Where I was born, the original Welsh Language Act had been in force for less than a decade (find out more about the status of Welsh today here). Where I live now, the Act on the Sami Language has been in force for little more than a decade (find out more about the status of Sami today here). There is still a long way to go before everyone around the world has their language rights.
The World Conference on Linguistic Rights drew up a Declaration in 1996, but it has not yet been ratified by the UN General Assembly.
3 years ago, the writers’ association PEN International simplified the Declaration in an effort to get its principles recognised. Just reading it and thinking about how to apply it in your context is a step in the right direction.
Here’s the text of the 2011 Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights:
- Linguistic diversity is a world heritage that must be valued and protected.
- Respect for all languages and cultures is fundamental to the process of constructing and maintaining dialogue and peace in the world.
- All individuals learn to speak in the heart of a community that gives them life, language, culture and identity.
- Different languages and different ways of speaking are not only means of communication; they are also the milieu in which humans grow and cultures are built.
- Every linguistic community has the right for its language to be used as an official language in its territory.
- School instruction must contribute to the prestige of the language spoken by the linguistic community of the territory.
- It is desirable for citizens to have a general knowledge of various languages, because it favours empathy and intellectual openness, and contributes to a deeper knowledge of one’s own tongue.
- The translation of texts, especially the great works of various cultures, represents a very important element in the necessary process of greater understanding and respect among human beings.
- The media is a privileged loudspeaker for making linguistic diversity work and for competently and rigorously increasing its prestige.
- The right to use and protect one’s own language must be recognized by the United Nations as one of the fundamental human rights