English.

Do you think that Catalan is important for people in the rest of Spain? What about just in Catalonia?
I think that languages are tools that help us communicate and help us understand. Similar to both English and Spanish which are very extensive languages that can help you communicate wherever you want, but if you truly want to understand a culture, you have to know their language. 

That said, I think that Catalan is not sufficiently appreciated in the rest of the country, because it is confronted by several elements that are trying to reduce the use of Catalan. 

Despite what it looks like, not all Catalans see the language as a useful tool and for that it continues to decline.

What does Catalan represent for the community?
Catalan is an intangible asset for all Catalans. It is one of the many things that make our region different. From Catalan institutions, we try to encourage the use of our language.

Do you want Catalonian Independence?
Yes. I think we have been culturally "attacked" for many years by the Spanish government. I would like to find a way to preserve Catalan culture and social welfare by being independent. It is a somewhat uncertain road but as it is said in Spanish "who does not risk does not win".Yes. I think we have been culturally "attacked" for many years by the Spanish government. I would like to find a way to preserve Catalan culture and social welfare by being independent. It is a somewhat uncertain road but as it is said in Spanish "who does not risk does not win".

If Scotland and Northern Ireland secede from the UK, do you think that Catalonia will want to also declare their independence?
That event would be a guide for us. Surely, it would help to clarify the ideas of the majority of people who are undecided about the independence of Catalonia. The European Union is a new institution where we still do not know how it will respond to secessionist decisions. Seeing how it works against Northern Ireland and Scotland, will undoubtedly help the Catalans have more hope for the independence of Catalonia.

With respect to Albert's answers, we can see that Catalan plays an important role in Catalonia. We use language to express our ideas, which are inherently cultural. So, if you really want to understand Catalan culture, you have to understand the language to see how people express themselves in their own language. The autonomous region has its own flag that can be seen abovenext to the title. It is a region that has a lot of history and many think it shouldbe an independent country. We need to protect the rights of Catalan as an autonomous language and respect its existence as the official language of the region.

Converses en Català: Prestigi, Identitat, i Independència

By Emilee McArdle

Hablé con mi amigo, Albert Lozano, que vive en Lleida, una ciudad en Cataluña. Le hice algunas preguntas para ver sus impresiones respecto al idioma catalán.

¿Cuáles son tus sentimientos hacia el gobierno nacional (Madrid) y hacia la región (comunidad) de Cataluña?
Es una pregunta bastante compleja. No es fácil definir los sentimientos hacia ambas instituciones. Siendo honesto conmigo mismo, tengo que reconocer que mis sentimientos hacia Cataluña son mucho más fuertes que hacia el conjunto de España. Me siento catalán antes que Español. Es cierto que a mediados del siglo XX hubo una gran migración del sur de España hacia Cataluña, lo cual ha provocado que dicho territorio tenga una gran población de gente del sur, aún así creo que la diferencia cultural entre las dos instituciones siguen siendo muy grandes. Quien nace en un entorno catalán, por lo general, se siente más identificado con Cataluña.

¿Qué idioma hablas en tu casa?
A pesar de que mis padres tengan orígenes aragoneses tanto mis padres como yo, hablamos en casa el catalán como única lengua.

¿Qué idioma aprendiste en el colegio?
De pequeño fui a un colegio de Lleida. En esta ciudad el catalán es la lengua más hablada, a causa de la poca inmigración que hay en dicha ciudad, por eso en el colegio aprendí principalmente el catalán, a pesar de que también dábamos una asignatura en castellano y otra en inglés.

¿Piensas que el idioma catalán es importante para la gente de España? ¿Y para la de Cataluña?
Yo creo que los idiomas son herramientas que ayudan a comunicarnos y hacernos entender. Tanto el inglés como el español son idiomas muy extendidos que te pueden ayudar a comunicarte donde quieras, pero si realmente quieres comprender y entender una cultura, primero tienes que saber su idioma.

Dicho esto, Creo que el catalán no está suficientemente valorado por el resto del estado Español, ya que recibe constantes acosos e intentos de reducir su uso.

A pesar de lo que podría parecer, no todos lo catalanes ven el catalán como una herramienta útil, y por eso su uso se ve en continuo descenso.

¿Qué representa el catalán para la comunidad?
El catalán es un bien inmaterial para todos los catalanes. Es una de las muchas cosas que hacen diferente nuestra región. Desde las instituciones catalanas, se intenta fomentar el uso de nuestra lengua.

¿Quieres la independencia de Cataluña?
Si. Creo que hemos estado muchos años siendo “atacados” culturalmente por parte del gobierno español. Me gustaría encontrar una manera de preservar la cultura catalana y el bien social siendo independientes. Es un camino un poco incierto pero como se dice en español “quien no arriesga no gana”.

Si Escocia e Irlanda del Norte se sesionara del Reino Unido, ¿piensas que Cataluña querría también sesionarse?
Ese acontecimiento sería un referente para nosotros. Seguramente ayudaría a aclarar las ideas de la mayoría de gente que está indecisa respecto a la independencia de Cataluña. La Unión Europea es una nueva institución donde aún no sabemos cómo responder frente a decisiones secesionistas. Ver cómo actuar frente Irlanda y Escocia, sin duda alguna ayudará a que los catalanes tengamos más ilusión por la independencia de Cataluña.

Con respeto a las respuestas de Albert, podemos ver que el catalán tiene un rol importante en Cataluña.  Usamos el idioma para expresar nuestras ideas, las cuales son inherentemente culturales.  Por eso, si realmente quieres entender la cultura catalana, tienes que entender el idioma para ver cómo la gente se expresa en su propia lengua.  La región autónoma tiene su propia bandera que puedes ver al lado del título.  Es una región que tiene mucha historia y mucha gente piensa que debe de ser un país independiente.  Necesitamos proteger los derechos del catalán como lengua autónoma y respetar su existencia como idioma oficial de la región.


Aspachs-Bracons, O., Costa-Font, J., Clots-Figueras, I., & Masella, P. (2008). Compulsory Language Educational Policies and Identity Formation. Journal of the European Economic Association, 6(2/3), 434-444. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40282653

Lozano, A. (2017-03-05). Phone Interview with Lozano.

Image: By User:Martorell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391199

Emilee is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. She is planning on getting her MA in European Union Studies in May 2018, after which she is thinking of seeking a job relating to her passion for language in a translation or interpretation department. She wrote this text in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Belarus for Belarusian, or the reemergence of a national language

by Marshall Janevicius

How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior. How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior.

However, Lukashenko received much attention from Belarusian speakers in 2015 because it appears that he may have changed his mind on his previous stance. For decades, Belarusian speakers have offered language courses to the public, even though Belarusian is not greatly welcomed in state affairs.  Much of this is shifting in recent years. There is a large push towards the popularization of Belarusian and an increased number of language courses across the country.

Timing could not have been better, as after decades of neglect, the situation is truly alarming. Belarusian, which is an official language of Belarus, can claim just a little over 3 million native speakers. Russian, the other official language of Belarus, has around 6.5 million native speakers and everyone in Belarus appears to be bilingual, which means knowledge of Russian over Belarusian predominates. Although a sizeable part of the population can still speak Belarusian, less than 10% of Belarusians indicate that they use Belarusian to communicate in their everyday life.

Spoken languages of Belarus according to 2009 census
(Green - Belarus, Blue - Russian)

Structural and cultural proximity to Russian is definitely a factor. Belarusian is an East Slavic language, just like Russian, and the Belarusian alphabet was elaborated based on the Cyrillic script. In the early twentieth century, before modern Belarusian was defined, the language was written using the Latin alphabet, Arabic alphabet, or sometimes even the Hebrew script. Today, two main dialects of Belarusian exist: North-Eastern and South-Western Belarusian, although the area between the two has some distinct characteristics that seems to militate for a Middle Belarusian pseudo-dialect. Another less common dialect in the country, the West Palyesian dialect, is more linguistically linked to Ukraine, and spoken almost exclusively by individuals living in the Ukraine.

Since Belarus is not a signatory member of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, there is no international oversight of its regional minority languages. However, Belarusian is considered a regional language in Poland and also a recognized minority language in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Lithuania. All but one of these nations being signatories of the Charter, there seems to be at least some hope for continued maintenance and revitalization.

A large number of the younger population of Belarus appears to be tired of their culture living in Russia’s shadow.  In a direct break with Soviet and 20th century post-Soviet times, they want to revitalize the culture and language of Belarus in order to increase cultural pride and move towards a more distinctive national identity and culture.

Image source
As it turns out, this excitement and push towards a national revitalization of Belarusian goes farther than just the youth.  Many scholars indicate that language courses in Belarusian are emerging everywhere and they are not just for the purpose of teaching the language. It seems that they are also serving as an expression of pride in Belarus that has not been seen for over a century.

Predictably enough, language seems to be one of first steps towards cultural revival and revitalization. As a new generation emerges into the workforce that has no memories of Soviet control, it will be interesting to observe what the Belarusian youth decides is most important for language and culture. Will they continue to choose Russian and embrace Soviet-enforced ideas of the superiority of the Russian language? Or will they reclaim their culture and language as they search for their generation’s identity? “Political is daily, cultural is eternal”, says Alena Makouskaya, one of the coordinators of the Belarus language campaign, indicating that Belarusian is considered an emblem and a token of pride.


"Belarusian Language." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 06 Mar. 2003. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

"History of Belarussian Language." Europe-Cities. Europe Cities, 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

Minsk, Katerina Barushka in. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

See also: Alyssa Lowery’s blog, titled Belarusian on the Road to Revival, on Linguis Europae, http://eucenterillinois-language.blogspot.com/2017/02/belarusian-on-road-to-revival.html


Marshall is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. He is planning on getting his MA in European Union Studies in May 2018 and is currently applying to law schools to pursue a career in international business law or international human rights/immigration law. He wrote this text in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Latin American influx and tourism in Barcelona, the clash between Spanish and Catalan

by Rafael Arturo Rodriguez Diaz

History has taught us that when a region develops certain elements, such as a sense of identity and even independent governance, they will look for sovereignty. Language is one of those essential elements for a population to develop an identity and distinguish themselves from others. In Spain, a wealthy and highly industrialized region with a strong desire for independence is Catalonia (BBC). Catalan, with more than a millennium of history (“Latin American”, 3),  is recognized as the official language of the region, along with Spanish. However, the region is also known for its many Latin American immigrants which live in some of the most touristy places in Spain, like the city of Barcelona. In the next few paragraphs, I will present examples of how Latin American immigration and tourism in the region have reinforced the use of the Spanish over Catalan in the city of Barcelona, and how this represents a threat for the Catalan language and the eagerness of Catalonians to separate from the rest of Spain.

Many government representatives from the Catalonia region have tried to develop initiatives to gain independence from Spain. They have used Catalan as one of the strongest reasons to support the region’s own identity. However, over 200,000 native Spanish-speaking immigrants from Latin America have come to Catalonia since 2002 (Garzón, 2505). Being from underdeveloped countries, many of these immigrants have made the transatlantic journey seeking new opportunities for themselves and their families. Even though immigration in the region started centuries ago, the progress of globalization and the conclusion of trade agreements in recent years, has facilitated migration of Latin Americans to Spain. One of the main factors that allowed for this increase of immigration of Latin Americans to Catalonia was the re-enforcement of the immigration process in the United States after 9/11 (ibid.). Many of these immigrants came to the Catalonian region knowing Spanish, one of the official languages, but resisting Catalan, the other official language of the region, and confronted to “increasing institutional pressure to learn the Catalan language” (“Latin American”, 9). In both industrial and domestic job positions in Barcelona, due to the cheap cost of labor and similarity to the local culture, companies have adapted to work with Latin Americans. Some of these immigrants have learned some Catalan, but their usage of the language mainly depends on the area where they work in the city. However, most of the time these immigrants do not take courses in Catalan and prefer to speak in Spanish instead, even if they are approached in Catalan (Garzón, 2506). Another factor that has allowed Latin Americans to stick to their native language in Catalonia is that most of the other commercial sectors that employ Latin American immigrants are located in areas of Barcelona where Spanish-speaking locals are numerous (Garzón, 2507). The locals’ level of tolerance towards Spanish has thus increased even more since many of the businesses seem to focus more on profit than on local Catalan identity.

Barcelona street life (Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons)
Being not only one of the main tourist destinations of Spain, but also the capital of the Catalonia region, Barcelona is one of the examples of rivalry between Catalan and Spanish. As it turns out, however, tourism is also influencing language use in the region. Many tourists may try to use English to communicate when in Barcelona—a brief online search about tips before traveling to Barcelona advises that tourists can get by fine without knowing Catalan but they can get by even better if they know Spanish. On the tourism website, Barcelona-Life.com, there are two different sections dedicated to explaining the relevance of each language. Basic lessons are also provided for learning both languages, but for both sections Spanish is the main language. This reinforces the fact that when it comes to Catalan, learning the language is more about showing appreciation for the local community and an opportunity to open new doors in the city in terms of high-rank employment. On other relevant online sites for tourism, such as Lonely Planet, the learning of Spanish but not necessarily of Catalan is advertised.

In a region that shows an almost desperate drive to become an independent nation, more attention must be placed on one of the elements that radically distinguishes this region from the rest of Spain: the local language. Whether for business purposes or amiability with tourists, Barcelona has been permitting, at an alarming level, the use of Spanish over Catalan. Even though the government has tried to reinforce the learning of Catalan, there is a “growing contradiction between actual language used in the streets and policy demands, creating an escalating cultural conflict among Spanish-speaking communities, Catalan-speaking communities and other foreigners in Catalonia.” (“Latin American”, 23). As the capital of the Catalonian region, it is fundamental to reinforce the importance of the local language, rather than support the general idea of the relevance of Spanish. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly clear that, in the clash between Spanish and Catalan, a winner may soon be predicted. The more influence Latin American culture adds to the use of Spanish in the city, along with the support of tourism agencies, the less politicians in Catalonia will be able to use Catalan as an argument to separate from Spain.

América Latina y el turismo en Barcelona, ​​el choque entre español y catalán

La historia nos ha enseñado que cuando una región desarrolla ciertos elementos, como un sentido de identidad e incluso un gobierno independiente, intentará obtener su soberanía. El lenguaje es uno de esos elementos esenciales para que una población desarrolle identidad y se distinga de los demás. En España, una región rica y altamente industrializada con un fuerte deseo de independencia es Cataluña (BBC). El catalán, con más de un milenio de historia ("Latin American", 3), ha sido reconocido como el idioma oficial de la región, junto con el español. Sin embargo, la región también es conocida por los muchos inmigrantes latinoamericanos que se encuentran en algunos de los lugares más turísticos de España, como la ciudad de Barcelona. En los siguientes párrafos presentaré ejemplos de cómo la inmigración y el turismo latinoamericano en la región, han reforzado el uso del español sobre el catalán en la ciudad y cómo esto representa una amenaza para el catalán y el afán de los catalanes por lograr la separación del resto de España.

Muchos representantes gubernamentales de la región de Cataluña, han tratado de desarrollar iniciativas para obtener la independencia de España utilizando el catalán como una de las razones más fuertes para apoyar la propia identidad de la región. Sin embargo, más de 200.000 inmigrantes hispanohablantes de América Latina, han llegado a Cataluña desde 2002 (Garzón, 2505). Siendo de países subdesarrollados, muchos de estos inmigrantes han hecho el viaje transatlántico buscando nuevas oportunidades para ellos y sus familias. A pesar de que la inmigración en la región ha comenzado hace siglos, los avances de la globalización y la conclusión de acuerdos comerciales en los últimos años, han facilitado la migración de los latinoamericanos hacia España. Uno de los principales factores que permitieron este aumento de la inmigración de latinoamericanos hacia Cataluña fue el fortalecimiento del proceso de inmigración en Estados Unidos después del 11 de septiembre (ibid.). Muchos de los inmigrantes llegaron a la región catalana conociendo el español, una de las lenguas oficiales, pero restando importancia fundamental para el catalán, el otro idioma oficial de la región, situación que al menos comenzó a verse confrontada con "una creciente presión institucional para aprender la lengua catalana" ("Latin American ", 9, traducción propia). Tanto en puestos de trabajo industriales como domésticos en Barcelona, ​​debido al costo económico de la mano de obra y su parecido con la cultura local, los locales se han adaptado más para trabajar con latinoamericanos. Algunos de ellos han aprendido algo de catalán, dependiendo principalmente de la zona donde trabajan en la ciudad. La mayoría de las veces, los latinoamericanos logran comunicarse con los locales tan solo respondiendo en español cuando les hablan en catalán (Garzón, 2506). Otro factor que ha permitido a los latinoamericanos atenerse a su lengua materna, es que la mayoría de los demás sectores comerciales están ubicados en zonas de Barcelona con una gran influencia de los hispanohablantes (Garzón, 2507). El nivel de tolerancia de los lugareños hacia el español ha aumentado, ya que muchos de los negocios parecen centrarse más en el beneficio económico, que en la conservación de la cultura local.

Barcelona street life (Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons)
Siendo no sólo uno de los principales lugares turísticos, sino también la capital de la región de Cataluña en España, Barcelona es uno de los ejemplos de rivalidad entre catalán y español. Considerando la influencia del inglés a través del consumo digital y los medios de comunicación, el catalán en Barcelona tiene más bien el estatus de símbolo para los lugareños. También el turismo está influyendo en el uso de la lengua en la región. Al igual que muchos turistas pueden tratar de utilizar el inglés para su comunicación, una breve búsqueda en línea acerca de consejos antes de viajar a Barcelona, ​​también informa a los turistas que pueden estar tranquilos de visitar la ciudad, aunque no hablen catalán, pero que definitivamente podrán lograr una mejor experiencia con algo de conocimiento del idioma español. Esta información se puede encontrar incluso en los sitios web de turismo acerca de Barcelona como en Barcelona-Life.com. Aunque hay dos secciones diferentes en este sitio web dedicadas a explicar la relevancia de cada idioma, y ​​se ofrecen algunas lecciones básicas para aprenderlos, en ambas secciones se presenta al español como el idioma principal. Esto refuerza el hecho de que el catalán es útil solo para mostrar aprecio por la comunidad local e incluso si se busca conseguir otras oportunidades en la ciudad en términos de empleo de alto rango (Barcelona). Igualmente, en otros sitios en línea relevantes para el turismo, como Lonely Planet, se aconseja en varios foros aprender español, pero no necesariamente catalán (Lonely).

En una región que muestra una intención casi desesperada por convertirse en una nación independiente, se debería prestar mucha más atención a uno de los elementos que los distingue radicalmente del resto de España, su idioma. Ya sea por motivos de negocios o de amabilidad con los turistas, Barcelona ha permitido, a un nivel alarmante, el uso del español más que del catalán. A pesar de que el gobierno ha intentado reforzar el aprendizaje del catalán, existe una "creciente contradicción entre el idioma que es realmente utilizado en las calles y las demandas políticas, creando un creciente conflicto cultural entre las comunidades de habla hispana, catalana y otros extranjeros en Cataluña". ("Latinoamérica", 23, traducción propia). Como capital de la región catalana, es fundamental reforzar la importancia de la lengua local, en lugar de apoyar la idea general de la relevancia del español. Hoy en día, cada vez es más evidente que, en la competencia entre el español y el catalán, se está pronosticando un ganador. Cuanto más influye la cultura latinoamericana en el uso del español en la ciudad, junto con el apoyo de las agencias de turismo, menos políticos de Cataluña podrán utilizar el catalán como argumento para separarse de España.

Works cited

“Catalonia Profile.” BBC News. BBC, 21 Apr 2016. [www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-20345071] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

Council of Europe. “Full list.” Council of Europe. Council of Europe, 2017. [www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/148/signatures] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

“Multilingualism.” europa.eu. European Union, 10 Apr 2017. [europa.eu/european-union/topics/multilingualism_en] Accessed 8 Apr 2017.

European Commission. “Multilingualism.” Education and Training. European Commission, 10 Apr 2017. [ec.europa.eu/education/policy/multilingualism_en] Accessed 8 Apr 2017

Burgen, Stephen. “Immigration complicates Catalonia's separatist picture.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 20 Nov 2012. Web [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/20/immigration-complicates-catalonia-separatist-picture] Accessed 7 Apr 2017.

“Catalan vs Spanish in Barcelona.” Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet, n.d. Web. [https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/europe-western-europe/spain/catalan-vs-spanish-in-barcelona] Accessed 8 Apr 2017.

Garzon, Luis. "Globalization, Latin American migration and catalan: Closing the ring." Sustainability 4.10 (2012): 2498-2512.

Garzon, Luis. "Latin American Migrants in Bilingual Cities: A Comparison Between Barcelona and Brussels." XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 13-19, 2014). Isaconf, 2014. [http://www.academia.edu/7805121/Latin_american_migrants_in_bilingual_cities_a_comparison_between_Barcelona_and_Brussels]

Barcelona-life.com N.p., n.d. [www.barcelona-life.com/language/language2.php] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

Image taken from:


Rafael is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. He is planning on getting his MA in European Union Studies in May 2018 after which he is looking forward to moving to Europe and work as a representative in an European Institution for Latin America. He is interested in conducting research on EU and Latin America relations. He wrote this text in the 418‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Do you speak Sassenach? Gaelic-medium education and Outlander

by Camille Méritan

Outlander TV Show
Recently, an increasing number of novels and TV series such as Outlander use Gàidhlig phrases and other aspects of Highland culture, which has helped popularize Scottish history. The Outlander novels, written by American author Diana Gabaldon, are science-fiction novels taking place in the late 18th century in the Highlands of Scotland. The books give a highly authentic picture of what it was like to live in mid-18th century Scotland. To be as historically accurate as possible, the books and TV episodes are filled with Gaelic phrases and dialogues. TV producer, Ronald D. Moore, even hired a Gaelic coach, Adhamh O Broin, to teach actors the correct Gaelic pronunciation. And since the beginning of the diffusion of the show in 2014, locals and foreigners have become more and more interested in Scottish Gaelic folklore. The Gaelic expert, Adhamh O Broin, has also created short videos (see below) for fans to learn basic words in Scottish Gaelic. He hopes that more people will start learning Gaelic and become sensitive to the need for greater revitalization of the language.

Over the past decades, there has been a push towards the revitalization of Gaelic. The creation of the Gaelic Medium Education (GME), in 1985, was the first legislative support for the language. Gaelic Medium Education, promotes the learning of Gaelic from pre-school education to higher education, with an increasing number of schools teaching Gaelic, and offering immersion. Edinburgh’s first Gaelic school opened its doors in 2013, along with the first Gaelic medium primary school department. This acquisition planning has also given opportunities to independent companies and has seen the creation of online schools such as the Atlantic Gaelic Academy, which offers online Gaelic language learning courses (Smith, 2000).
Outlander Book Cover (Wikipedia)

In a spectacular move, the Scottish government passed the Gaelic Language Act of 2005 so that Gaelic would become one of the official languages of Scotland, and to help increase the number of people speaking, using and learning Scottish Gaelic. Bòrd na Gàidhlig, an executive language planning body, was then created to supervise the promotion of the Gaelic language. The Board also gives the language equal status with English. It wants to encourage the use of Scottish Gaelic, and facilitate access to Gaelic language and culture (Bechhofer & McCrone, 2014).

There are also new resources to promote Scottish Gaelic (Nance, 2015). The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic was founded in 2014. It provides digitized texts and lexical resources for the language. A new online dictionary of Gaelic is also on its way. This is a new collaborative research project that “aims to provide a new online directory of Gaelic recordings, particularly those pertaining to the folklore and ethnology of Gaelic communities in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere” (Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow [accessed 02 April 2017]).

Add to this a renewed interest in Scots Gàidhlig culture and it can be seen how language is fundamental to the revitalization of Gaelic. The rise of Gaelic media, such as radio, internet, and television, definitely helped (Moriarty, 2009), not to mention the Gaelic Television Fund set up by The Broadcasting Act back in the 1990s. Annually, there are 300 hours of programming broadcasted on television to help with the spread of revitalization of the language. The creation of BBC Alba in 2008 was also a major step. The BBC Alba is an all-Gaelic television channel aimed at “reflecting and strengthening Gaelic cultural heritage and promoting awareness of it across the UK” (BBC Trust 2016).

Of course, Gaelic revival is also an asset to tourism and the hospitality industry. The hope is that exposing millions of people to the Gaelic language through any media at all will help awareness and mobilize people. Time will tell if focus on folklore can help advance the cause of Scottish Gaelic. At the point where we are now, it definitely promises to widen the base of committed future language learners who certainly do not wish for the tale of Scottish Gaelic to end as has happened for many other minority languages across the British Isles; English became the pervasive language throughout the country and, thus, minority languages began to die out.

In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers from 1.2% in 2001 to 1.1% in 2011, according to the 2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion. However, there is also some good news in the numbers: compared to the 11% drop in overall speakers recorded in the previous census, there was a 0.1% increase in Gaelic speakers under 20 years old. Overall, in 2011, 1.7% of the population could say to have some knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, which is not too bad for a minority language that is on the UNESCO’s endangered languages list (see figure from the Atlas posted below). To conclude, based on what precedes, there is good reason to believe that the story of Scottish Gaelic is not yet over.

Image Source James Morrison

Works Cited



2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion

BBC Trust 2016 BBC Alba Service license April 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/services/television/service_licences/bbc_alba.html accessed on April 3rd 2017 

Bechhofer, F. & McCrone, D. (2014) What makes a Gael? Identity, Language and Ancestry in the Scottish Gáidhealtachd. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21(2), 113-133.

Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow <http://dasg.ac.uk> [accessed 
02 April 2017]

Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 2005 Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2005/7 accessed April 3rd 2017.

Moriarty, M. (2009). Normalising language through television: the case of Irish language television channel, TG4. Journal of Multicultural Discourse, 2(4), 137-149.

Nance, C. (2015). ‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: a phonetic study of language revitalization. Language in Society, 44, 553-579.

Smith, R. (2000). Preserving linguistic heritage; a study of Scots Gaelic. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 7, 173-187.




Camille Méritan is a graduate student in French Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education. She is planning to take her preliminary doctoral dissertation exam in December 2017 and pursuing a career in academia. She wrote this text while enrolled in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

Victory Day Parade. Sevastopol, Crimea
Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

By Nicholas Higgins

Nicholas Higgins is a M.A. student with the Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Center, looking to finish his degree by the summer of 2017. He is interested in the study of new ways of understanding the development of identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wrote this text during his time in 418 “Languages and Minorities in Europe”.

At the time of the return of the Crimean people to the Crimean peninsula, the only people who still knew the Crimean Tatar language were those who had known it before the exile. Demographic data shows that the Crimean Tatars who knew the language were the older generations, as the people born in exile were taught only Russian (Emirova, 2007).

According to Professor Adile Emirova, an avid researcher of her native language, Crimean Tatar, there are four types of competency:

  • symmetric bilinguals, who fluently speak both Russian and mother tongue in all social spheres;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using mother tongue only in family and Russian in all other spheres of life, including family;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using the Crimean Tatar language (in the form of local dialect) in family and having limited usage of Russian;
  • monolinguals, having the command of only Russian or only Crimean Tatar. (Emirova, 2007).

With these levels of competency, the Crimean people have worked to try and resurrect their language. As of 2007, there were fifteen schools in Crimea that offered adequate instruction of Crimean Tatar, offering instruction to 5,000 students out of 40,000.

Now jump to March 2014. At the tail end of the Euromaidan, a highly controversial referendum was held that ended with the Crimean Peninsula joining the Russian Federation. With the Crimean Tatars now back under the rule of the Kremlin, the situation regarding the spread of the Crimean Tatar language has come under a possible threat. The operative word here is “possible”.

Protester at May 18th Commemoration of the Crimean Tatar Deportations.
Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine
It is undeniable that the Crimean Tatars are currently facing repressions under Russian rule, as the Mejlis, the highest legislative body of Crimean Tatars, has recently, as of the 27th of April, been banned from the Crimean Peninsula under the pretext of being an Islamic extremist organization (Al Jazeera, 2016). In addition, a number of Crimean Tatar media sources have been shut down, including ATR, a Crimean TV channel that was vocally critical of Russian rule.

The Russians claimed to be providing Crimean Tatar schools with language textbooks to allow for the teaching of Crimean Tatar, as textbooks for language instruction became a needed commodity for Crimean Tatar schools. The Russian publishing company, Prosveshchenie, has reportedly produced over 600,000 textbooks to the region in 2014, included in those are supposedly Crimean Tatar language textbooks. A total of at least 3,000,000 textbooks were sent to the region between at least six different publishing companies (Дон ТР). With these textbooks, the Russians had planned to help improve the instruction and availability of the language for education. However, this may not be the case, as a Turkish human rights delegation, led by Professor Zafer Uskul, observed (Goble, 2015).

The delegation claimed that the language rights of the Crimean Tatars only existed “on paper”. The evidence provided shows that only fifteen schools teach Crimean Tatar. Given that we already know that there were only fifteen schools that had Crimean Tatar as the language of instruction as early as 2007, it shows zero percent growth in terms of number of institutions provided. According to various reports, the academic years after the Russian occupation began contain no schools that are strictly instructed in Crimean Tatar, all the schools are now dual-language with Russian. Russian has dominated, as 96% of students are learning Russian instead of Crimean Tatar, and Crimean Tatar children are taught in Russian in schools where Crimean Tatar is the main language ((Coynash, 2015) (112 UA, 2016) (Goble, 2015)).

What about the textbooks, then? Are the numbers and claims of the Russians accurate to what the Crimean Tatars are experiencing? The textbooks that were promised did not arrive when they were supposed to, and the number of textbooks provided for Crimean Tatar instruction are woefully lacking in population (Goble, 2015).

In addition, the hours of instruction and the importance of Crimean Tatar language instruction have fallen since the Russian occupation began in 2014. Crimean Tatar has lost necessity in instruction in some schools, including the Crimean New School for Kids and Youths, where Crimean Tatar is only used outside formal lessons (Network of Schools). Only three hours a week of instruction of the language is in place currently amongst schools that offer the language (RISA, 2014).

The answer to the question of the status of Crimean Tatar instruction under Russian occupation is clear: the status has experienced little to no growth. With the promise of textbooks for the Crimean schools, the Russians have failed to deliver while lowering the hours of instruction and elevating the instruction of the Russian language while suppressing Crimean Tatar. Perhaps most damning of all, the Kremlin and Putin have stated that the push for Crimea was for the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers (Coynash, 2015). As long as the Crimean Tatars are being suppressed by their Russian occupiers, the instruction of the Crimean Tatar language will continue to suffer.


"Russia Continues to Oppress Crimea's Tatars." - Al Jazeera English. March 19, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/russia-continues-oppress-crimea-tatars-160308054208716.html.

"Russian Court Bans Crimean Tatar Governing Body." Al Jazeera English. April 27, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/russian-court-bans-crimean-tatar-governing-body-160426191324707.html.

Coynash, Halya. "Ukrainian & Crimean Tatar Pushed out of Schools in Russian-occupied Crimea." Ukraine Law Blog (blog), September 6, 2015. http://ukrainianlaw.blogspot.com/2015/09/ukrainian-crimean-tatar-pushed-out-of.html.

"News:." Crimean Tatar in Ukraine. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.networkofschools.eu/schools/crimean-tatar-in-ukraine/#c2619.

Emirova, Adile. "On the Revival of the Crimean Tatar Language: An Interview with Professor Adile Emirova." Interview by Inci Bowman. International Committee for Crimea. 2007. http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/emirovainterview.html.

"Crimea's Forgotten Children Fight Back." Foreign Policy Crimeas Forgotten Children Fight Back Comments. March 11, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/11/crimeas-forgotten-children-fight-back-tatars-ukraine-russia/.

Goble, Paul A. "Russian Occupiers Cut Classes and Schools in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian -- EUROMAIDAN PRESS." Euromaidan Press. September 9, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/09/06/russian-occupiers-cut-classes-and-schools-in-crimean-tatar-and-ukrainian/.

Goble, Paul A. "Under Russian Occupation, Crimean Tatar Language Rights Exist 'only on Paper,' Turkish Rights Activists Say -." Euromaidan Press. June 17, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/06/17/under-russian-occupation-crimean-tatar-language-rights-exist-only-on-paper-turkish-rights-activists-say/.

"Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula." Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula. February 5, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://112.international/politics/moscow-changes-school-curricula-of-crimean-tatar-language-on-the-peninsula-2456.html.

"Crimean Schools Shortened Crimean Tatar Language Classes." Religious Information Service of Ukraine. September 16, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/other_confessions/islam/57665/.

"Russian-appointed 'Prosecutor' Poklonskaya Suspends Crimean Tatar Mejlis." Uatoday.tv. April 13, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://uatoday.tv/politics/russian-appointed-prosecutor-poklonskaya-suspends-crimean-tatar-mejlis-630326.html.

"Сражение за Крым." Издательство «Просвещение» изо всех сил стремится заполучить контракт на оснащение школ полуострова: Общество: Россия: Lenta.ru. October 6, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. https://lenta.ru/articles/2014/10/06/krim/.

"Дон ТР." От российского издательства ‘Просвещение’ Крым получит почти 600 тысяч школьных учебников. August 7, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://dontr.ru/vesti/obshchestvo/3723269-ot-rossijskogo-izdatelstva-prosveshchenie-krym-poluchit-pochti-600-tysyach-shkolnykh-uchebnikov/


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