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Safeguarding endangered languages in Europe

 

Languages, whether they are internationally used by millions of people or spoken by only small and remote communities, are the expression of the identity, culture and the way communities and peoples perceive their world. They are an essential part of the rich fabric of European culture. When languages disappear, our cultural diversity is impoverished. While this risk has been recognised internationally (including by UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, etc.), many of the regional, minority and local languages, which are spoken today in the European Union, Associated and Neighbourhood Countries, are in danger of disappearing.

Starting from the analysis of the sociolinguistic, legal and economic situation of European endangered languages, of the reasons behind their endangered status, as well as of past and present policies, the action should propose ways to promote the reawakening of these endangered languages. This implies encouraging and supporting their use as well as their intergenerational transmission. The project should explore measures in different areas such as the educational, cultural and creative sectors, and link them with regional development. The use of digital tools is strongly encouraged, as it is the easiest channel to reach and involve society, and in particular young people, in the (re)discovery of their own linguistic heritage, including non-written languages.

The creation of a European language preservation ecosystem is at the heart of this topic, in particular with the establishment of a set of guidelines for revitalizing endangered languages in Europe and the setting up of a comprehensive website. This also aims at exchanging best practices and collecting endangered language resources and tools that, with the appropriate involvement of stakeholders concerned, should be made widely available. A set of identified guidelines should be validated by the use of existing cases of language revitalization. Available results of research already undertaken on language revitalisation should be taken into consideration, while identification of needs for further research in the field should be promoted. Examples of grass root movements that foster the engagement of local communities and, in particular, of young people, to learn and use such languages should be analysed and their motivating factors examined. These good practices should be taken into account when developing methodologies, in order to enhance them and to make them adaptable to local situations. Participation of regional or local communities and/or administrations, civil society, universities and other research institutions, networks and platforms working on multilingualism as well as on the promotion of regional and minority languages are encouraged and will ensure efficient and comprehensive bottom-up solutions.