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December 2010

A summary of the news for December.

  • The Occitan movement demonstrates in favour of a mayor and his signposts in Occitan
  • MELT project in progress
  • Working visit to Mercator and presentation by prof. Itesh Sachdev
  • Welsh Assembly declares Welsh official language


The Occitan movement demonstrates in favour of a mayor and his signposts in Occitan


The mayor of Vilanòva de Magalona, Noël Ségura

Hundreds of people demonstrated, Sunday 12th, in the Occitan municipality of Vilanòva de Magalona (Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, in French) to call for respect for Occitan and the mayor of the commune Noël Segura. Segura refused to comply with a court decision compelling him to withdraw signposts with the Occitan name of the village. According to AFP, the mayor said he is “ready to take all the consequences” to win the court battle for Occitan road signs, and if necessary, he will appeal in high court. “Regional languages are far from being dead”, he added.

The court battle was initiated by Robert Hadjadj, a member of the Mouvement Républicain de Salut Public (Republican Movement of Public Health). The organisation, which is against language diversity in the French Republic, lodged a lawsuit against the road signs because the organisation believes drivers can misinterpret them. A court backed the MRSP in October, but the mayor said he would not withdraw the signposts.

Segura is not alone in his struggle. Members of the Institute of Occitan Studies (the Occitan language academy), the Calandretas (Occitan-medium schools), Europe Ecology MEPs François Alfonsi and Catherine Grèze, as well as other Occitan councilors and mayors gave him their support last Sunday in Segura’s town. Only a few weeks ago Grèze questioned the European Commission about France’s attitude on language diversity and called for France to “implement European principles on minority languages”.

In France, Occitan senator Roland Courteau is trying to take the reins of the issue. He filed a bill in the Senate on November 26 allowing bilingual signposts at the entrance and exits of urban areas.

Source: Nationalia

MELT project in progress

The MELT project – Multilingual Early Language Transmission – has held its mid-term meeting in Helsingfors/Helsinki on Santa Lucia Celebration Day, 13 December. Santa Lucia brings the new light to the children every year during the dark and cold winter in Scandinavia.
The four partners within the MELT project, Brittany, Fryslân, Wales, and the Swedish Community in Finland, have finished the translation of the Guide Book for practitioners into 8 languages. Currently the book is used and evaluated in practice in day care centres. Practitioners and their trainers will add to the five chapters of the book with traditional and new rhymes, songs, stories, and games from the various regions, as well as with theoretical notions which are of special interest for the respective language communities. Once completed, the Guide Book will be published in 4 bilingual editions: Breton-French; Frisian-Dutch; Welsh-English and Swedish-Finnish. Furthermore the PDF documents will be published on the MELT website, and made available for further translations and adaptation into other languages as preferred by the associate partners of the project.

In addition to the Guide Book for practitioners a Guidance Pamphlet for parents will be published. This pamphlet will consist of a reference summary of a number of information leaflets and promotion booklets that have already been developed over the past few years in the regions of the partners. The Guidance Pamphlet for parents will contain essential information on the bilingual upbringing of children in order to prepare them for making an “informed choice” for the next step in their children's language career: primary school with mono-, bi- or trilingual education.

For the coming months, the MELT project is planning meetings in all four partner regions with local and regional decision makers on the pre-school period and the provisions for the youngest children: board members and directors of day care centres. The aim is to raise their awareness of the importance of early language transmission as such, but also of the importance of the “informed choice” for primary schooling. In this respect, special attention will be given to the interaction between practitioners of day care centres and teachers of primary education.

Working visit to Mercator and presentation by prof. Itesh Sachdev

Prof. Itesh Sachdev

Ethnolinguistic Vitality in Multiethnic Societies: Some empirical data amongst British-born Bangladeshis & Cantonese-Chinese in London (UK)

On 14 December 2010 Itesh Sachdev, professor of Language and Communication, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, United Kingdom, paid a working visit to the city of Leeuwarden in connection with the SOAS-UCL/CETL/Mercator Research Conference ‘Languages of the Wider World’: Understanding Resilience and Shift in Regional and Minority languages.

In addition, he took the opportunity to make a presentation at the Fryske Akademy. This presentation focussed on issues of ethnolinguistic vitality, language attitudes and language use of minorities in modern urban settings. Following a general introduction focussing on key conceptual issues, some exploratory empirical data were provided amongst British-born adolescents of Bangladeshi and Cantonese-Chinese background in London using a survey methodology amongst 154 participants (73 Cantonese, 83 Bangladeshi).

In accordance with previous research, participants reported realistic vitality perceptions in that English was perceived as having higher vitality than own-group languages. Participants also reported having highest contact with English speakers, though identification with heritage languages and English was high for both groups.

Findings also revealed important differences between groups. Specifically, Bangladeshi adolescents reported more positive own-group language attitudes and identifications than Cantonese-heritage adolescents. Additionally, whereas Cantonese-Chinese placed greater value on English than on Cantonese for their identities, Bangladeshi participants reported that Bengali and English were equally important to their identities. These findings and others in the study suggest that the impact of English vitality on Cantonese for the second-generation Chinese adolescents maybe ‘subtractive’ and could lead to substantial reduction or even loss of own-group languages and cultures amongst the Cantonese-Chinese in the UK. In contrast, Bangladeshi adolescents in London appear to have a strong-enough base in terms of own-group vitality that probably has an ‘additive’ impact on their use of English without being threatened by the vitality of English in the UK. Overall, such findings reinforce the importance of valuing minority own-group languages and identities in multicultural and multilingual societies.

Welsh Assembly declares Welsh official language

In a milestone vote on December 6th, the National Assembly of Wales declared Welsh as the official language of Wales for the first time. The measure states that “the treatment of the Welsh language” has to be carried in a way “no less favourably than the English language”. It also confers “a right to speak the Welsh language in legal proceedings in Wales” and creates a new post, “the Welsh Language Commissioner, with functions that include”, among other things, “promoting” and “facilitating the use of the Welsh language”.

Both First Minister Carwyn Jones and Plaid Cymru's deputy leader in the Assembly, Helen Mary Jones, said that the vote was “historic”. According to Carwyn Jones, “this measure provides us with some of the tools we need to ensure that the Welsh language can continue to prosper into the 21st Century, alongside the English language”. Helen Mary Jones said that “the fact that this piece of legislation declares, unequivocally, that the Welsh language has official status in Wales is a giant and historic leap forward”.

Nevertheless, activists for Welsh language were not that happy. Although welcoming the fact that “for the first time in the history of our country, the Welsh language is an official language in Wales”, Cymdeithas yr Iaith rights group spokesperson Catrin Dafydd critised the measure: “This law empowers officials, not people, and the flaws in the measure will demonstrate that in future. We have serious concerns about the difficulty that will be faced in implementing it for the benefit of the language and the people of Wales”. Dafydd warned that Cymdeithas “will call for new legislation in the next assembly to empower citizens and deliver rights for everyone to be able to hear, see, learn and use the language in their communities, across the whole of Wales”.

November 2010

A summary of the news for November.

  • Fruitful and lively discussions during EUNoM Symposium Leeuwarden
  • Language Rich Europe has kicked off
  • Survey on Frisian in education
  • Expolingua Berlin 2010 comes to a successful close


Fruitful and lively discussions during EUNoM Symposium Leeuwarden

Fryske Akademy unveils plans for academic Master on Multilingualism

EUNoM Projectleader
Miquel Strubell

“The relationship between universities / research on multilingualism and globalisation and regionalisation, the new language policy and research agenda of the European Union and multilingualism of institutions for higher education themselves. Those were the main themes of the second EUNoM symposium, held in Ljouwert / Leeuwarden (The Netherlands) on 18 and 19 November 2010. It was the second symposium in a series of six of the European EUNoM network. Besides lectures, there was plenty of room for discussion, which led to interesting conclusions, insights and also to new questions. Miquel Strubell pointed out that the importance of language as a phenomenon (not necessarily multilingualism) is much greater nowadays, in the current knowledge economy. 

Alastair Walker

Alastair Walker emphasized that Higher education can train people to convince others, namely parents, functionaries, politicians, education authorities, teachers) of the importance of (the implementation of) multilingualism. Jeroen Darquennes (Namur / Namur, Belgium), outlined the opportunities for multilingualism as a research theme within the eighth EU Framework Programme (2014-2019): within the social sciences aimed at achieving the Lisbon goals. A striking fact was mentioned by René Jorna: not English, Chinese or Spanish is biggest language in the world, but JAVA and HTML. Heidi Rontu described the process of developing a language policy and an implementation strategy for that policy for the bilingual Swedish-Finnish Aalto University. Discussions in smaller groups provided more food for thought. One of the recurring issues was the need for clear definitions, for instance: "What exactly do we mean with the term multilingualism?"


International interest Master Multilingualism Fryslân
One of the presentations was by René Jorna, head of the Social Science Department of the Fryske Akademy, who explained the plans for an academic Master on Multilingualism. It is a Master of two years as part of the UCF (University Campus Fryslân). UCF is an internationally oriented University Knowledge Centre in Fryslân, organised as a network university where research partners in Fryslân offer Master and PhD opportunities within fields that are important within Fryslân such as water technology, multilingualism, quality of life, tourism and renewable energy. Examples from Scotland, Finland and Switzerland can be used to shape the master course of multilingualism of the UCF: curricula, choice of modules and content, and visibility of the languages within the universities’ landscape. Immediately after the announcement of the Master on Multilingualism, Scotland, Wales, and Barcelona showed interest in international collaboration for this master course.

After an introductory semester in Leeuwarden, the student can choose digital modules from home, in the area of language planning and language, second language learning, language testing, language and cultural history, language philosophy, and methodology. The second year is mainly for research training and the thesis. Meanwhile, the students return to Leeuwarden for a few weeks each year for winter and summer schools. The power of the Master is the combination of both an international and a regional approach.
Potential partners for participation in the development and implementation of the Master come from Catalonia, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. When the provincial council of Fryslân and the municipality of Leeuwarden agree to the UCF plans, training may begin in September 2011.


Language Rich Europe has kicked off

Language Rich Europe, a project funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union (KA2 Languages, Network), has kicked off on the first of November. The network consists of lead partner the British Council and 22 partners, including the Fryske Akademy/ Mercator Research Centre. The other partners are: Migration Policy Group (Brussels), European Union National Institutes for Culture Brussels, Sofia University, University of Hamburg, Goethe Intitut (Munich), Riiklik Eksami- ja Kvalifikatsioonikeskus (Tallinn), South East European Research Centre (Thessaloniki), Instituto Cervantes (Madrid), Lithuanian Social Research Institute (Vilnius), Lietuviu kalbos komisija (Vilnius), Research Institute for Linguistics,Hung. Academy of Science (Budapest), Tilburg University, EDUCULT, Denken+Handeln im Kulturbereich (Vienna), Institute for Quality in Education (Warsaw), Instituto de Linguística Teórica e Computacional (Lisbon), Instituto Camoes (Lisbon), Centre Education 2000+ (Bucharest), EuroEd Foundation (Iasi), CILT, the National Centre for Languages (London), Welsh Language Board (Cardiff) and the Det Danske Kulturinstitut (Kopenhagen).

Language Rich Europe addresses the problem that in spite of initiatives by the EC and the Council of Europe to promote multilingualism and support linguistic diversity in Members States, results vary; the range of languages learnt is still narrow, inadequate resources are allocated to language learning in the context of increased mobility, and a greater common effort and exchange of knowledge is required to respond to the multilingual challenge. LRE will address this through:
1. Facilitating exchange of good practice in promoting intercultural dialogue and social inclusion through language teaching and learning
The diverse network formed, representing government, business, public services, the media and migrant associations will, through knowledge exchange in-country and across Europe, learn from each other and develop practical guidance on how to create more language learning friendly environments, increase linguistic diversity and enhance intercultural dialogue and social cohesion through language teaching and learning. Good practice will be captured on the interactive website and disseminated through wider networks.
2. Promoting European co-operation in developing language policies and practices across several education sectors and broader society
The project actively encourages policy cooperation at national and European level by creating a network of decision makers from various countries and sectors, offering them relevant data, organising knowledge sharing and networking events, creating an interactive online platform and a purpose-made contacts database for identifying relevant counterparts across Europe. It cuts across 3 LLP sectoral programmes as it aims to improve language education structures in schools, HE and adult learning.
3. Raising awareness in MS of EU and CoE recommendations on policies and practices for promoting language learning and linguistic diversity
LRE will develop an Index of Language Policies and Practices in Europe based on a comparative analysis of how countries perform against EU and CoE recommendations. Country essays will analyse the specific language environment, highlighting good practice, and describing challenges. National, regional, immigrant and foreign languages will be covered, and the index results will be available in 18 languages; 13 national, 3 regional (Catalan, Welsh, Frisian) and 2 immigrant languages (Arabic and Turkish).
The Mercator Research Centre is responsible for the data-collection in the Netherlands and the drafting of two reports: one for the Netherlands and one for Fryslân.

Survey on Frisian in education

The Dutch national inspectorate of Education has released a survey on the position and the actual functioning of Frisian in primary and secondary education as well as at schools for children with special needs. As a rule, the inspectorate carries out a survey every four years. The 2010 report does not show very much progress compared to the report of 2006. Frisian keeps a stable but marginal position in most of the schools with a minimum of one hour Frisian lessons per week and, in addition, one or two lessons with Frisian as a medium of instruction.   

In general the quality of Frisian lessons needs to be improved, the qualified competencies of the teachers should be improved as well. The inspectorate recommends, that the school boards and directors of primary and secondary schools should take their responsibility towards the increase of the number of qualified teachers, the continuity of the teaching methods as well as the testing of the results on a regular base.

However, progress in terms of language command in Frisian could be assessed at the around 100 ‘Boppeslach’-schools and at the 38 official Trilingual schools. ‘Boppeslach’- schools are characterised as partly ‘Frisian medium’ for a full day or half a day per week, whereas Trilingual schools apply Dutch and Frisian as a subject and as a medium of instruction on an equal base throughout schooltime, with in addition English from class 5 (age group 9) both as a subject and as medium of instruction.

Expolingua Berlin 2010 comes to a successful close

Expolingua Berlin, Germany’s international fair for languages and cultures, was brought to a successful end on Sunday November 21st. During the three-day fair at the Russisches Haus der Wissenschaft und Kultur, a total of 13 086 visitors got acquainted with the subject of language learning and teaching. 182 exhibitors from 26 countries presented their services, which included languages schools from Germany and abroad, language travel agencies, exchange organisations, cultural institutes and publishing houses.

This year, the fair’s guest language was Chinese. In a special area, visitors were able to discover how quick and easy it is to acquire a basic knowledge of the Chinese language, what is hidden behind the mysterious characters and that Chinese really is not that hard to learn. Eleven Confucius institutes were at the event under the umbrella of the Chinese organisation Hanban. In addition, the Chinesische Kulturzentrum Berlin, the International House Xi'an, Mandarin Home and the LSI Landesspracheninstitut Bochum informed visitors about the Chinese language and culture.

Taking place at the same time, a lecture programme involving around 100 contributions also attracted a great deal of interest. Experts gave information on subjects such as language holidays and stays abroad, as well as language tests and careers using foreign languages. The numerous mini language courses were particular crowd-pullers, during which visitors could try out Chinese, Finnish, Korean, Arabic and Spanish and various other languages.

The next Expolingua Berlin will once again take place in the Russisches Haus der Wissenschaft und Kultur in Berlin from October 28th to 30th 2011.

October 2010

A summary of the news for October.

  • Next EUNoM symposium "Higher Education and Research on Multilingualism: Challenge or Opportunity?" in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden
  • Frisian organisations send own report to Council of Europe
  • European Day of Languages: range of events organised across Europe
  • NPLD conference in Brussels: focus on the future
  • British-Irish Council conference: ‘Promoting Language and Culture within minority language communities’


Next EUNoM symposium "Higher Education and Research on Multilingualism: Challenge or Opportunity?" in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden (The Netherlands)

The second EUNoM symposium will be organised by the Mercator Research Centre on 18-19 November in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. The theme of this conference is "Higher Education and Research on Multilingualism: Challenge or Opportunity?" More specifically, the focus will be on the multilingual university, the relation between the global and the regional level, and the contribution that universities in general and the EUNoM project in particular can make to European policy development. Speakers include Ildikó Vančo of the Univerzita Konštantína Filozofa v Nitre, Jochen Rehbein of the Research Centre on intercultural communication and Multilingualism, Ankara, Robert Dunbar of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and Rita Temmerman of the Erasmushogeschool Brussel.

EUNoM is a network funded with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union.

Frisian organisations send own report to Council of Europe

New government has to work on new language policy Frisian

Photo press conference: fltr: Jelle Bangma, chairman EBLT, Corrie Hartholt, chairwoman 'Steatekomitee Frysk' of the 'Provinsjale Steaten fan Fryslân', Richt Sterk, EBLT member, Reinier Salverda, director Fryske Akademy

In September 2010 the Dutch government was supposed to deliver their fourth state report, following the appointments made in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, in Strasbourg. This didn’t happen. Also the third report, in 2007, was too late. The Council of Europe was not pleased.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages safeguards the rights of minority languages. The Netherlands is one of the first member states of the Council of Europe that signed and ratified the European Charter. At that time The Netherlands intended to intensify work on the policy regarding Frisian and Lower Saxon. But it seems now that the language policy has come to a complete standstill.

Frisian organisations connected to the Europeeske Buro foar Lytse Talen (EBLT) have made an overview of the latest situation regarding Frisian in the Netherlands and the province of Fryslân. In different domains the Netherlands doesn’t meet the obligations made in the European Charter. The Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe criticised even three times the compliance of the content. Their assessment went from thin to insufficient. The experts also made strong recommendations, three times as well, such as greater decentralisation and measures relating to education in Frisian and in the media, more consultation with the Frisian government and further encouragement of the use of Frisian in court.

The Frisian organisations are basically positive about the in the Coalition Agreement of the new Dutch government mentioned language law for equal rights for Frisian and Dutch in the province of Fryslân. The Council of Europe has been asked to assist with the realisation of the Frisian language law. The Frisian organisations also call upon the new government and minister Donner of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to take decisive action regarding the European Charter and the Frisian language policy.

The Steatekomitee Frysk (States committee Frisian) of the Provincial Council of Fryslân, in which every political party of the Council is represented, supports the letter of EBLT with an own letter and offers itself as an information source to the Council of Europe. More concretely, there is the wish for a special hearing of the Intergroup in the European Parliament with experts of the Council of Europe, regarding the position of Frisian. The named Intergroup of the European Parliament unites MEPs who speak a minority language or defend the rights of minority languages. About ten percent of the inhabitants of the European Union speaks one of the dozens minority languages at home, such as Basque, Breton, Frisian, Catalan, Friul, Gaelic, Occitan, Sámi, Sorbian, etceteras.

Frisian organisations that support the letter to the Council of Europe are: Afûk, Berie foar it Frysk, Cedin-Taalsintrum Frysk, Freonen fan Omrop Fryslân, Feriening Frysk Underwiis, Folkshegeskoalle Schylgeralân, Fryske Akademy, Fryske Rie, Jongereinferiening Frysk Ynternasjonaal Kontakt (FYK), NHL Hogeschool, Omrop Fryslân, Ried fan de Fryske Beweging, Sintrum Frysktalige Berne-opfang, Stichting Ons Bildt, Tresoar, Tryater en Vereniging Levende Talen, seksje Frysk.

European Day of Languages: range of events organised across Europe

dr. Alex Riemersma

On the occasion of the European Day of Languages, 26 September 2010, a range of events was organised across Europe: for example activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences.

In collaboration with the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning of the 'Fryske Akademy' and the 'Europeeske Buro foar Lytse Talen' (EBLT), the Frisian Historical and Literary Centre Tresoar organised a language market and an exhibition with the theme "Word of Value" in Leeuwarden.

Prior to the opening of the exhibition, dr. Alex Riemersma, lector Frisian and Multilingualism in Education and Upbringing, spoke about story telling and about European activities in the context of lesson promotion. Mr. Luc West, representing the European Commission in the Netherlands, provided an outline of the European policy on multilingualism and mr. Teake Oppewal from Tresoar spoke about the multilingualism project 'Bitterswiet'.
After the official part there was the opportunity to have a drink and to visit the photo exhibition and the language market. In the photo exhibition twenty-five representatives of language groups in Fryslân contributed to the enrichment of the Frisian vocabulary with a word or saying depicted in a photo. On the language market a number of organizations, including Mercator Research, presented information on the various aspects of multilingualism.

What is the European Day of Languages?
There are over 6000 languages spoken in the world. And behind each and every one of them lies a rich and diverse culture. That’s what the European Day of Languages (EDL) aims to celebrate - by showing people across Europe how important languages are, and what fun can be had learning them. At the initiative of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, the European Day of Languages has been celebrated every year since 2001 on 26 September.

NPLD conference in Brussels: focus on the future

More than 100 people gathered for the NPLD conference "European cooperation and support for linguistic diversity" in Brussels, on October 27. Among them ministers, members of European, national and regional parliaments, language planners, and policy makers at various levels. They reflected on the first three years of the NPLD’s existence, and they looked ahead to the future of the Network itself as well as to the challenges the language communities throughout Europe are faced with.

The last decade has shown major changes in structures, power balances, and investments for regional and minority languages. A number of these smaller languages are not longer dependent on the voluntary sector only, but instead regional authorities have established professional boards for language planning and created structural funds and sustainable legislation. Nowadays, in the economic sector, multilingualism and well mastered language skills, including the knowledge and use of minority languages, are considered essential job requirements. This move to professionalism, however, has not been as yet reflected in the actual European language policies. On the one hand, the mainstreaming of European programmes has created more funding opportunites; on the other hand, however, the access to these funds is the harder for the smaller languages due to a lack of capacity – in particular those language communities who suffer most and need support most for their revitalisation.

The NPLD is working towards the implementation of the Barcelona agreement on the acquisition of two languages, alongside the mother tongue, of which one could be a smaller or lesser used language. The MELT project, which aims at a balanced bilingualism and the “well-informed choice” of parents for bilingual primary education for their children, as well as the Study Visit project and the Terminology & Place Names project, were presented at the conference as good examples of concrete projects carried out under the umbrella of the NPLD. Together with a further deepening of insight and understanding of the linguistic diversity in Europe, the NPLD will continue to prove the values of the smaller languages for the future of a balanced Europe.

British-Irish Council conference: ‘Promoting Language and Culture within minority language communities’

Within Ireland and Great-Britain, eight community languages are spoken, apart from English: Irish-Gaelic and Scittish-Gaelige, Scots and Ulster-Scots, Cornish and the languages of the Isles of Guernsey, Jersey and Manx. The Minority and Lesser Used Languages Working Group of the British–Irish Council (BIC) organised a conference with representatives of these language communities in Belfast on October 19-20. The aim was the exchange of best practices and the development of a common approach for the future of these languages. On behalf of Mercator, Alex Riemersma presented a number of best practices of linguistic diversity both at the local level of language communities and at the European level of exchange, bringing together speakers, singers, composers, text writers, language planners for the experiencing of linguistic and cultural diversity.

Riemersma made reference to the nine criteria for Language Vitality of the Unesco Atlas of Endangered Languages (2009) and the eight steps of language shift & revitalisation defined by Joshua Fishman (1991). Given the good examples of recent strategic language plans for the next 20 years in Ireland and the Basque Country he proposed a common structure for such a plan for the revitalisation of the eight community languages concerned. Key words for a common approach are: coordination and continuity, the balance between informal voluntary activities and professionally conducted language planning projects.

September 2010

A summary of the news for September.

  • First EUNoM Symposium: "Language teachers: Training for a New Paradigm" held in Udine (Italy)
  • Development of bilingual reading materials for Antillean toddlers
  • European minority language regions start cooperation on preschool education in MELT project
  • Alex Riemersma lector Frisian and Multilingualism in Education and Upbringing
  • Project: "Vanishing Voices from the Uralic World"
  • 1,7 million euro's for Dutch/Frisian online grammar
  • Faroese and Vepsian band in the final of Liet International 2010

First EUNoM Symposium: "Language teachers: Training for a New Paradigm" held in Udine (Italy)

On 7 and 8 September, the Centro Internazionale sul Plurilinguismo of Udine University, Italy, organised a symposium "Language Teachers: Training For a New Paradigm". This was the first of a series of symposia that are organised as part of the EUNoM project. EUNoM is a network funded with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union.

The main point made during the different presentations was that the changes in society (globalisation, internationalisation) call for a change in language teacher education, too. It is important that students acquire language awareness and the ability to deal with different languages, without necessarily speaking those languages at native-speaker level. As Professor Mike Kelly of the University of Southampton put it: “We need to move away from ‘learning a language’ to ‘learning to language’.”

    Development of bilingual reading materials for Antillean toddlers

    As announced in previous newsletters, Mercator Research Centre has developed a bilingual language development project for Antillean toddlers. The working title of this project is “More languages, more opportunities”, and is executed by Antillean paraprofessionals (language coaches) during home visits and group gatherings. Nienke Boomstra, PhD student and responsible for the research concerning the effects of the project, asked Afûk to develop the bilingual materials. Afûk is a Frisian organisation. Their main goal is to enhance the knowledge and use of Frisian language. Fifteen years ago they, so to speak, gave birth to Tomke, main character in books for toddlers. Since the stories and adventures Tomke experiences are not limited to the Frisian community, and in fact are universal, the idea was to engage Tomke in “More languages, more opportunities”.

    Since April 2010, the website adapted to “More languages, more opportunities” is online: This website is bilingual, just as the reading materials. When entering the interactive part of the website, one can choose to play the games and listen to stories in Papiamentu or Dutch. From July 2009 onwards, six bilingual books have been developed:

    Tòmke i Ròmke: Hep, hep…hap (health)
    Tòmke i Ròmke: Fiesta den desèmber (December holidays)
    Prèt den wenter i lènte (having fun in winter and spring)
    Tòmke i Ròmke den tràfiko (trafic)
    Bin den mi kasita (the home)
    Paña nobo (clothes)

    Parents and children are very enthusiastic about the materials. They feel they are appealing and good to work with. Language coaches often report the children to come running to the door with the books in their hands when the coaches arrive for the home visit.

    Six more books will be developed in the next twelve months. Whether the intervention project will positively influence the bilingual language development and enhance the interaction between mother and child will be the focus of the research. First outcomes are expected in the second half of 2011.

    European minority language regions start coöperation on preschool education in MELT project

    Bringing up young children in a bi- or multilingual way in theory and practice, that is what the MELT project is about. MELT stands for Multilingual Early Language Transmission. Four European language communities cooperate in this project: Fryslân (Frisian in The Netherlands), Swedish speaking municipalities of Finland (Swedish in Finland), Wales (Welsh in Great Brittain) and Brittany (Breton in France).

    The MELT project is based on an initiative of the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NLPD) and is funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission for the period 2009 – 2011. Preparatory seminars were held in Wales, Occitania and in the Basque Country. The project officially started with a seminar in Fryslân (The Netherlands) in April of this year. There will be one more in Helsinki (2010) and a final conference in Brussels (2011).

    The four regions all have their own role within the project, fulfilled by local organisations. Fryslân is represented by the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning (hosted by the Frisian Academy). Mercator is responsible for scientific research and is also overall projectleader of the MELT project. The Centre for Frisian Childcare (Sintrum Frysktalige Berne-opfang, SFBO) is the executor of the practical part in Fryslân. This centre has a partnership with Mercator.

    Chief Executive of the SFBO, Sytske de Boer, said: "It gives me great pleasure to be part of this exciting project. The future of the language depends on the new generation’s ability to speak and to use it in their everyday lives. Children can learn languages quickly, and by introducing the language to them from an early age we will lay down a strong foundation for them to further develop their skills in the long term.” SFBO has played a key role in introducing Frisian to young children in Fryslân for over twenty years now. De Boer said: “Collaborating on the MELT project gives us an opportunity to share the ideas and expertise of our organisation in an international context. I’m sure we will learn a few lessons and best practices from the other countries as well."

    As a representative of the Swedish-speaking municipalities in Finland, Folkhälsan has the responsibility of the development of a toolkit in eight languages. This toolkit builds on existing initiatives and best practices in the regions, such as the book “Language Strategy for Day Care Centres” written by Lillemor Gammelgård, which focuses on the Swedish language immersion program in Finland. The toolkit is a key component of the MELT project. It has to make parents and teachers aware of the benefits of a multilingual upbringing. The tookit will offer them guidelines to support that process. The toolkit will be developed during the project and completed with examples of good practice in the participating regions. These are provided by the preschool teachers and training courses for the preschool stage.
    An important product besides the toolkit is the awareness raising brochure aimed at young parents dealing with questions about bringing up their children in two or more languages. This brochure will take into account the different language situations in Europe.

    Wales is represented by the Welsh Language Board (WLB), supported by the nursery schools movement Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin (MYM). Within the MELT project MYM handles the dissemination of information and products.
    The products of the MELT-project are not only meant for the 4 mentioned partners, but also for the 11 language communities of the NPLD and later on for all multilingual regions in Europe.

    Brussels Congress 2011
    Bretagne / Brittany is represented by the Regional Council of Brittany (Conseil régional de Bretagne), supported by Divskouarn, which is responsible for the strengthening of Breton and multilingualism in Brittany in the preschool stage (école maternelle). As part of the MELT project, they will organise the final congress in Brussels in October 2011. On this conference results and recommendations of the project will be presented to the participating regions and the European Commission.

    Alex Riemersma lector Frisian and Multilingualism in Education and Upbringing

    Dr. Alex Riemersma, researcher at the Mercator Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, has been appointed as lector Frisian and Multilingualism in Education and Upbringing. This lectorate is a coöperation between the Fryske Akademy, NHL University and Stenden University. The lectorate is subsidized by the province of Fryslân.
    With this lectorate Riemersma wants to set up an innovation project for the interconnection between trilingual primary school education and multilingual secondary school education. Besides that  he wants to establish a master on Multilingualism. Due to the coöperation between the two universities Stenden and NHL and the research institute Fryske Akademy, there is an obvious relationship between the teacher training (primary and secondary school) and educational research. The research focuses on developing the language skills of students. These are the languages Dutch, Frisian and English. In addition, research on the educational aspects of the use of English and Frisian as a language in other subjects in secondary education will be carried out.

    European expansion
    The international connections of the research group will be expanded using the existing knowledge and contacts through various projects of the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning from the Fryske Akademy. The research group aims to expand existing networks with a European network of teacher involved in multilingual education.

    Lector Riemersma
    The appointment of Alex Riemersma is for a period of four years. In addition, the lecturer remains associated with the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning from the Fryske Akademy, where he is a researcher since 2007. Alex Riemersma (1953) has since 1984 worked for the NHL as a teaching methodologist Frisian. In 1994 he graduated together with Sikko de Jong on research into the control of Frisian and Dutch at the end of elementary school. Supervisor was Professor Guus Extra, University of Tilburg.

    Project: "Vanishing Voices from the Uralic World"

    In the fall of 2010 a new project will start with the title: Vanishing Voices from the Uralic World: Sound recordings for archives in Russia (in particular Udmurtia), Estonia, Finland and Hungary. Dr. Tjeerd de Graaf, research fellow at the Mercator Research Centre, has received a grant of about 53.000 Euro from the Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library for the continuation of his work which is devoted to the safeguarding of language material on historical sound recordings in the Russian Federation.

    The Uralic language family consists of about 40 languages, which are spoken by approximately 25 million people. Most of these languages can be found in the Russian Federation, some of them in special regions (like Udmurt in the Udmurt Republic and Mari in the Republic Mari-El), whereas many of them are severely endangered or nearly extinct. Therefore the available sound material of these languages is very important for their safeguarding and possible revitalization. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian. Scholars in the related countries (Estonia, Finland and Hungary) have great interest in collections of recordings for languages and cultures such as Udmurt, Mari and other ones.
    The project will improve the recording facilities in the sound archive of the Udmurt Institute for History, Language and Literature by providing the necessary equipment for digitisation and storage of digital samples. Historical data which are stored on cassette and open reel tapes will be collected and a selection from the about 600 hours of available recordings will be made. Most of the material will be related to the endangered Uralic languages like Udmurt, Mari and their cultures. These data will be stored on external hard discs and sent to the British Library and other institutions such as the sound archives in Helsinki, Tartu and Budapest. Specimens on CD are on request provided to scholars who do research in a particular field of the Uralic languages and cultures.

    1,7 million euro's for Dutch/Frisian online grammar

    The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has decided to subsidize the proposal Language Portal Dutch / Frisian. The subsidy amounts to 1,7 million euro's, payable from the special NWO budget for big, prestigious proposals in which all sciences compete. This is the first time that the subsidy has been granted to a linguistic project, and it is only the second time that it has been granted to a project from the humanities.

    The subsidy has been applied for by a consortium in which the Frisian Academy is a major partner, together with the Meertens Institute and the Institute for Dutch Lexicology at Leiden (INL). In addition, the project is backed up by boards of advisors from all leading universities in the relevant fields of research. The joint venture has been planned to take up five years. The chief aim of the project is to provide a complete parallel description of Dutch and Frisian grammar, that is, phonology, morphology and syntax. The grammar will be written in English.

    On-line grammar as part of a virtual institute

    Linguists will collaborate to produce this grammatical description in a Wikipedia-like environment. The parallel description facilitates an optimal comparison of the grammars of Dutch and Frisian, in which all similarities and differences will become visible. At the same time, this format is very efficient, since phenomena in which the two languages pattern alike, need only be described and analysed once: at most the example sentences will have to be translated from Frisian to Dutch or vice versa. In addition, the technical realisation will also allow the user the freedom to just focus on one language. Thus, complete grammatical descriptions of Dutch and Frisian will be produced. The grammar will be part of a virtual institute for the Dutch and Frisian languages from which all quality resources can be accessed. On the basis of the scientific grammatical description, more accessible and normative grammars will be produced which are geared to the needs of the general audience consisting for example of teachers and language-learners.

    European perspective

    In the case of Frisian, a lot of preparatory work has already been done, although the Frisian equivalent of the German 'Duden' or the English 'Quirk' does not yet exist. The same applies to many other minority languages, for which a comprehensive grammatical description is missing. It is our hope that the success of the Frisian/Dutch venture will spark off similar initiatives elsewhere in Europe. Those interested in obtaining more information can contact dr. Eric Hoekstra (ehoekstra(a)

    Faroese and Vepsian band in the final of Liet International 2010

    The selection jury of Liet International 2010 has selected the last five finalists of the 7th edition of European minority language song contest Liet International 2010, which will be held in Lorient, France on the 27th of November. The independent jury, which was composed of independant music experts from Brittany, Friesland and the Council of Europe, had a tough job. They listened to 46 songs in 21 different minority languages from all over Europe, from Galicia to Russia, from the Faroe Islands to Cyprus. Also the variety in styles was huge, ranging from folk to rock, rap, pop, tango and even folkopera. 

    Out of those 46 songs the jury has selected the following five artists for Liet International 2010 in Lorient, Breizh/Brittany, France:

    1. Rachel Walker, Fada Bhuam, Scottish Gaelic
    2. Eivør Pálsdóttir, VOKA, Faroese
    3. The Temporary, Cupan Toast, Irish
    4. Mafia Galega, Billarda Sempre, Galician
    5. Jousnen Jarved, Verrez Tullei, Vepsian song from Russia

    It will be the first time that Liet International will present songs in Faroese and Vepsian. Faroese is a minority language in Denmark, spoken by 48.000 people on the Faroe islands. The Liet Foundation is impressed by the quality of the music production in this small nation. The song of Eisvor Palsdottir was one of the nine songs Liet International received. All songs were of good quality and produced professionally. Vepsian is endangered Finn-Ugrian language spoken by only 4.000 people in Russian Karelia.

    Five other bands/artists already qualified for Liet International earlier this year by winning a song contest in their part of Europe.

    These five artists/bands are:

    6. Xera, the winner of the Premiu al meyor cantar, Asturias
    7. Pia Maria Holmgren, winner of the Sámi Grand Prix, Sámi from Sweden
    8. Equal Souls, winner of Liet 2010, Fryslân
    9. Stéphane Casalta, winner of Suns, Corsica
    10. Resistence in Dub, winner of the public vote of Suns, Friûl, Italy

    During the coming weeks the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (FIL) will select a Breton song and artist for Liet International 2010. As the host of the European minority language song contest it is their privilige to do this. This means that, apart from the Breton finalist, the line-up of Liet International 2010 is ready.

    The seventh edition of Liet International is the first which will take place in France. Liet International was invited to Lorient, Brittany by de Region Breizh/Bretagne and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (FIL). Since 2008 Liet International is organised under the patronage of the Council of Europe. Liet International is also supported by the the autonomous region of Asturias in Spain and by the province Friesland in the Netherlands.

    Liet International was conceived and developed in Friesland, the Netherlands, by the Liet Foundation in 2002. Since then Liet International has become one of the larger events for the promotion of minority languages to a larger audience, attracting lots of media from all over Europe. The last edition of Liet International took place in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Netherlands in 2009 and was won by Sámi rockband SomBy from the north of Finland.

    July 2010

    A summary of the news for July 2010.

    • New Regional Dossier: "Albanian in education in Italy"

    New Regional Dossier: "Albanian in education in Italy"

    In July the Mercator Research Centre published the new Regional Dossier "Albanian in education in Italy" (author: Giovanni Belluscio). The Regional dossiers series aims at providing concise descriptive information and basic educational statistics about minority language education in a specific region of the European Union. 

    download the dossier


    April 2010

    A summary of the news for April 2010.

    • New report: Languages and Language education in Fryslân. The role and position in the province of Fryslân and Frisian education”

    New report: Languages and Language education in Fryslân. The role and position in the province of Fryslân and Frisian education”

    This monograph is one of the outcomes of the research project on the topic of the “Added value of multilingualism and multilingual education” as part of the agreement between the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (Department of Education, Universities and Research) and the Fryske Akademy. Rynke Douwes and Barbara Lotti from the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning drafted the first version of this report. Later Rynke Douwes and Marieke Hanenburg gave this report its final shape. The monograph consists of three parts. The first part describes the history and position of the Frisian language. The second part depicts the general educational context in the Netherlands and Fryslân. The last part describes the multilingual situation in Frisian education.

    download the report

    February 2010

    A summary of the news for February.

    • Expert Seminar on the “Added Value of Multilingualism and Multilingual Education”
    • Expert Seminar on Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT)


    Expert Seminar on the “Added Value of Multilingualism and Multilingual Education”

    On 3 – 4 June 2010, the Mercator Research Centre and the Ministry of Education of the Basque Government will organise this seminar in Leeuwarden/Ljouwert, Fryslân, The Netherlands. Their joint research project “Added value of multilingualism and multilingual education” will be the central focus of the seminar. This multi-annual project is carried out by the Mercator Research Centre in collaboration with the University of the Basque Country. It is a comparative study of the Basque Autonomous Community and the province of Fryslân. It aims at:

    1)    analyzing bilingualism and multilingualism as a resource for the individual and society
    2)    analyzing bilingualism and multilingualism as a resource at school

    Keynote speakers at the seminar are:
    •    Maria-Louisa Garciá Gurrutxaga (Ministry of Education, Basque Government)
    •    Jasone Cenoz (University of the Basque Country)
    •    Durk Gorter (University of the Basque Country - IKERBASQUE)
    •    François Grin (University of Geneva)
    •    Ulrike Jessner (University of Innsbruck)
    •    Reinier Salverda (Fryske Akademy)

    The participation fee is 150€ (this includes lunches, two conference dinners and a social activity). Please register before 16 May. 


    Expert Seminar on Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT)

    Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning will organise a Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT) expert seminar in Leeuwarden, on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 April, 2010.
    The project focuses on four European regions with a regional or minority language: Frisian in the Netherlands, Breton in France, Welsh in the UK and Swedish in Finland.
    The MELT project will do a comparative study on the provisions, approach en available resources in the different regions. This also means looking at information for parents on the benefits of multilingual pre-primary education in the own mother tongue, and the available teaching resources. The study will make recommendations based on the best examples aiming at the providing parents and teachers with reliable information for their “informed choice” on bilingual or multilingual education.
    The project is funded by the European Commission and will last two years (November 2009 – October 2011). For the initial opening seminar of the project  around 40 experts and specialists will be invited to identify best practices in the field, to exchange views and experiences, and to develop common strategies.

    For details, including the programme and registration form, please go to the conference site.