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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What is Your Language’s International Appeal? Thoughts on French on International Francophonie Day 2018

By Tanairy Delgado

A photo looking down a long hallway with a glass wall to the left and a blue wall with a large entrance door to the right. In front of the glass wall is a long row of red, green, blue, and yellow flags hanging from short flagpoles resting on the floor.
Flags of francophone countries
(Wikimedia Source)
(Organisation internationale de la francophonie)
Ask a random pedestrian on the street what comes to mind when you say the word France. Most likely they will come up with the Eiffel Tower in Paris and that answer would not be surprising. Although the newest statistics by the World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, have not yet been published for 2017, the first regional results released in January indicate strong growth in Europe. France again is expected to be the most visited country in the world, with more than 80 million tourists last year. With so many people flocking to France from all parts of the world, it is worth remembering that speaking French can provide more than one enjoyable and eye-opening trip around the world.

French can be used in France, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and various countries in and many other parts of the world. Speaking French in a state where French is one of the official state languages will provide as many opportunities and exposure to speaking the language as English in the United States. Native speakers of English, let’s be honest: it would also be difficult to speak contemporary English, and even understand British and American culture, without taking the long history of influence from French into consideration.

The other reason why learning French is a good idea is what I will call here ‘international appeal’. French is widespread around the world. The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie is a network made up of 630 French language universities and over 350 French faculties worldwide, for a total of 120,000 professors and researchers (Fatunde 2012). In India, for instance, where universities are motivated by economic gain (Fatunde 2012), individuals who study French desire to be translators and bilingual secretaries for Francophone companies operating in India.  Professor Raufu Adebisi of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, for instance, claims that the appeal of the French language in India is comparably high to its appeal anywhere else in African, including Nigeria, his home country. In fact, he claimed that most Anglophone countries in the southern hemisphere need bilingual employees to work for French companies as well (Fatunde 2012).

This map is titled L'Organisation internationale de la francophonie. It portrays member nations in orange, associate nations in green, and observer nations in blue. There are 55 member nations, mostly in Africa but also including countries in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia as well as Canada and France itself. Cyprus and Ghana are the only two associate members. The 13 observer nations are mostly focused in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, with Mozambique the lone observer nation in Africa.
(Image Source) (Current members and status
In Africa, French is also associated with migration. In her article, "The smuggling of La Francophonie", Vigouroux (2008) explains that a new Francophone identity has emerged in South Africa in which speaking French is considered an asset acquired under specific sociopolitical and historical conditions. In that context, speaking French leads to social advancement and a way to improve life, rather than just acquiring an abstract identity.

How did French become so widespread, one might ask? And that is a long story that the French themselves like to tell…

It is well-known that the official state language of France did not start out as a widely-shared local language. During the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century for instance, 75% of French citizens did not speak French as a mother tongue (Fatal 2010). In fact, before the 19th century, French was utilized more in the Netherlands and Germany as a vehicular language of scientific communication than in some areas of France (Fatal 2010). Fast forward a century or so and the global spread of the French language has surpassed all but two other international vehicular languages in the world: English and Spanish. While this spread can be attributed to colonization and war, one important fact is that over twenty percent of Francophone speakers, including students and teachers, reside outside of francophone countries. As an official language, French is only second to English. Thus the international appeal of the French language is enormous and despite major setbacks has not faded since its emergence in the late 17th century.

The number of French speakers has tripled since 1945 and this growth has not stifled ever since (Fatal 2010). The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie estimated that the number of French speakers will rise to over 700 million by 2050 (FMFAID 2017), a growth fueled by economic and cultural expansion. France and other French-speaking countries play an active role in the world economy, accounting for some 20% of world trade in goods (FMFAID 2017).

Being a francophone is an advantage on the job market, as well. French companies exist all over the world with headquarters in North America, Africa, and Europe. France’s economy alone is the fifth largest economy in the world (FMFAID 2017). Additionally, the French language is an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and countless other international organizations giving it control over global governance. France is a key economic partner for any country that seeks economic and political success.

This infographic shows a blue earth icon on a pale grey background, with a black satellite icon above it and to the right. Blue text gives statistics on France 24's worldwide expansion: "In 8 years, tripled worldwide distribution from 80 to 280 million TV households. 19 satellites ensure global coverage. Broadcast in 178 countries worldwide."
Information on news organization France 24 (Image Source)
French is also present in global communication. If you want, you can watch the French-language TV5 Monde for just a few dollars per months, here in the United States. The media channels TV5Monde, France 24, and RFI have a combined total audience of around 140 million people viewing and listening to these channels daily (FMFAID 2017). While television and radio are stars in the communication sector, the internet in French is the shining star. French is the third most widely used language on the Internet (FMFAID 2017). This means that people are using French as a lingua franca for digital communication, in addition to all other conventional types of communication. The ability to use French to receive alternative views of the world, is just another advantage of the language’s non-negligible global role.

In today’s world, French culture is known for its gastronomy, high fashion, and arts. Many of the greatest literary works, from authors like Victor Hugo and Molière, have been written in French. Since French culture is highly influential, it is no wonder that the language can be appealing to learn. I think it is safe to assume that the international appeal of French will not fade anytime soon. Not in English, for sure! Everyone with any English language ability knows that some phrases can simply not be translated directly to English, so we use them in French. Just like that! Déjà vu? Yes! Un je ne sais quoi that we cannot forget…

Happy International Francophonie Day 2018

Sources cited:

Fatal, H. (2010, June 6). 20 Surprising Fact About French Language. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t16740.html.

Fatunde, T. (2012, August 5). The expansion of the French language lies in Africa - University World News. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120801162231952.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, 2017. The status of French in the world. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/francophony/the-status-of-french-in-the-world/.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. (2017). 10 good reasons for learning French. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/francophony/promoting-french-around-the-world-7721/article/10-good-reasons-for-learning.

“International tourism on track for a record year”, UNWTO World Tourism Barometer

Vigouroux, C. B. (2008). "The smuggling of La Francophonie": Francophone Africans in Anglophone Cape Town (South Africa). Language In Society, 37(3), 415-434. doi:10.1017/S0047404508080561.


When she wrote this text in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ at the University of Illinois in spring 2017, Tanairy Delgado was a senior in Global Studies. She was planning on working for an international nonprofit organization after graduation and interested in applying to Law School in the future.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Bulletproof Culture

By Angelica Wozniak

A map labeled in Polish, showing what appears to be a Kashubian-speaking area in pink, and the surrounding areas in yellow.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“Cherish the values and the heritage that define your identity”, a notable quote said to the Kashubian people by Pope John Paul II, a quote that deeply resonates within a culture that has been pulled away from prominence and pushed into monotony. Looking back in time, the Kashubs, a people inhabiting Northern Poland in an area near the city of Gdańsk, have both been juggled between Germany and Poland during WWII and have had their culture diluted during post-war Communist times.

During World War II, Poland was struggling to maintain its own identity and language. A whole nation was forced under submission by three different nations wanting more power and land to call their own. Polish and Kashubian were forbidden within what once was the nation of Poland. The consideration of ethnic groups was not a major concern, especially considering the fact that together with the Kashubs, minorities in Poland only constituted a total of 5% of the population during the time of the Second World War, a minimal amount. Therefore, priorities after the war were to try and regain a sense of what it meant to be Polish, with Standard Polish becoming the requirement to be a true Pole. The goal was mono-ethnicity, not cultural diversity, and “Kashubian culture…existed only as a subset of Polish folklore” (Rybińska 138). Discussing minorities was dangerous and considered a taboo, and as Poland was rising from its ashes, Kashubian was beginning to become extinguished.

Near the end of twentieth century, after WWII and Communism, Poland was becoming more modern and urbanized, and inter-generational transmission of Kashubian was on the decline, as the youth of the time were focused on attaining a more successful life. Kashubian started to die out more rapidly, with mostly older generations speaking it. Yet again, it was not considered a priority, and the culture was boiled down to the folkloric memory of farmers and fishermen. Thus, the Kashubs have been stuck in a constant battle contending for the smallest awareness of their dire situation. The Kashubs were fighting for the recognition and support of their culture, their heritage, and most importantly, their identity.

Years later, the Kashubs finally started winning this battle and became “perhaps the most powerful and most active of all Poland’s minority institutions” (Majewicz 154). Currently, there are around 500,000 speakers of Kashubian from Poland to the USA, and even in Canada.

A scan of a printed page showing two columns of text showing dictionary entries in Kashubian.
A Kashubian dictionary. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Linguistically, Polish and Kashubian stem from the same language branch (West Slavic). However, when looking at Kashubian one can see the heavy German influence on the language. For instance, the stress on a word falls on the second to last syllable (penultimate stress) in Polish, while in Kashubian the stress tends to land on any syllable. Kashubian stress is variable, and differs between the various dialects of Kashubian. There are also a couple of differences between the Polish and Kashubian alphabets. Kashubian lacks the Polish Ą, Ę, & Ź, and instead has Ã, É, Ë, Ò, Ô & Ù. It does not distinguish (or contrast) the Polish Z, Ż, and Ź. These sounds are more similar to those in German. Kashubian also has a dual form, like Arabic, and it has more vowel contrasts than Polish does. Also, like German, Kashubian keeps its subject pronouns, whereas Polish is a pro-drop language that does not need to explicitly use its subject pronouns. (Znajkowski 23-36). For instance, the sentence ‘I’m going to the store’ can be translated in Polish as: “Ja ide do sklepu’ or in a simpler manner, ‘Ide do sklepu,’ without the first-person pronoun.

Kashubian schools have even been created, with the opening of the first Kashubian secondary school in Brusy and a primary school in Głodnica in 1991. In 2005, there were 100 Kashubian primary schools with 8000 students and growing. Other schools also allow parents to request that their children be enrolled in a course that teaches Kashubian for three hours a week. Interestingly enough, Kashubian has found its way to the university level, where students who are studying Polish philology are required to take a course on Kashubian.

In terms of power in government, the first Kashubian Congress fell apart in the 1950s. A second Kashubian Congress was thus established in June of 1992 in Gdańsk called “The Future of the Kashubs”, which organizes weekly events to help with the upkeep of the culture.

The Catholic Church has also begun to support and even promote the Kashubian language by holding services in Kashubian and translating both the New and Old Testaments of the Bible.

Kashubian has even become a protected regional language thanks to the National and Ethnic Minorities and Regional Language Act implemented by the Polish government, as well as Poland having ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages in 2009.

This is without mentioning that hundreds of books have been published in Kashubian thanks to the Kashubian-Pomeranian Society, which includes handbooks that have been written about Kashubian orthography and grammar and Kashubian dictionaries that have been published as well.

Most importantly, the Kashub youth are using the language to shape their identities. They are no longer avoiding and forgetting their language and their roots. Instead, they are promoting it by making it a part of who they are; a part of their identity. There is still much work that needs to be done and much maintenance that needs to be upheld to make sure the Kashubian language stays strong. However, it is worth noting that if the Kashubs can push through years of obstacles, then they can bring their language and their culture back from the shadows of mono-ethnicity. The Kashubs will not let themselves be dissolved into folkloric myths again. This bulletproof culture will thrive and promote diversity. It will fight as valiantly as its nation once did to reclaim its spot in the world.

Kuloodporna Kultura

The Lord's Prayer in Kashubian, in black text on a tan background, with yellow, green, and red geometric designs in the margins.
The Lord's Prayer in Kashubian
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
"Drodzy bracia i siostry Kaszubi! Strzeżcie tych wartości i tego dziedzictwa, które stanowią o Waszej tożsamości", to są znaczne słowa od papieża Jana Pawła II do Kaszubów. Ten cytat od Jana Pawła II głęboko rezonuje w Kaszubskiej kulturze, która straciła wartość i prawię zaginęła. Kaszubi, którzy mieszkają w północnej Polsce w pobliżu miasta Gdańsk, zostali rzuceni między Polską a Niemcami podczas Drugiej Wojny Światowej, jak również, podczas Komunizmu w Polsce.

Podczas Drugiej Wojny Światowej, Polska zaledwie utrzymała swoją tożsamość i bardzo starała się utrzymać swój język i swoją kulturę. Całe państwo było zmuszone do poddania się przez trzy różne narody, które chciały więcej mocy nad światem. Język Polski był zabroniony. W pewnym momencie dumny kraj, o bogatych kulturach, przestał istnieć. Kaszubska kultura nie była brana pod uwagę, szczególnie że mniejszości w Polsce osiągnęły zaledwie pięć procent populacji ludności Polski. W tym czasie, priorytetem było wzbudzenie Polskiej kultury, języka Polskiego i narodu Polskiego. Kiedy Polska powstawała ze swoich popiołów, Kaszubska kultura zaczęła zanikać.

Ponadto, po Drugiej Wojnie Światowej Polska znalazła się pod sowieckim komunizmem. Celem komunizmu było monoetniczność, a nie różnorodność kulturowa. W tym czasie, Kaszubska kultura była tylko “...podgrupą polskiego folkloru”(Rybińska 138), i niczym więcej. Rozmowa o mniejszości była tabu, a nawet przestępstwem. Kaszubska kultura szybko umierała.

Pod koniec dwudziestego wieku, po Drugiej Wojnie Światowej i po komunizmie, Polska stała się bardziej nowoczesna i miejska. To był problem Kaszubów, ponieważ młodzież Kaszubska koncentrowała się na osiągnięciu lepszego życia, a nie uczenia się o  języku i kulturze Kaszubskiej. W związku z tym, międzypokoleniowa transmisja języka Kaszubskiego zmniejszała się i tylko starsze pokolenia mówiło tym językiem. Ta kultura była znana  tylko dla rolników i wędkarzy.  Kaszubi utknęli w nieustannej bitwie o ich uznanie i tożsamość.

Nadal istnieje nadzieja dla Kaszubów.  W dzisiejszych czasach Kaszubi są jedną z “...najbardziej potężnych i najbardziej aktywnych Polskich mniejszości” (Majewicz 154). Po wielu latach, w końcu, udało się Kaszubom uratować swój język i kulturę. W obecnym czasie jest 500,000 mówców języka Kaszubskiego w Polsce, w Ameryce, i nawet w Kanadzie. Zostało otwarte wiele szkół Kaszubskich (pierwsze w Brusy i w Głodnicy w 1991 r.) w Polsce. W 2005 r. było ponad 100 szkół Kaszubskich i ponad 8000 studentów. Ta liczba wciąż rośnie. Rodzice mogą zapisać  swoich dzieci aby były nauczone języka Kaszubskiego przez trzy godziny w tygodniu. Studenci które studiują Polską Filologię  na Uniwersytecie Gdańskim muszą wziąć klasę o Kaszubskiej kulturze i o Kaszubskim języku.

Pomimo to że pierwszy kongres rozpadł się w 1950 r, założono drugi kongres Kaszubski który był ustalony w czerwcu 1992 r. w Gdańsku. Został nazwany “Przyszłością  Kaszubów”. Ten kongres organizuje spotkania i inne wydarzenia aby awansować kulturę Kaszubską.

Nawet kościół Katolicki wspiera Kaszubów i oferuję mszy w języku Kaszubskim. Ponadto Biblia była przetłumaczona też w tym języku (Nowy Testament był wydany w 1987 r. i Stary Testament był wydany w 1992 r.)

W 2009 r. Kaszubski stał się językiem chronionym kiedy Polska ratyfikowała Europejską Kartę Języków Regionalnych i Mniejszościowych. Rząd Polski stworzył prawo Mniejszości Narodowej i Etnicznej oraz Ustawę o Językach Regionalnych żeby chronić języki które szybko gasły.

Works Cited

Dołowy-Rybińska, N. (2015). Young Kashubs and language policy. In M. Jones (Ed.), Policy and Planning for Endangered Languages: (pp. 123-137). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316162880.011

Gorter, Durk, ed. Fourth International Conference on Minority Languages: Western and Eastern European papers. Vol. 2. Multilingual matters, 1990.

Jones, Elin Haf Gruffydd, and Enrique Uribe-Jongbloed, eds. Social media and minority languages: Convergence and the creative industries. Vol. 152. Multilingual Matters, 2012.

"Kashubian Language." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Majewicz, Alfred E. "Kashubian choices, Kashubian prospects: a minority language situation in northern Poland." International journal of the sociology of language 120.1 (1996): 39-54.

Majewicz, Alfred F., and Tomasz Wicherkiewicz. "Minority Rights Abuse in Communist Poland and Inherited." (1992).

Majewicz, Alfred F. "Minority situation attitudes and developments after the return to power of''post-communists''in Poland." Nationalities Papers 27.1 (1999): 115-137.

Otwinowska, Agnieszka, and Gessica De Angelis, eds. Teaching and learning in multilingual contexts: sociolinguistic and educational perspectives. Vol. 96. Multilingual Matters, 2014.

Trudgill, Peter. "Ausbau sociolinguistics and the perception of language status in contemporary Europe." International Journal of Applied Linguistics 2.2 (1992): 167-177.

Znajkowski, Nick. "Language Contact in Pomerania: The Case of German, Polish, and Kashubian." Linguistics.as.nyu.edu. New York University, n.d. Web. http://linguistics.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/29862/KashubianThesis_FINAL.pdf.


Angelica, a heritage speaker of Polish, was a sophomore in Speech & Hearing Sciences, Linguistics & Arabic Studies at the University of Illinois when she wrote this text in 418, 'Language and Minorities in Europe'.

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