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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Review of  The Other Languages of Europe

Reviewer: Paulina Jänecke
Book Title: The Other Languages of Europe
Book Author: Guus Extra Durk Gorter
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 12.1876

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Extra, Guus, and Durk Gorter, eds. (2001) The Other Languages of Europe:
Demographic, Sociolinguistic and Educational Perspectives. Multilingual
Matters, paperback ISBN: 1-85359-509-8, x+454pp (Multilingual Matters

Reviewed by Paulina Jaenecke, doctoral student at the Freie Universitaet

This book compares the situation of various regional and immigrant
minority languages in Europe. It is the outcome of a conference on
regional, migrant and stateless languages in Europe. The book reflects the
perspectives of researchers in the sector of immigrant minority languages
(IML) and regional minority languages (RML). The authors point out, that
although researchers in one area hardly ever get together with researchers
in the other area they can still learn a lot from each other. In addition
a section on the situation of IML and RML in a non- European context is

The chapters of the book are structured in a similar way, first an
overview of the general situation of the language in question is given
under a demographic and sociolinguistic perspective and then the use and
status of the language in the educational sector is described.

The introductory chapter summarizes the theoretical problems the study of
RML and IML brings about, with special emphasis on demographic,
sociolingustic and educational questions.

Part One - Regional languages in Europe This part of the book covers the
different demographic, sociolinguistic and educational data of the
following regional minority languages (RML):

1. Basque in Spain by Jasone Cenoz
2. Welsh in Great Britain by Colin Williams
3. Gaelic in Scotland by Boyd Robertson
4. Frisian in the Netherlands by Durk Gorter,
Alex Riemersma and Jehannes Ytsma
5. Slovenian in Carinthia by Brigitta Busch
6. The national minority languages in Sweden by Leena Huss
7. Swedish in Finland by Anna Ostern

I will not go into a detailed description of the articles, but summarize
them shortly. All the regional minority languages have experienced a
decline of speakers during the last centuries. Measures to revive or at
least maintain the minority languages have been undertaken for all the
languages but with varying success. Institutional support has proved to be
an important factor in language maintenance and revitalisation. In all
countries, there have been efforts to establish minority language
education. The extent to which the minority language is taught and used in
schools differs not only from country to country, there are regional as
well as school type differences.

In the countries mentioned in the articles, there are different types of
schools: a) schools in which the minority language is the language of
instruction, b) schools in which both the majority and the minority
language are used, c) schools in which the minority language is a subject
comparable with a foreign language and d) schools in which only the
minority language is used. The objectives of the schools differ from
country to country, whereas some are aimed at providing the children with
the competence in both the minority and the majority language, others aim
at reviving the minority language. This usually depends on the number of
fluent speakers but also on the status of the language.

In Wales Welsh is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary education;
there is only one school in Wales in which no Gaelic is taught. Other
countries or regions have quite the opposite situation. In Carinthia
Slovenian is used in bilingual schools, but there are no schools, where
only Carinthian is used as a medium of instruction. All the researchers
come to the conclusion that teaching RML is important because it enhances
the RML's status. The use of a regional minority language in school gives
it a strong institutional support and enhances language maintenance and
revitalization efforts.

Part Two - Immigrant languages in Europe
The second part of the book deals with immigrant minority languages (IML).
The following countries and languages are dealt with:
1. Immigrant languages in Sweden by Sally Boyd
2. Immigrant languages in federal Germany by Ingrid Gogolin and Hans Reich
3. Immigrant minority languages in the Netherlands by Tim van der Avoird,
Peter Broeder and Guus Extra
4. Community languages in the United Kingdom by Vivian Edwards
5. Maghrebine Arabic in France by Dominique Caubet
6. Moroccan children and Arabic in Spanish schools by Bernabe Lopez Garcia
and Laura Mijares Molina
7. Romani in Europe by Peter Bakker

In all the cases mentioned in the book, the governing countries make a
difference between regional and immigrant minority languages. The
difference in attitudes the governments take toward IML can be seen in the
different status of RML and IML. Immigrant languages have in most cases a
lower status than regional minority languages. Most IML are not legally
protected. Different countries take very different views on IML, which is
also mirrored in the sort of data available on the number of IML spoken in
a country and the number of its speakers. There is also a great variation
on the research carried out in this field. Not every country has national
polls, which includes a question on the language spoken. Even in the cases
were such polls exists, it is difficult to determine who is a speaker of
an IML and of which. There is a lack of reliable data in this field.

The articles devote space to the difficulties in determining numbers of
speakers of minority languages, which differ due to the different
statistical data available for each country, but centre around the
problem: how can the IML be determined and who is to be considered a
speaker of an IML? The question of nationality often does not work,
because it does not say, which IML is spoken. Naturalized children, who
are born in the country and who have the country's citizenship, but speak
an IML at home, are often not included in the results.

With this difficulty in determining what IML are spoken and who are its
speakers, it is even more difficult for language planners and educational
policy makers to develop schemes for IML in the educational sector.

In most countries there is a difference in school policies for the
incorporation of RML and IML into the curriculum. There are also different
views on what the aim of the teaching of IML in the schools should be.
Among the different views are a) the integration of immigrant minority
(IM) children into the school system, b) language maintenance among the IM
children for a future return to their home country, or c) bilingualism
among the children. The two main perspectives taken by policy makers in
this area are the multicultural perspective and the deficit perspective.
The multicultural perspective views any language as a value to be
supported by institutions. The deficit perspective, however, is also very
prominent. IML are viewed as an obstacle to integration, competence in the
majority language and culture is the long-term goal of a lot of school
policies. School policies also vary accordingly, sometimes, as it is the
case in Germany, even within the same country. Due to the Federal nature
of Germany, school policies and the integration of IML into the curriculum
and the schools differ widely. In some countries, IML education is a
right. In Sweden, children who speak an IML at home have the right for two
hours instruction in this IML language a week. The rate of children taking
part in IML instruction varies greatly from country to country. "While 80%
of eligible children in the Netherlands were receiving 'mother tongue
teaching' at school, only 2% of children from linguistic minority children
in the UK had access to state provision of this kind" (Edwards, 252)

Practical problems, which are mentioned in most articles, are the lack of
qualified teachers and a lack of a curriculum. Teacher training for these
languages and a standard for their qualification often poses another
problem. Speakers of a non-standard variety often are faced with the
teaching of a standard variety in the schools. This policy was introduced
to enable them to attend schools in their home country once they return.
This is often a problem, especially for Arabic with a lot of children
speaking a non-standard variety at home. The low status of non-standard
varieties of the IML in their home countries is transferred to the
classroom in the immigrant country, how the example of Standard Arabic in
Spanish Schools shows (Garcia and Molina). A language which somehow eludes
the question whether it is an IML or an RML is Romanes. Bakker gives an
overview of the situation of the Romanes language used by the Roma
(gypsies) in Europe. He points out the similarities in the social
conditions in the different European countries and gives a brief summary
of the educational status and teaching materials used in each country of
the EU for Romanes. He points out, that in most European countries Roma
are disregarded. On the other hand, Roma cultural values are not
compatible with most ideas of schooling and educational policies, which
makes it difficult to incorporate Romanes into the curriculum. Still, in a
lot of countries efforts have been undertaken to develop teaching
materials. They are, however, usually used only locally.

Part Three - Outlook from abroad
Part three compares the aspects mentioned in the chapters before with a
non-European perspective. The following articles are included in this
1. Multilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada by John Edwards
2. Minority languages in the United States, with a focus on Spanish in
California by Reynaldo F. Macias
3. Majority and minority languages in South Africa by Neville Alexander
4. Immigration and language policy in Australia by Uldis Ozolins and
Michael Clyne
5. Linguistic Minorities in India by Amitav Choudhry
6. Languages in Turkey by Kutlay Yagmur
7. Berber and Arabic in Morocco by Jilali Saib

In this chapter, the experiences that are made in non-EU countries are
compared to those of the European countries. Countries with a long
tradition of immigration like Canada, the United States and Australia have
a long experience in the problems arising through IML. In South Africa
there is a growing pressure to incorporate RML into the school system and
to raise literacy in the IML. This is hindered by the high status attached
to English as the language of economical success. The problem of
standardization of RML is important in India. Speakers and activists of
RML in Turkey face the problem that RML do not receive institutional
support in education. The close relation between IML and RML is shown in
the last article of the book. Standard Arabic is the official language of
Morocco although the mother tongues of the inhabitants of Morocco are
either Berber or Moroccan Arabic, which are not officially recognized.
Berber and Moroccan Arabic are not recognized as RML in Morocco, but in
some European countries as IML, and it is hoped that this will help to
raise the status of these languages in their country of origin.

1. Declaration of Oegstgeest
2. List of contributors and affiliations
In the appendix the declaration of Oegstgeest summarizes the common ideas
of the researcher at the conference. The promotion of linguistic and
cultural diversity is a common goal. The value of RML and IML is
emphasized and the need to upgrade the status of these languages is
expressed. The importance of the teaching of RML and IML and thus giving
it institutional support in the educational sector is stressed. For this
aim, institutions and programmes to develop curricula and language
teaching materials are needed.

Evaluation of the book
The book gives an overview over the different ways, RML and IML are
treated by the governments of the countries in which they are spoken. It
also shows the possible ways in which RML and IML are incorporated into
the educational system. Most of the articles are descriptive in nature.
Theoretical issues are touched only marginally in the articles, the
exception being the article of John Edwards.

The book gives a good and up-to-date overview of the diverse situation of
the IML and RML in Europe, although not all RML and IML are mentioned and
not all EU countries are included in the issue. With the high numbers of
IML one can easily understand why. It is still a good source for the
countries and languages covered. Unfortunately the book lacks an index,
but since most of the articles are structured in a similar way, it is
quite easy to find the appropriate section in each article. Bringing
together researchers from the fields of IML and RML is in my opinion a
very positive and valuable idea from which both sides can profit and
exchange insights on practical issues. On the other hand the book does
really provide the reader acquainted with the field of minority languages
with new theoretical insights.

I would recommend this book as a sourcebook for anyone interested in
getting an overview of the diverse field of IML and RML and the current
policies in Europe.

Paulina Jaenecke is presently writing her Ph.D. thesis on Sorbian, a
regional minority language spoken in Germany. Her research interest lies
in the area of language maintenance and intercultural communication.