Welcome to Linguis Europae, the EUC's language blog!

Linguis Europae is dedicated to a range of topics involving official state, regional, and minority languages in the EU. Posts are written in five languages by UI students and faculty! Check back regularly for updates!

Bridging the Gap: Language and Community in Action in East Central Illinois

Skye Mclean discusses the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECRIMAC), which provides services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and aids in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures.

Place and Space: Another Perspective on Crimea

Senior Andrey Starosin offers his perspective on the current events taking place in Crimea.

French Professor Revamps Course on "Language and Minorities in Europe"

Linguis Europae's own Zsuzsanna Fagyal and her course "Languages and Minorities in Europe" were featured in a recent issue of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Un'Ode al "Dialàtt Bulgnaiś": An Ode to the Bolgnese Dialect

Kaitlyn Russell muses on her fondness for the Italian dialect, Bolognese.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Belarus for Belarusian, or the reemergence of a national language

by Marshall Janevicius

How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior. How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior.

However, Lukashenko received much attention from Belarusian speakers in 2015 because it appears that he may have changed his mind on his previous stance. For decades, Belarusian speakers have offered language courses to the public, even though Belarusian is not greatly welcomed in state affairs.  Much of this is shifting in recent years. There is a large push towards the popularization of Belarusian and an increased number of language courses across the country.

Timing could not have been better, as after decades of neglect, the situation is truly alarming. Belarusian, which is an official language of Belarus, can claim just a little over 3 million native speakers. Russian, the other official language of Belarus, has around 6.5 million native speakers and everyone in Belarus appears to be bilingual, which means knowledge of Russian over Belarusian predominates. Although a sizeable part of the population can still speak Belarusian, less than 10% of Belarusians indicate that they use Belarusian to communicate in their everyday life.

Spoken languages of Belarus according to 2009 census
(Green - Belarus, Blue - Russian)

Structural and cultural proximity to Russian is definitely a factor. Belarusian is an East Slavic language, just like Russian, and the Belarusian alphabet was elaborated based on the Cyrillic script. In the early twentieth century, before modern Belarusian was defined, the language was written using the Latin alphabet, Arabic alphabet, or sometimes even the Hebrew script. Today, two main dialects of Belarusian exist: North-Eastern and South-Western Belarusian, although the area between the two has some distinct characteristics that seems to militate for a Middle Belarusian pseudo-dialect. Another less common dialect in the country, the West Palyesian dialect, is more linguistically linked to Ukraine, and spoken almost exclusively by individuals living in the Ukraine.

Since Belarus is not a signatory member of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, there is no international oversight of its regional minority languages. However, Belarusian is considered a regional language in Poland and also a recognized minority language in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Lithuania. All but one of these nations being signatories of the Charter, there seems to be at least some hope for continued maintenance and revitalization.

A large number of the younger population of Belarus appears to be tired of their culture living in Russia’s shadow.  In a direct break with Soviet and 20th century post-Soviet times, they want to revitalize the culture and language of Belarus in order to increase cultural pride and move towards a more distinctive national identity and culture.

Image source
As it turns out, this excitement and push towards a national revitalization of Belarusian goes farther than just the youth.  Many scholars indicate that language courses in Belarusian are emerging everywhere and they are not just for the purpose of teaching the language. It seems that they are also serving as an expression of pride in Belarus that has not been seen for over a century.

Predictably enough, language seems to be one of first steps towards cultural revival and revitalization. As a new generation emerges into the workforce that has no memories of Soviet control, it will be interesting to observe what the Belarusian youth decides is most important for language and culture. Will they continue to choose Russian and embrace Soviet-enforced ideas of the superiority of the Russian language? Or will they reclaim their culture and language as they search for their generation’s identity? “Political is daily, cultural is eternal”, says Alena Makouskaya, one of the coordinators of the Belarus language campaign, indicating that Belarusian is considered an emblem and a token of pride.


"Belarusian Language." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 06 Mar. 2003. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

"History of Belarussian Language." Europe-Cities. Europe Cities, 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

Minsk, Katerina Barushka in. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

See also: Alyssa Lowery’s blog, titled Belarusian on the Road to Revival, on Linguis Europae, http://eucenterillinois-language.blogspot.com/2017/02/belarusian-on-road-to-revival.html


Marshall is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. He is planning on getting his MA in European Union Studies in May 2018 and is currently applying to law schools to pursue a career in international business law or international human rights/immigration law. He wrote this text in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Latin American influx and tourism in Barcelona, the clash between Spanish and Catalan

by Rafael Arturo Rodriguez Diaz

History has taught us that when a region develops certain elements, such as a sense of identity and even independent governance, they will look for sovereignty. Language is one of those essential elements for a population to develop an identity and distinguish themselves from others. In Spain, a wealthy and highly industrialized region with a strong desire for independence is Catalonia (BBC). Catalan, with more than a millennium of history (“Latin American”, 3),  is recognized as the official language of the region, along with Spanish. However, the region is also known for its many Latin American immigrants which live in some of the most touristy places in Spain, like the city of Barcelona. In the next few paragraphs, I will present examples of how Latin American immigration and tourism in the region have reinforced the use of the Spanish over Catalan in the city of Barcelona, and how this represents a threat for the Catalan language and the eagerness of Catalonians to separate from the rest of Spain.

Many government representatives from the Catalonia region have tried to develop initiatives to gain independence from Spain. They have used Catalan as one of the strongest reasons to support the region’s own identity. However, over 200,000 native Spanish-speaking immigrants from Latin America have come to Catalonia since 2002 (Garzón, 2505). Being from underdeveloped countries, many of these immigrants have made the transatlantic journey seeking new opportunities for themselves and their families. Even though immigration in the region started centuries ago, the progress of globalization and the conclusion of trade agreements in recent years, has facilitated migration of Latin Americans to Spain. One of the main factors that allowed for this increase of immigration of Latin Americans to Catalonia was the re-enforcement of the immigration process in the United States after 9/11 (ibid.). Many of these immigrants came to the Catalonian region knowing Spanish, one of the official languages, but resisting Catalan, the other official language of the region, and confronted to “increasing institutional pressure to learn the Catalan language” (“Latin American”, 9). In both industrial and domestic job positions in Barcelona, due to the cheap cost of labor and similarity to the local culture, companies have adapted to work with Latin Americans. Some of these immigrants have learned some Catalan, but their usage of the language mainly depends on the area where they work in the city. However, most of the time these immigrants do not take courses in Catalan and prefer to speak in Spanish instead, even if they are approached in Catalan (Garzón, 2506). Another factor that has allowed Latin Americans to stick to their native language in Catalonia is that most of the other commercial sectors that employ Latin American immigrants are located in areas of Barcelona where Spanish-speaking locals are numerous (Garzón, 2507). The locals’ level of tolerance towards Spanish has thus increased even more since many of the businesses seem to focus more on profit than on local Catalan identity.

Barcelona street life (Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons)
Being not only one of the main tourist destinations of Spain, but also the capital of the Catalonia region, Barcelona is one of the examples of rivalry between Catalan and Spanish. As it turns out, however, tourism is also influencing language use in the region. Many tourists may try to use English to communicate when in Barcelona—a brief online search about tips before traveling to Barcelona advises that tourists can get by fine without knowing Catalan but they can get by even better if they know Spanish. On the tourism website, Barcelona-Life.com, there are two different sections dedicated to explaining the relevance of each language. Basic lessons are also provided for learning both languages, but for both sections Spanish is the main language. This reinforces the fact that when it comes to Catalan, learning the language is more about showing appreciation for the local community and an opportunity to open new doors in the city in terms of high-rank employment. On other relevant online sites for tourism, such as Lonely Planet, the learning of Spanish but not necessarily of Catalan is advertised.

In a region that shows an almost desperate drive to become an independent nation, more attention must be placed on one of the elements that radically distinguishes this region from the rest of Spain: the local language. Whether for business purposes or amiability with tourists, Barcelona has been permitting, at an alarming level, the use of Spanish over Catalan. Even though the government has tried to reinforce the learning of Catalan, there is a “growing contradiction between actual language used in the streets and policy demands, creating an escalating cultural conflict among Spanish-speaking communities, Catalan-speaking communities and other foreigners in Catalonia.” (“Latin American”, 23). As the capital of the Catalonian region, it is fundamental to reinforce the importance of the local language, rather than support the general idea of the relevance of Spanish. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly clear that, in the clash between Spanish and Catalan, a winner may soon be predicted. The more influence Latin American culture adds to the use of Spanish in the city, along with the support of tourism agencies, the less politicians in Catalonia will be able to use Catalan as an argument to separate from Spain.

América Latina y el turismo en Barcelona, ​​el choque entre español y catalán

La historia nos ha enseñado que cuando una región desarrolla ciertos elementos, como un sentido de identidad e incluso un gobierno independiente, intentará obtener su soberanía. El lenguaje es uno de esos elementos esenciales para que una población desarrolle identidad y se distinga de los demás. En España, una región rica y altamente industrializada con un fuerte deseo de independencia es Cataluña (BBC). El catalán, con más de un milenio de historia ("Latin American", 3), ha sido reconocido como el idioma oficial de la región, junto con el español. Sin embargo, la región también es conocida por los muchos inmigrantes latinoamericanos que se encuentran en algunos de los lugares más turísticos de España, como la ciudad de Barcelona. En los siguientes párrafos presentaré ejemplos de cómo la inmigración y el turismo latinoamericano en la región, han reforzado el uso del español sobre el catalán en la ciudad y cómo esto representa una amenaza para el catalán y el afán de los catalanes por lograr la separación del resto de España.

Muchos representantes gubernamentales de la región de Cataluña, han tratado de desarrollar iniciativas para obtener la independencia de España utilizando el catalán como una de las razones más fuertes para apoyar la propia identidad de la región. Sin embargo, más de 200.000 inmigrantes hispanohablantes de América Latina, han llegado a Cataluña desde 2002 (Garzón, 2505). Siendo de países subdesarrollados, muchos de estos inmigrantes han hecho el viaje transatlántico buscando nuevas oportunidades para ellos y sus familias. A pesar de que la inmigración en la región ha comenzado hace siglos, los avances de la globalización y la conclusión de acuerdos comerciales en los últimos años, han facilitado la migración de los latinoamericanos hacia España. Uno de los principales factores que permitieron este aumento de la inmigración de latinoamericanos hacia Cataluña fue el fortalecimiento del proceso de inmigración en Estados Unidos después del 11 de septiembre (ibid.). Muchos de los inmigrantes llegaron a la región catalana conociendo el español, una de las lenguas oficiales, pero restando importancia fundamental para el catalán, el otro idioma oficial de la región, situación que al menos comenzó a verse confrontada con "una creciente presión institucional para aprender la lengua catalana" ("Latin American ", 9, traducción propia). Tanto en puestos de trabajo industriales como domésticos en Barcelona, ​​debido al costo económico de la mano de obra y su parecido con la cultura local, los locales se han adaptado más para trabajar con latinoamericanos. Algunos de ellos han aprendido algo de catalán, dependiendo principalmente de la zona donde trabajan en la ciudad. La mayoría de las veces, los latinoamericanos logran comunicarse con los locales tan solo respondiendo en español cuando les hablan en catalán (Garzón, 2506). Otro factor que ha permitido a los latinoamericanos atenerse a su lengua materna, es que la mayoría de los demás sectores comerciales están ubicados en zonas de Barcelona con una gran influencia de los hispanohablantes (Garzón, 2507). El nivel de tolerancia de los lugareños hacia el español ha aumentado, ya que muchos de los negocios parecen centrarse más en el beneficio económico, que en la conservación de la cultura local.

Barcelona street life (Craig Sunter via Wikimedia Commons)
Siendo no sólo uno de los principales lugares turísticos, sino también la capital de la región de Cataluña en España, Barcelona es uno de los ejemplos de rivalidad entre catalán y español. Considerando la influencia del inglés a través del consumo digital y los medios de comunicación, el catalán en Barcelona tiene más bien el estatus de símbolo para los lugareños. También el turismo está influyendo en el uso de la lengua en la región. Al igual que muchos turistas pueden tratar de utilizar el inglés para su comunicación, una breve búsqueda en línea acerca de consejos antes de viajar a Barcelona, ​​también informa a los turistas que pueden estar tranquilos de visitar la ciudad, aunque no hablen catalán, pero que definitivamente podrán lograr una mejor experiencia con algo de conocimiento del idioma español. Esta información se puede encontrar incluso en los sitios web de turismo acerca de Barcelona como en Barcelona-Life.com. Aunque hay dos secciones diferentes en este sitio web dedicadas a explicar la relevancia de cada idioma, y ​​se ofrecen algunas lecciones básicas para aprenderlos, en ambas secciones se presenta al español como el idioma principal. Esto refuerza el hecho de que el catalán es útil solo para mostrar aprecio por la comunidad local e incluso si se busca conseguir otras oportunidades en la ciudad en términos de empleo de alto rango (Barcelona). Igualmente, en otros sitios en línea relevantes para el turismo, como Lonely Planet, se aconseja en varios foros aprender español, pero no necesariamente catalán (Lonely).

En una región que muestra una intención casi desesperada por convertirse en una nación independiente, se debería prestar mucha más atención a uno de los elementos que los distingue radicalmente del resto de España, su idioma. Ya sea por motivos de negocios o de amabilidad con los turistas, Barcelona ha permitido, a un nivel alarmante, el uso del español más que del catalán. A pesar de que el gobierno ha intentado reforzar el aprendizaje del catalán, existe una "creciente contradicción entre el idioma que es realmente utilizado en las calles y las demandas políticas, creando un creciente conflicto cultural entre las comunidades de habla hispana, catalana y otros extranjeros en Cataluña". ("Latinoamérica", 23, traducción propia). Como capital de la región catalana, es fundamental reforzar la importancia de la lengua local, en lugar de apoyar la idea general de la relevancia del español. Hoy en día, cada vez es más evidente que, en la competencia entre el español y el catalán, se está pronosticando un ganador. Cuanto más influye la cultura latinoamericana en el uso del español en la ciudad, junto con el apoyo de las agencias de turismo, menos políticos de Cataluña podrán utilizar el catalán como argumento para separarse de España.

Works cited

“Catalonia Profile.” BBC News. BBC, 21 Apr 2016. [www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-20345071] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

Council of Europe. “Full list.” Council of Europe. Council of Europe, 2017. [www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/148/signatures] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

“Multilingualism.” europa.eu. European Union, 10 Apr 2017. [europa.eu/european-union/topics/multilingualism_en] Accessed 8 Apr 2017.

European Commission. “Multilingualism.” Education and Training. European Commission, 10 Apr 2017. [ec.europa.eu/education/policy/multilingualism_en] Accessed 8 Apr 2017

Burgen, Stephen. “Immigration complicates Catalonia's separatist picture.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 20 Nov 2012. Web [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/20/immigration-complicates-catalonia-separatist-picture] Accessed 7 Apr 2017.

“Catalan vs Spanish in Barcelona.” Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet, n.d. Web. [https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/europe-western-europe/spain/catalan-vs-spanish-in-barcelona] Accessed 8 Apr 2017.

Garzon, Luis. "Globalization, Latin American migration and catalan: Closing the ring." Sustainability 4.10 (2012): 2498-2512.

Garzon, Luis. "Latin American Migrants in Bilingual Cities: A Comparison Between Barcelona and Brussels." XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 13-19, 2014). Isaconf, 2014. [http://www.academia.edu/7805121/Latin_american_migrants_in_bilingual_cities_a_comparison_between_Barcelona_and_Brussels]

Barcelona-life.com N.p., n.d. [www.barcelona-life.com/language/language2.php] Accessed 9 Apr 2017.

Image taken from:


Rafael is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. He is planning on getting his MA in European Union Studies in May 2018 after which he is looking forward to moving to Europe and work as a representative in an European Institution for Latin America. He is interested in conducting research on EU and Latin America relations. He wrote this text in the 418‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Do you speak Sassenach? Gaelic-medium education and Outlander

by Camille Méritan

Outlander TV Show
Recently, an increasing number of novels and TV series such as Outlander use Gàidhlig phrases and other aspects of Highland culture, which has helped popularize Scottish history. The Outlander novels, written by American author Diana Gabaldon, are science-fiction novels taking place in the late 18th century in the Highlands of Scotland. The books give a highly authentic picture of what it was like to live in mid-18th century Scotland. To be as historically accurate as possible, the books and TV episodes are filled with Gaelic phrases and dialogues. TV producer, Ronald D. Moore, even hired a Gaelic coach, Adhamh O Broin, to teach actors the correct Gaelic pronunciation. And since the beginning of the diffusion of the show in 2014, locals and foreigners have become more and more interested in Scottish Gaelic folklore. The Gaelic expert, Adhamh O Broin, has also created short videos (see below) for fans to learn basic words in Scottish Gaelic. He hopes that more people will start learning Gaelic and become sensitive to the need for greater revitalization of the language.

Over the past decades, there has been a push towards the revitalization of Gaelic. The creation of the Gaelic Medium Education (GME), in 1985, was the first legislative support for the language. Gaelic Medium Education, promotes the learning of Gaelic from pre-school education to higher education, with an increasing number of schools teaching Gaelic, and offering immersion. Edinburgh’s first Gaelic school opened its doors in 2013, along with the first Gaelic medium primary school department. This acquisition planning has also given opportunities to independent companies and has seen the creation of online schools such as the Atlantic Gaelic Academy, which offers online Gaelic language learning courses (Smith, 2000).
Outlander Book Cover (Wikipedia)

In a spectacular move, the Scottish government passed the Gaelic Language Act of 2005 so that Gaelic would become one of the official languages of Scotland, and to help increase the number of people speaking, using and learning Scottish Gaelic. Bòrd na Gàidhlig, an executive language planning body, was then created to supervise the promotion of the Gaelic language. The Board also gives the language equal status with English. It wants to encourage the use of Scottish Gaelic, and facilitate access to Gaelic language and culture (Bechhofer & McCrone, 2014).

There are also new resources to promote Scottish Gaelic (Nance, 2015). The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic was founded in 2014. It provides digitized texts and lexical resources for the language. A new online dictionary of Gaelic is also on its way. This is a new collaborative research project that “aims to provide a new online directory of Gaelic recordings, particularly those pertaining to the folklore and ethnology of Gaelic communities in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere” (Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow [accessed 02 April 2017]).

Add to this a renewed interest in Scots Gàidhlig culture and it can be seen how language is fundamental to the revitalization of Gaelic. The rise of Gaelic media, such as radio, internet, and television, definitely helped (Moriarty, 2009), not to mention the Gaelic Television Fund set up by The Broadcasting Act back in the 1990s. Annually, there are 300 hours of programming broadcasted on television to help with the spread of revitalization of the language. The creation of BBC Alba in 2008 was also a major step. The BBC Alba is an all-Gaelic television channel aimed at “reflecting and strengthening Gaelic cultural heritage and promoting awareness of it across the UK” (BBC Trust 2016).

Of course, Gaelic revival is also an asset to tourism and the hospitality industry. The hope is that exposing millions of people to the Gaelic language through any media at all will help awareness and mobilize people. Time will tell if focus on folklore can help advance the cause of Scottish Gaelic. At the point where we are now, it definitely promises to widen the base of committed future language learners who certainly do not wish for the tale of Scottish Gaelic to end as has happened for many other minority languages across the British Isles; English became the pervasive language throughout the country and, thus, minority languages began to die out.

In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers from 1.2% in 2001 to 1.1% in 2011, according to the 2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion. However, there is also some good news in the numbers: compared to the 11% drop in overall speakers recorded in the previous census, there was a 0.1% increase in Gaelic speakers under 20 years old. Overall, in 2011, 1.7% of the population could say to have some knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, which is not too bad for a minority language that is on the UNESCO’s endangered languages list (see figure from the Atlas posted below). To conclude, based on what precedes, there is good reason to believe that the story of Scottish Gaelic is not yet over.

Image Source James Morrison

Works Cited



2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion

BBC Trust 2016 BBC Alba Service license April 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/services/television/service_licences/bbc_alba.html accessed on April 3rd 2017 

Bechhofer, F. & McCrone, D. (2014) What makes a Gael? Identity, Language and Ancestry in the Scottish Gáidhealtachd. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21(2), 113-133.

Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow <http://dasg.ac.uk> [accessed 
02 April 2017]

Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 2005 Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2005/7 accessed April 3rd 2017.

Moriarty, M. (2009). Normalising language through television: the case of Irish language television channel, TG4. Journal of Multicultural Discourse, 2(4), 137-149.

Nance, C. (2015). ‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: a phonetic study of language revitalization. Language in Society, 44, 553-579.

Smith, R. (2000). Preserving linguistic heritage; a study of Scots Gaelic. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 7, 173-187.




Camille Méritan is a graduate student in French Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education. She is planning to take her preliminary doctoral dissertation exam in December 2017 and pursuing a career in academia. She wrote this text while enrolled in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

Victory Day Parade. Sevastopol, Crimea
Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

By Nicholas Higgins

Nicholas Higgins is a M.A. student with the Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Center, looking to finish his degree by the summer of 2017. He is interested in the study of new ways of understanding the development of identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wrote this text during his time in 418 “Languages and Minorities in Europe”.

At the time of the return of the Crimean people to the Crimean peninsula, the only people who still knew the Crimean Tatar language were those who had known it before the exile. Demographic data shows that the Crimean Tatars who knew the language were the older generations, as the people born in exile were taught only Russian (Emirova, 2007).

According to Professor Adile Emirova, an avid researcher of her native language, Crimean Tatar, there are four types of competency:

  • symmetric bilinguals, who fluently speak both Russian and mother tongue in all social spheres;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using mother tongue only in family and Russian in all other spheres of life, including family;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using the Crimean Tatar language (in the form of local dialect) in family and having limited usage of Russian;
  • monolinguals, having the command of only Russian or only Crimean Tatar. (Emirova, 2007).

With these levels of competency, the Crimean people have worked to try and resurrect their language. As of 2007, there were fifteen schools in Crimea that offered adequate instruction of Crimean Tatar, offering instruction to 5,000 students out of 40,000.

Now jump to March 2014. At the tail end of the Euromaidan, a highly controversial referendum was held that ended with the Crimean Peninsula joining the Russian Federation. With the Crimean Tatars now back under the rule of the Kremlin, the situation regarding the spread of the Crimean Tatar language has come under a possible threat. The operative word here is “possible”.

Protester at May 18th Commemoration of the Crimean Tatar Deportations.
Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine
It is undeniable that the Crimean Tatars are currently facing repressions under Russian rule, as the Mejlis, the highest legislative body of Crimean Tatars, has recently, as of the 27th of April, been banned from the Crimean Peninsula under the pretext of being an Islamic extremist organization (Al Jazeera, 2016). In addition, a number of Crimean Tatar media sources have been shut down, including ATR, a Crimean TV channel that was vocally critical of Russian rule.

The Russians claimed to be providing Crimean Tatar schools with language textbooks to allow for the teaching of Crimean Tatar, as textbooks for language instruction became a needed commodity for Crimean Tatar schools. The Russian publishing company, Prosveshchenie, has reportedly produced over 600,000 textbooks to the region in 2014, included in those are supposedly Crimean Tatar language textbooks. A total of at least 3,000,000 textbooks were sent to the region between at least six different publishing companies (Дон ТР). With these textbooks, the Russians had planned to help improve the instruction and availability of the language for education. However, this may not be the case, as a Turkish human rights delegation, led by Professor Zafer Uskul, observed (Goble, 2015).

The delegation claimed that the language rights of the Crimean Tatars only existed “on paper”. The evidence provided shows that only fifteen schools teach Crimean Tatar. Given that we already know that there were only fifteen schools that had Crimean Tatar as the language of instruction as early as 2007, it shows zero percent growth in terms of number of institutions provided. According to various reports, the academic years after the Russian occupation began contain no schools that are strictly instructed in Crimean Tatar, all the schools are now dual-language with Russian. Russian has dominated, as 96% of students are learning Russian instead of Crimean Tatar, and Crimean Tatar children are taught in Russian in schools where Crimean Tatar is the main language ((Coynash, 2015) (112 UA, 2016) (Goble, 2015)).

What about the textbooks, then? Are the numbers and claims of the Russians accurate to what the Crimean Tatars are experiencing? The textbooks that were promised did not arrive when they were supposed to, and the number of textbooks provided for Crimean Tatar instruction are woefully lacking in population (Goble, 2015).

In addition, the hours of instruction and the importance of Crimean Tatar language instruction have fallen since the Russian occupation began in 2014. Crimean Tatar has lost necessity in instruction in some schools, including the Crimean New School for Kids and Youths, where Crimean Tatar is only used outside formal lessons (Network of Schools). Only three hours a week of instruction of the language is in place currently amongst schools that offer the language (RISA, 2014).

The answer to the question of the status of Crimean Tatar instruction under Russian occupation is clear: the status has experienced little to no growth. With the promise of textbooks for the Crimean schools, the Russians have failed to deliver while lowering the hours of instruction and elevating the instruction of the Russian language while suppressing Crimean Tatar. Perhaps most damning of all, the Kremlin and Putin have stated that the push for Crimea was for the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers (Coynash, 2015). As long as the Crimean Tatars are being suppressed by their Russian occupiers, the instruction of the Crimean Tatar language will continue to suffer.


"Russia Continues to Oppress Crimea's Tatars." - Al Jazeera English. March 19, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/russia-continues-oppress-crimea-tatars-160308054208716.html.

"Russian Court Bans Crimean Tatar Governing Body." Al Jazeera English. April 27, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/russian-court-bans-crimean-tatar-governing-body-160426191324707.html.

Coynash, Halya. "Ukrainian & Crimean Tatar Pushed out of Schools in Russian-occupied Crimea." Ukraine Law Blog (blog), September 6, 2015. http://ukrainianlaw.blogspot.com/2015/09/ukrainian-crimean-tatar-pushed-out-of.html.

"News:." Crimean Tatar in Ukraine. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.networkofschools.eu/schools/crimean-tatar-in-ukraine/#c2619.

Emirova, Adile. "On the Revival of the Crimean Tatar Language: An Interview with Professor Adile Emirova." Interview by Inci Bowman. International Committee for Crimea. 2007. http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/emirovainterview.html.

"Crimea's Forgotten Children Fight Back." Foreign Policy Crimeas Forgotten Children Fight Back Comments. March 11, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/11/crimeas-forgotten-children-fight-back-tatars-ukraine-russia/.

Goble, Paul A. "Russian Occupiers Cut Classes and Schools in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian -- EUROMAIDAN PRESS." Euromaidan Press. September 9, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/09/06/russian-occupiers-cut-classes-and-schools-in-crimean-tatar-and-ukrainian/.

Goble, Paul A. "Under Russian Occupation, Crimean Tatar Language Rights Exist 'only on Paper,' Turkish Rights Activists Say -." Euromaidan Press. June 17, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/06/17/under-russian-occupation-crimean-tatar-language-rights-exist-only-on-paper-turkish-rights-activists-say/.

"Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula." Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula. February 5, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://112.international/politics/moscow-changes-school-curricula-of-crimean-tatar-language-on-the-peninsula-2456.html.

"Crimean Schools Shortened Crimean Tatar Language Classes." Religious Information Service of Ukraine. September 16, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/other_confessions/islam/57665/.

"Russian-appointed 'Prosecutor' Poklonskaya Suspends Crimean Tatar Mejlis." Uatoday.tv. April 13, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://uatoday.tv/politics/russian-appointed-prosecutor-poklonskaya-suspends-crimean-tatar-mejlis-630326.html.

"Сражение за Крым." Издательство «Просвещение» изо всех сил стремится заполучить контракт на оснащение школ полуострова: Общество: Россия: Lenta.ru. October 6, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. https://lenta.ru/articles/2014/10/06/krim/.

"Дон ТР." От российского издательства ‘Просвещение’ Крым получит почти 600 тысяч школьных учебников. August 7, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://dontr.ru/vesti/obshchestvo/3723269-ot-rossijskogo-izdatelstva-prosveshchenie-krym-poluchit-pochti-600-tysyach-shkolnykh-uchebnikov/


Monday, April 3, 2017

Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

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Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

By Kevin O’Keefe

Kevin O’Keefe is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in French Studies, with a double minor in Political Science and Global Studies. He took French 418 in the spring of his junior year in 2016, after returning home from a semester abroad in Paris, France in the Fall of 2015, where he studies French politics and the European Union at Sciences Po.

For centuries, people across the globe have spent years of dedication working to master of the French language and reach its “refined nature”. To these people, there is a simple je ne sais quoi that makes French seemingly drip with culture and sophistication. The efforts of the French to maintain this level of linguistic refinement have been unparalleled through the ages, as French became the single and only official language of the French state through numerous processes and pushes for monlinugality and purification of the French language. (Radford, 1).

However, in recent times, the beauty and grace of the French language has begun to be described in quite a different way- hypocritical. As France’s language policies modernize and seek to embrace the teaching of prominent foreign languages, many have begun to ask how the French nation can condone this behavior while at the same time continuing to undermine and suppress regional minority languages within its own borders.

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France’s national linguistic policy rests on one specific goal meant to safeguard against the domination of foreign languages over French ways of living, which states the importance of the notion of "one country, one language" (Melvin, 2). In order to maintain this ideology, which has roots dating all the way back to the French Revolution when leaders hoped to unify the broken French state under a shared linguistic structure, France has taken incredibly bold steps to downplay the influence of minority languages not only in France’s Parisian capital, but in territories and regions throughout the nation and the Francophonie. For example, France has refused to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and thus little can be done to help spread, maintain, or fortify the presence of minority languages throughout the nation (Radford, 1). Languages such as Breton, Basque, Corsican, and Occitan have become relegated to strictly cultural use with limited regional sponsorship and infrequent educational usage, while also being listed as only unofficial languages of the state (Costa and Lambert, 3). These languages all have extremely deep roots in French history, yet the French state has done everything in its power to eradicate these languages in accordance with its monolingual policy aims.

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It would seem that France’s monolingual goals of promoting French as the official language of the nation would also apply to limiting the influence of other major Western languages in the same way they have nearly stomped out regional minority languages. However, quite the opposite has occurred, particularly in the field of education. As times have changed and western nations like the United States have come to prominence, France has doubled its efforts to stress the importance of learning a foreign language in its educational framework. According to the French Diplomatie, “France promotes linguistic diversity by encouraging the teaching of a wide range of foreign languages, in both the national education system and through certified language centers,” (France Diplomatie, 1). The educational system has installed the teaching of English and other foreign languages at every level (elementary, secondary, and high school level) and has done so with the goal of being able to “reinforce the learning of foreign languages to ensure that every student leaving high school is proficient in at least two modern languages in order to succeed in the professional world,” (France Diplomatie, 1).

The increased presence of foreign language in French schools demonstrates the hypocritical dimensions of the language discourses in France: on one side the French’s own goal of achieving monolingual supremacy within their own borders, at the expense of what has already been done to the nation’s regional languages, but also an increasing desire to not be left behind the rest of Europe with regard to other powerful languages of the world, especially English. In pursuing education in foreign languages, the French are allowing the influence of French to be pushed aside and another language to be used and communicated with, thus undermining the work so many generations of French politicians and linguists have done in promoting the French language to superiority. The French face a serious challenge as English and other languages enter the classroom, as future generations will have multilingual skills from a young age, and their entry into the work force will potentially have massive effects on the idea of French supremacy in a world in which English, Spanish, and Chinese have already begun to take a more prominent role on the world stage.

Works Cited

Costa, James, and Patricia Lambert. "France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework?" France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework? N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00439199

France 24. "French Schools to Boost Foreign Language Learning." France 24. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.france24.com/en/20150311-france-education-boost-foreign-language-learning-middle-schools-english

Melvin, Joshua. "Hypocrisy? France and Its Regional Languages." - The Local. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.thelocal.fr/20140123/in-france-there-is-only-one-language

"Multilingualism in France." France Diplomatie. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/francophony/promoting-multilingualism/article/multilingualism-in-france

Radford, Gavin. "French Language Law: The Attempted Ruination of France's Linguistic Diversity. | Trinity College Law Review (TCLR) | Trinity College Dublin." Trinity College Law Review TCLR Trinity College Dublin. N.p., 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://trinitycollegelawreview.org/french-language-law-the-attempted-ruination-of-frances-linguistic-diversity/


Monday, March 20, 2017

Language and Terrorism: The Case of ETA

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Language and Terrorism: The Case of ETA

By Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is a senior studying Communication and Spanish. After graduating, she will pursue a career in Human Resources. She studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain in the Spring of 2015, where she was immersed in the Basque culture and was surrounded by the unique language. This blog entry is based on her experiences and research on the interface of political and linguistic issues regarding Basque.

For forty years, the terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) brought violence to the Spanish Basque Country (Bieter, 2013). Even five years after a permanent cease-fire was announced in 2011 (Bieter, 2013), graffiti in Euskera, the ancient Basque language that now holds co-official status in the region (Heidemann, 2004), supporting the ideals of ETA can be seen around the streets of Bilbao, Spain. Like elsewhere in Europe, nationalistic ideals among Basque people grew in the late 19th century, especially with the activity of Sabino Arana (Pereltsvaig, 2011). There was an industrial boom when iron deposits were found around Bilbao, and the industrialization of the area brought many migrant workers, causing what Arana and others believed to be a threat to the Basque people (Putnam-Pite, 2012). Arana started a Basque nationalist movement to “preserve Basques’ unique identity – their language, their rural, agricultural traditions, even their physical characteristics” (Bieter, 2013) as a solution to combat the effects of industrialization. The goal of ETA aligns with these ideals, working towards “an independent Basque Country that included the three provinces lost to France… using all means possible, including violence” (Bieter, 2013). The biggest difference between the ideals of Arana and ETA is that ETA shifted away from emphasizing race and ethnicity as the foundation of the Basque nation, and replaced it with the use of the Euskera (Putnam-Pite, 2012).

Additionally, the ETA terrorist group, listed as the fourth most active terrorist group in the world from 1970 to 2010 in the University of Maryland terrorism database (Bieter, 2013), has rightfully been criticized by many. One of those critics is journalist Stephen Mackey (2008, May) who argued that ETA was causing harm to the Basque language by turning it into an ideological choice instead of an open language. Their broad concept of nationalism tends to create a divide that excludes “others” or those who do not speak the language. This is the type of exclusion created the extreme unity that ETA emphasized in order to justify their cause. Euskera provided a source of togetherness that Basque people could rally behind since many would condone the extreme violence. Mackey (2008, May) also wrote about different instances where the younger generation had been taught to support ETA using the Basque language in the settings of privately-owned Basque language centers. In one center, students were given directions in Basque on how to create Molotov cocktails, while in another they wrote letters in Basque to prisoners who had been convicted for terrorist activities. Conducting extremist behavior in a minority language gives the impression that these young citizens are part of an exclusive club, and encourages the use of Euskera when supporting the agenda of ETA.

Continuing on, the ability for Basques to speak their language is a right that had been confiscated numerous times throughout history, most notably during the Franco regime of 1936 to 1975 (Putnam-Pite, 2012). One of Franco’s governors was first to enact the public use of Euskera. The reasoning behind this act was to prohibit the public use of Euskera, and hefty punishments were used to enforce this prohibition (Putnam-Pite, 2012). This lack of respect undoubtedly inspired a unified people, who were denied a piece of their freedom; ETA utilized the leftover unified populous to rally support for their agenda. Language in general makes up a significant part of a national identity; as such it was a smart decision by ETA to pick Euskera as a unifying factor for the Basque people who backed their ideological goals. For ETA, Euskera was their only sense of togetherness due to the fact that many of their other objectives were extreme; anyone who could speak Euskera became a Basque, and was included in their movement for an independent and unified Basque Country (Pereltsvaig, 2011). This inclusiveness and unity of a large group of unique people is almost admirable, if it were not for the violent ways they attempted to achieve their goals. These atrocious behaviors distracted the public from their unified vision; branding ETA as a terrorist organization rather than a group fighting for a national identity.

In this picture, the ETA symbol has been spray painted on a building. The symbol consists of an axe, which represents armed struggle, and a snake which represents either watchfulness or politics. The slogan “bietan jarrai” means “go forward both ways” which is sometimes interpreted as ETA will pursue both violent and political routes to get Basque independence (Tremlett, 2010).

Works Cited

Bieter, M. (2013, November). The rise and fall of ETA. https://thebluereview.org/rise-fall-eta/

Heidemann, K. (2004). Education and minority language revitalization: Stories of struggle and success from the basque country. Conference Papers – American Sociological Association, 1-30. doi:asa_proceeding_34313.PDF

Mackey, S. (2008, May). Basque language schools in ETA row. https://www.tes.com/article.aspx?storycode=75740

Pereltsvaig, A. (2011, December). Linguistic nationalism among the basques. http://www.languagesoftheworld.info/student-papers/linguistic-nationalism-among-the-basques.html

Putnam-Pite, C. (2012, July). Terrorism in the basque country: Violations and protections of human rights. http://prospectjournal.org/2012/07/09/terrorism-in-the-basque-country-violations-and-protections-of-human-rights/

Tremlett, G. (2010, September). ETA’s ceasefire statement decoded. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/06/eta-ceasefire-statement

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Is Yiddish on a path to extinction?

Is Yiddish on a Path to Extinction?

By Juliana Ramirez

Juliana Ramirez recently graduated with an Accounting degree and French minor from the University of Illinois. In the Spring of 2016, Juliana took French 418 to learn about the minority languages in Europe and finish her French minor. In the near future, she will start a summer internship at an Accounting firm in Chicago and come back to Champaign in the Fall of 2016 to pursue a Masters in Accounting.

One of the most predominant languages of the Jews up until a century ago is on a path to extinction. Yiddish, which originated as early as the 9th century, provided the nascent Ashkenazi community with an extensive Germanic based vernacular fused with elements taken from Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as from Slavic and Romance languages (Jewish Generation) of the particular linguistic environment. The language is primarily native to Central, Western, and Eastern Europe, Israel, and regions with high Jewish populations. As part of the Indo-European language family, Yiddish has roughly 2 million speakers worldwide, according to the Council of Europe (Zaagsma). However, because of its vulnerability to extinction, Yiddish is officially recognized as a minority language by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Ukraine.

Source: BBC News
The population of Yiddish speakers decreased tremendously during WWII due to the killing of native speakers by the Nazis and the assimilation of Jews into linguistic communities; nonetheless, the language itself had already been on a decline before the war. On the eve of WWII, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers; this number decreased by roughly 85 percent by the end of the war (Katz). The majority of Jews able to escape throughout the WWII period migrated to Israel or to the United States, where they found Yiddish to be an impractical language and thus learned English and other prevailing languages. For those unable to escape, like the Yiddish population in the Soviet Union, found their language outlawed by Stalin during and after the Holocaust (Shyovitz). As a result of the Holocaust and repressive measures in place by governments, Yiddish came to an almost immediate standstill and continued to do so for decades. However, there have been movements by Jewish organizations and cultural centers to revive Yiddish in modern day.

Source: Pew Research
In unstable, bilingual or multilingual speech communities, languages lose their last native speakers quickly and thus leading to language death. Sudden, radical, gradual, and bottom-to-top are all types of language death. In the case of Yiddish, it is not yet dead, but it is on the path to extinction. Yiddish experienced sudden, radical and gradual language declines during some years throughout its history. Sudden language decline occurred primarily during the Holocaust because of the significant and rapid loss in population. On the other hand, radical language decline, which occurs abruptly due to the threat of political or social persecution, transpired throughout the course of the Yiddish language’s history. Many Yiddish-speaking communities abandoned their culture, traditions, and way of life in order to avoid acts of violence or discrimination. Consequently, after WWII many found Yiddish to be the language of their ancestors and thus obsolete. During this time, Yiddish experienced gradual language decline, arising when minority languages are in contact with dominant languages, and the native speaking population gradually shifts to adopting a new language. Sometimes the use of a language is not considered advantageous, parents do not pass it on to their children, or its use is discouraged by society or by the government (Rozovsky).

Source: Wall Street Journal
As for Yiddish today, 76 percent of Yiddish speakers in the US live in the New York metro area, with another 6 percent in the Poughkeepsie metro area, 4 percent in the Miami metro area, and 2 percent in the Los Angeles metro area (Basu). This goes to show how the majority of Yiddish speakers live in just four metropolitan areas in the entire US, making it more difficult for the language to gain recognition and expand; however, there are efforts to improve the usage of the language. Likewise, the 2007 American Community Survey on Language Use counted just 158,991 people who spoke Yiddish at home in the United States, a drop of nearly 50 percent from 1980 to 2007 (Basu). Like in the US, Yiddish populations continue to reside in small communities throughout Europe and mainly Israel.

When languages die, entire cultures, communities and identities vanish as well. In the world today, there are 6,800 languages spoken. However, almost half are endangered, and nearly 90 percent of languages will disappear by the end of this century (Rozovsky). Throughout history, languages have been born, developed and discarded; yet, only Basque, Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Sanskrit and Tamil have had lives of more than 2,000 years (Rozovsky). As economic and cultural globalization and development continue to push forward, growing numbers of languages will become endangered and eventually extinct. With increasing economic integration on national and regional scales, people find it easier to communicate and conduct business in the dominant lingua-francas of world commerce: English, Chinese, Spanish and French (Malone). Only time will tell if and when Yiddish will face extinction along with other languages.

Works Cited

Basu, Tanya. “Oy Vey: Yiddish Has a Problem.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/09/yiddish-has-a-problem/379658/

Katz, Dovid. YIDDISH, the Historic Language of Ashkenazic (central and East European) Jewry, Is the Third Principal Literary Language in Jew (n.d.): n. pag. Web Archive. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Malone, Elizabeth. “Research Areas.” Language and Linguistics: Endangered Language. National Science Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/linguistics/endangered.jsp

Rozovsky, Lorne. “Path to Extinction - The Declining Health of Jewish Languages.” Chabad. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Shyovitz, David. “Yiddish: History & Development of Yiddish.” History & Development of Yiddish. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/yiddish.html

“The Unity and Diversity of Human Language.” 29 Apr. 2009. Middlebury. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.  http://cr.middlebury.edu/public/usoltan/intd0111a-s09-html/content/lecture22_language_death.pdf

“YIDDISH DIALECTS.” Jewish Generation. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/givennames/yiddial.htm

Zaagsma, Gerben. Public History beyond the State: Presenting the Yiddish past in Contemporary Europe. Public History beyond the State: Presenting the Yiddish past in Contemporary Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.