European language policies are in state of flux. Argument are still there among the medium sized states over which language has bigger popularity and of wider communication to be applied in the institution of learning, in higher education for science and research success. Lesser language struggle to maintain their popularity and originality, on the other hand language of non-European are more dominant and has higher popularity in their access to public services This research paper is aimed at exploring critical issues that geography has for analyzing and interpreting language policies in European union. The paper focuses it discussion on the late questions, approaches and techniques applied by the geographers which has recently accorded attention to linguistic minorities in the international law. Recognition of right derived from mutual tolerance and social inclusion gives minorities a lot of strength and support required to maintain the identity of linguistic minorities. This ensures that required language is used in various sectors for instance in education, public service and legal system (Tonkin 1).
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In order to achieve this, European council set a convention framework that seeks to protect the national minorities. The convention framework is further strengthened by the European charter for regional minority languages which aims setting minimum standards. By October 2002, 29 states had signed the charter where 17 states had presented to the parliament, debated and passed (Riagain 25). The move was aimed to harmonize European council to the united nation that had never isolated the national minorities from other linguistic groups in addition to this the organization for security and co-operation in Europe has also strengthened the national minorities through their effort in active specification of the rights of minorities. The rights are further geared by recommendations of rights established in Hague; recommendation about education rights and linguistic right of minorities All these contribution are aimed at reaching to a consensus among the larger European institutions and organization as to which strategic plans are appropriate to set language policies.
The people involved in language and planning should place their primary emphasis on building a better understanding of the principles of good minority language planning and policy (Riagain 62).This understanding should also be articulated in the monitoring and evaluation of the developments made by the policies. A body should establish to act as policy adviser in languages planning and policy making. Such body should asses both the commitments agreed by the member states and whether the policies contribute to the vitality of the regional or minority languagesin question.
Theory of language planning and policy
Contemporary minority communities find themselves in situation where the connection between the governmentally backed and institutionalized policies on one hand and their implementation and the utilization of the potential benefits by the ethno linguistic communities on the other hand need to be initiated from the communities themselves. Communities are active agents and advocates for the maintenance of their cultural and linguistic heritage rather than passive recipients of government support. The role of macro-level language policies in the maintenance of minority languages cannot thus be emphasized but this does not mean macro level policies are not important in fact they complement the micro-level policies in enhancing the protection of minority languages (Baldauf 55).
Micro- planning as language policy originates from the micro level or from the communities themselves. It's thus not an interpretation of any macro policy upon the minority languages in question. This does not mean that micro level policies are isolated from the governmental and non governmental policies in the country. In contrary to this the interdependence of governmental and community organizations plays crucial roles in the maintenance of the cultural and linguistic heritage in the communities. Language policies are usually associated with the state and other political decision making authorities but it may also happen at the community level such initiatives are referred to as grass-roots language policies or micro planning. Non-governmental organizations and other community institutions are important actors in language planning and policy. They also play important roles in initiation and implementation of language policies (Kaplan 53).
The macro level policy makers involve the micro level institutions in the language planning and policy not only to fill the gap to satisfy the needs of the officials but also because micro planning is an essential and necessary complement to the macro-level language policy language policy and planning. Since the language planning revolves around influencing the local communities their involvement in planning should be paramount as they are in better position to fulfill this role. Secondly localized planning coupled with national planning is also important as the minority languages struggle to retain their relevance in this era of globalization (Riagain 52). The challenges faced in ensuring the survival of the minority languages in Europe can only retain some force if the communities and the governments unite their forces. Last but not the least minority language planning and policy can be strengthened by the immigrant's languages behavior if they are assimilated in the minority language speaking communities. This can only happen if the minority languages are themselves determined to retain their importance through proper language policy (Baldauf 57).
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Language planning and policy have been enforced by major international conventions. For instance the1992 Declaration of the United Nations and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of 1992 and the 1995 frame work convention of the council of Europe. These conventions are based on the principle that the rights of all language communities are equal and independent of the legal or political status of their languages as official, regional or minority languages (Baldauf 56).This paper however will emphasize on the ECRML as a language planning guideline paper in Europe. The issue of language planning and policy has been discussed in details in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) It therefore important to understand about the charter at this stage of the paper as it will be referred at many instances in the paper.
The principles of ECRML that guides in language planning and policy making
This charter emphasize on the principle of non- discrimination on grounds of language as an important aspect of human rights to protect the minority. Since human rights systems protect human beings in all facets it should as well take in to account the linguistic attributes of an individual. The people with special linguistic characteristics should be able to thrive in their own language and enjoy equal privileges to people who speak dominant languages under the protection of the human rights. The privilege of exercising traditional individual rights is a major factor in the definition of equality as concept in universal human rights and this is possible if the minority languages are not dominated to extinction. All these principles are subscribed in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML). The preamble f the ECRML states that use of regional or minority language in private and public life is an inalienable right that conforms to the principles in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also in Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The wide acceptance of these principles in Europe and in the whole world shouts loud on the importance of language planning and policy making so that minority languages remain relevant (Riagain 61).
The ECMRL explains three ideas that that legalizes the principle of non- discrimination based on language. First of all its aim is to protect minority languages and not just those who speak them. This helps to ensure that the cultural asset, the linguistic diversity of Europe is an asset that is contributed by the minority languages. The charter thus protects the language rather than protecting minority groups who might be easily absorbed by the dominant groups. The charter thus encourages the authorities to favor use of minority languages as a way of protecting them and the cultural diversity they represent.
Secondly the charter encourages the states to promote and actively adopt policies that area inclined towards protecting the minority languages. The support by the authorities through language planning and as policy making helps the regional languages to thrive despite the tumultuous waves of the dominant languages. Protection of local languages should thus be viewed by states in positive rather than in a negative notion that hinders integration of Europe (Riagain 65).
Thirdly, the charter acknowledges the differentiation depending on the usage of the language in the community and as result it does not give similar legal weight to all languages. The use of minority languages is an individual right. However local language should be used in a context where every individual understands the language. Policies that favor use of minority languages do not amount to discrimination of the dominant language or preventing its development. Special measures favoring regional languages are aimed at promoting equality between the users of these languages and the rest of the population.
The ECRML which up to date is a legal convention on language planning is guided the following summarized principles: recognition of languages as an expression of cultural wealth, elimination of discrimination, promotion of respect, understanding and tolerance and taking in to consideration the needs and wishes of the relevant linguistic communities. The charter represents a legalistic and policy approach to the rights of the minority languages which is a means to correcting social inequalities. The European council was motivated to pass and ratify the charter to eliminate the feelings of persecution, marginalization and lack of recognition by many European minority group associations (Ager 94).
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Actors in language planning and policy in Europe
International organizations such as the EU and Council for Europe have implications to local, state and non-governmental organizations involved in language revitalization campaigns. These organizations possess financial might that they use to influence the decision making of other organizations in addition their policies are reference points by the local community groups in language planning. These organizations identify national governments as the dominant actors in protecting regional languages; they also grant money to NGOs affiliated institutes (Riagain 83). For instance the council of Europe an international actor in language planning has had great influence in Voro institute by providing limited grants to groups in current and potential member states that formulate language revitalization projects in accordance to its objectives. Other international organization such as EU also recognize the value of local languages .They favor introduction of such languages in academic levels so as to help in preservation, development and teaching of minority languages and dialects as a prestigious activity in today's Europe. The international organizations influence in language planning and policy is thus a force to reckon especially in globalization age due to professionalism and power they wield (Amove 115).
According to national governments, language planning is tied to development of national unity and is predominantly focused in development and preservation of their cultures. Although linguistic diversity is viewed as a barrier to national development and civic unity, it provides the country with diverse cultures which can b exploited for economic development. In Europe the emergent of nations originated from language differences and nationalism is enhanced by language. Since most states have one dialect the national governments of the small states must strive to prevent the domination of minority languages by major languages. For instance the Estonian government struggles to put policies that ensure that school based regional language program developed to shift from the language that was used during the reign of USSR. (Amove 116). National governments further adopt policies that favor minority languages to protect the standard nationals in their countries. The acceptance of national leaders by ethnic groups is based on the efforts to please them, in this case language planning and policies are sometimes made to please the minorities and in return they favor the government in electoral processes.
The language needs of individuals are met through the development of acceptable language policies. The success of language planning and policy is determined by the willingness of the individuals to embrace and use the language in question. The language planning and policy officials should thus take in to consideration the views of the individuals through research before they embark on setting the policies otherwise their efforts are futile. The influential individuals are composed of language specialists who are consulted by the policy makers. Their views are not always professional but are at times influenced by their innate feelings about certain languages (Tonkin 3).
NGOs and civil society groups
Besides various language institutions with political and administrative agendas, several non- governmental organizations and research institutions are active in language planning and policy making. The civil society groups are viewed as non-partisan parties in policy making representing the rights of the civilians and checking the other partisan parties from suppressing individual rights. For instance the Mother Tongue Society and the Institute of Estonian language are NGOs that have compiled a dictionary for the use in promoting Estonian language. In addition to this they play the role of civic education on importance of minority language protection and they at times set institutes to teach local languages (Amove 117).
The actors discussed are actively involved in language planning and policy. Their influence may differ but their contributions are equally complementary if an acceptable language policy is to be made. Language planning and policy is thus an exercise that should be professionally handled as it may lead to collapse or integration of nations. The international organization act as umbrella bodies into which the local policies are inclined to. This is attributed to the interdependence of the states and to uphold the spirit of common interest national governments and local organizations must act within the set regimes.
Factors to be considered in language planning and policy
In order to ensure that a minority language is revived a model is required to provide broad ideas about the strategy to be used and the priorities to be checked in language planning. Such models help in predicting whether the policy will help in wide acceptance that lead to language expansion or failure. In an attempt to create such a model there are factors that should be considered and these are discussed below.
The economic status of a minority language community is likely to be a key element in language vitality. For instance in a minority language community experiencing considerable unemployment or widespread low income the pressure may shift toward the dominant language. The people in such languages will seek education in the majority language so that they can as well seek for jobs in majority dominated states. In social terms majority language is seen as giving higher social status and more power while minority language may be associated with poverty and social deprivation. As a result the social factors should be highly looked in to before any language policy is formulated .The symbolic status is also an important factor to be considered when planning a language. A heritage language may be crucial factor in defining a person's ethnic status. Minority languages with high symbolic status are thus easily maintained than those with little symbolic status as a result language planning and policy making for those two categories require different approaches to maintain them (Baker 54).
The geographic distribution of the speakers of certain language should also be put in to consideration. For instance, in Ireland there are certain heartland areas where use of Irish language is highly encouraged. The number of speakers of a minority language is also important as well as the saturation of speakers in an area. However the in rural areas where population density is low the use of minority language will be easily implemented as the people continue to interact with that indigenous language (Amove 116). The use of minority language should emphasized in all aspects, for example if people can speak a minority language but can not read or write through the same such a language is doomed to extinct. Geographic factors should thus not be considered on ability to talk a language but to use it in all respects.
Institutional support factors
The existence of minority language speakers in a wide variety of institution is also an important factor to be considered in language planning. National, regional, local government, religious, cultural organizations and mass media are the major institutions that determine the success of language policy. These institutions provide avenues for increased use of a minority language for communication. The use of a minority language especially in educational institutions such as schools and colleges are more important conditions for the promotion of minority languages (Baker, 57).
Language planning and policy of European minority languages has been a hot debate in the recent past. This has been necessitated by the wave of globalization that is likely to render the minority languages irrelevant. The wide acceptance of the dominant languages such as English, French and German in continental Europe has made the international organizations, national governments and local communities to rise up to the occasion to plan and make policies that will ensure the survival of the minority languages.
This paper mentioned the conventions that have worked to enhance the use of minority languages laying emphasis on the ECRML and the principles it upholds to help in survival of the minority languages. Planning and policy making requires participation of stakeholders. As result of this the major actors in language planning were discussed and their roles mentioned. These actors include international organizations, national governments, individuals and NGOs. Any planning and policy making exercise must consider certain factors and so I have ended the paper with brief discussion of factors affecting language planning and policy. Status factors, demographic and institutional factors have been identified. Language planning may positively affect the masses by adding to their self identity, self-esteem and social connectedness as well as giving economic advancements. It's for this reason that the paper recommends for sound language planning and policy.