In the last several decades safeguarding language and
dialects has become a major concern to which UNESCO has turned its attention.
Nowadays, this issue has taken huge dimensions, as innumerable languages are on
the verge of extinction. It is estimated that in a century from now the number
of the remaining languages will drop dramatically from 6.000 to a few hundreds.
UNESCO’s role is to minimize this threat, protecting, promoting and maintaining
all languages and dialects in order to preserve multilingualism.
indigenous languages of Canada are those of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples (First
Nations, Inuit and Métis). Their languages mirror a variety of unique cultures,
histories and identities. For all these three groups language is the foundation
of their culture. Aboriginal peoples’ languages are on the brink of extinction.
It is estimated that only one third of the Aboriginal languages have the prospect
of survival. It is specified that at least five languages have already been
extinct, while others barely survive into the present.
Canada is the first
Western country to declare and put into action an executive policy of
multiculturalism in 1971. A decade later in 1998, The Canadian Government
created the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) to fund a variety of
community-based language projects such as language learning resources,
documentation, communications and media, recording interviews with elders and
developing dictionaries for over twenty-five endangered languages. Moreover, Canada
adopted the Declaration of Vienna of the World Conference on Human Rights. In the
year 2010, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will implement the
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples stating that “No relationship is more important to me and
to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.”. In 2017, the government provided $90 million in
funding to “protect, preserve and revitalize” those languages for
three years. Meanwhile, numerous Aboriginal language organizations are
developing teaching resources such as the Canadian Indigenous Languages and
Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI).
It is a widespread
belief that the endangerment of a language may finally lead to its extinction.
This disappearance seems to have tremendous effects on national, as well as on
international level. To analyze further, every language, large or small, captures
reality in a characteristic approach. If it is to lose one, several discoveries
about human cognition might be closed off. Thus, the extinction of a language
unavoidably leads to the disappearance of diverse forms of Intangible Cultural
Heritage. Every song, every poem and tradition, which the speakers of this
language passed on for thousands of years, will be lost once and for all. As it
comes to the national community, the extinction of their language will
inevitably cause the loss off their cultural and possibly their national
identity. Therefore, these people may become victims of massification.
The majority agree
that the rapid technological evolution in the modern society conduces to the
extinction of several languages and dialects. In order to minimize this threat
international community ought to guarantee the linguistic diversity in
cyberspace. This can be achieved by creating television networks, where
languages in danger can be broadcasted and thus promoted. Moreover, raising
awareness via social media, providing internet access to the speakers of
endangered languages and creating linguistic documentation in digital form will
also assist on maintaining these languages. In Canada numerous organizations
provide online language resources to First Nations, while the media expands the
awareness across Canada. Specifically, The Aboriginal Peoples Television
Network (APTN) broadcasts nationally with programming by Aboriginal peoples.
Throughout the years
various Declarations and treaties have been signed in order to safeguard
endangered languages. The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights is one of
the most significant one. According to the preliminaries, UDLR takes into
consideration that “Invasion,
colonization, occupation … often involve … distort perceptions of the value
of languages”, which indeed confirms the fact that UDLR helps to detect
phenomena of cultural imperialism. In the meantime, UDLR helps detect events of
cultural marginalization as well, in view of the fact that the Article 26
declares “All individuals must be
protected from discrimination on grounds of language”, while the Article 23
proclaims that “Education must always be
at the service of linguistic and cultural diversity and harmonious relations
between different language communities.”
Taking all these into consideration, Canada firmly believes that despite
what has already been done new measures need to be taken to evade the attrition
of a language. To begin with, Canada advocates that in order to guard, maintain
and promote all the endangered language, it is required to form a basic
pedagogical and linguistic training. It is needed to provide trained language
teachers who will acknowledge the basics in linguistics and teaching methods.
Furthermore, local communities shall establish centers where the speakers of an
endangered language will be taught how to document and archive their own
language materials. Last but not least, the delegation of Canada strongly
supports that we ought to create broadcast media, television channels and
numerous internet websites where these languages can be promoted so that their
speakers are able to have access to the world of technology without the need to
fend off their language and shift to a more prestige one.