Language revitalization was the theme of the annual meeting of the Non-Kinstate Working Group
25 participants met online on 3 December 2020 at the Annual Meeting of FUEN’s Non-Kinstate Working Group. After a vote on the amendments to the Rules of Procedures of FUEN, the first part of the meeting was dedicated to the topic of language loss and ways to counteract it.
Among the participants there were representatives of fourteen Non-Kin-State minorities:Yenish in Switzerland, Ladins in Italy, North Frisians, West Frisians, Arman Community in Romania, Pomaks in Greece, Ruthenians in Ukraine, Bretons, Pomaks in Bulgaria, Meskhetian Turks in Russia, Lezgins in Russia, Lusatian Sorbs, Roma in Spain, Kumyks in Russia.
Dr. Christoph Schmidt from the Nordfriisk Instituut presented the situation of the North Frisian language, which is not and never was a literary language but a family language, and has several dialects. North Frisians have always been a rural population, and there were no schools and no church services in the North Frisian language, which makes preserving the language even harder. The bright side is that young people use the language and they show an interest in it. In his presentation, “How language revitalization in Wales has been carried out online in the last 20 years”, Associate Professor Daniel Cunliffe from the University of South Wales talked about the important role of modern technologies in language revitalization. Thanks to this approach they did not only manage to keep the number of those using Welsh language more or less stable, but their long-term goal is to double the number of speakers. Yvonne Bangert from the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) presented the organisation’s report “Language: A human right – How indigenous people defend their endangered languages”, according to which four thousand indigenous languages exist worldwide. “The language is the cultural identity, and if it is lost, then the indigenous people lose the basis of their culture” – she pointed out.
Speaker of the Working Group, FUEN Vice President Bahne Bahnsen talked about the future plans of FUEN and the working group The participants agreed that next year the working group’s focus should be on the social and health situation or the culture of minorities without a kin-state. In the future, the working group would like to focus more on public relations in order to make the minorities without a kins-state more visible.
In the second part of the meeting representatives of the minority organisations talked about their activities and the problems they face, many of which stemming from the fact that some of these minorities are not recognized in their homeland. The restricitions due to COVID-19 also took a toll on many organisations, whom were unable to organise their events.
FUEN Secretary General Éva Pénzes presented the current state of the Minority SafePack Initiative, which contains many provisions that would be especially benefic to minorities without a kin-state. She pointed out that the European Parliament is to vote on a resolution in support of the MSPI, and the European Commission will let its position known before 15 January 2021.
In his concluding remarks, Bahne Bahnsen said: “As a non-Kin State minority, we need to be proactive and European. We have a lot of catching up to do, we need a Marshall Plan.” He also thanked the coordinator of the working group, Arvid Martens for organizing the meeting.