Tag Archives: linguistic diversity

Symposium on multilingualism in international organizations & cooperation, 10-11 May 2018

Taking the opportunity again this year to publicize the latest in a series of annual symposia in New York on language issues in international contexts. The last two dealt with language(s) and the Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s edition, to be held on 10-11 May 2018, has as its title, Multilingualism in International Organizations and in International Co-operation.” It is sponsored by the Study Group on Language and the United Nations in cooperation with The Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems, the Center for Applied Linguistics, and Birkbeck, University of London.

The organizers’ description of the event, and their preliminary program follow (the content is theirs; although not connected with the event or any of its sponsors, I’ve taken the opportunity to present this information with added links such as I could find – please advise if any should be replaced):


Multilingualism in International Organizations and in International Co-operation

Thursday & Friday, May 10-11, 2018, at the Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017 (First Ave. at 44th St.)

Multilingualism in international co-operation entails both costs and benefits: costs because it requires mechanisms such as the selection of multilingual staff and the mediation of language professionals; benefits because, if properly managed, it includes all parties to decision-making, promotes consensus, supports programme delivery, and aids dissemination of results. Thus it favours social justice and inclusion. Increasingly, multilingualism is seen as a positive force, though it is not always recognized as such by all stakeholders.

Within the United Nations, for example, owing in particular to the scarcity of available data, advocates of multilingual language policies often face ideological, financial and administrative resistance, despite a growing recognition that multilingualism, as a core value of the UN, is a potential source of strength.

This symposium seeks to focus on, and generate interest in, these issues. Contributorscription will address the challenges of supporting multilingualism in organizations and in sites of international co-operation across different sectors (e.g. business, diplomacy, economics) and communities. Included will be theoretical and methodological studies, on the one hand, and studies addressing specific practical challenges, on the other – especially papers that focus directly on the work of the UN system or other international bodies, or research having obvious implications for their work.

Among the themes that we hope to address are the following:

  • evolving perceptions of multilingualism in international settings
  • linguistic inclusiveness in multilingual settings
  • interpretation and translation in international organizations
  • speed of decision-making vs. information loss in monolingual contexts
  • language in international peace-keeping
  • language and human/minority rights
  • the economics of language regimes
  • linguistic equity in organizations
  • inclusive communication in local and international development
  • language policy in international organizations
  • language and sustainability
  • multilingualism and NGOs

PRELIMINARY PROGRAM (as of April 4)
Speakers will include:

Keynote speaker:

Michele Gazzola, Research Fellow, Humboldt University, Berlin
The economic effects of language regimes: The case of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the European Patent Office

Papers and presentations will include:

John Edwards (St Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University, Canada)
Language claims & language rights

Timothy Reagan (University of Maine, USA)
Sign language multilingualism: The forgotten language diversity in disempowered communities

Emma Asonye (University of Mexico), Ezinne Emma-Asonye (University of Mexico), Queenette Okwaraji (University of Rochester, USA) and Khadijah Asili (Vizionz-Sankofa)
Linguistic diversity and the language rights of the underprivileged population in Africa and America: Towards an inclusive society in 2030

Nirvana Bhatia (Linguistic Rights Specialist)
The paper chase: A review of the UN’s recent language-rights legislation

Phindile Dlamini (University of Swaziland)
Swaziland’s dream of linguistic representation in international organisations: Will the sociolinguistic map of the United Nations ever change?

Maneeratana Sawasdiwat Na Ayutthaya (ASEAN Center for Multilingualism, Translation & Interpretation, Thailand)
Multilingualism, translation and interpretation in the ASEAN Community

Leigh Swigart (Brandeis University, USA)
English at the International Criminal Court: Working language or default language?

Beatrice Owiti (Kenya Methodist University)
Interpretation and translation in the International Criminal Court

Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London, UK), Michele Gazzola and Torsten Templin (Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany)
Measuring diversity in multilingual communication

Francis M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden)
Parallel language use: A Nordic solution for multilingual organisations?

Dorte Lønsmann (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) & Janus Mortensen (University of Copenhagen)
English only? A critical examination of the ‘natural’ status of English as a corporate language

Spencer Hazel (Newcastle University, UK), Katherine Kappa and Kamilla Kraft (University of Copenhagen)
Language policing in international organisations: Explicit and embedded orientations to language repertoires and their impact on professional identity

Pia Decarsin (JPD Systems Translation Services)
Language policy in international organisations: Criteria and recommendations for strategic content selection for translation

Mirna Soares Andrade (Inter-American Defense College, Washington, D.C.)
Multilingualism and language services at the Inter-American Defense College

Shana Pughe Dean (Tone Translate, Utica, NY, USA))
Creating opportunity and understanding in a multicultural world on the move: Refugee resettlement agencies

Carol Benson (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
The importance of a multilingual habitus when assessing literacy skills in educational development

Erina Iwasaki (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
Reframing multilingualism in terms of opportunity

Ari Sherris (Texas A & M University-Kingsville, Texas, USA) & Joy Kreeft Peyton (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.)
The power of multilingualism and multiliteracy for languages and groups

Additional information and registration at http://www.languageandtheun.org


For information, below are links to posts on this blog regarding the 2016 and 2017 events:

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International Mother Language Day 2018 & the Linguapax Prize

The annual observance of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21 focuses this year on multilingualism and linguistic diversity, with mention of their importance for sustainable development and peace. The theme has been seen in several forms, including:

  • Acting together for Linguistic diversity and Multilingualism (per poster above)
  • Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development (as seen on the program for the IMLD event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris)
  • Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace (as seen on the UNESCO website)

In her message on the occasion of IMLD, UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay characterized the importance of languages in this way:

A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.

2018 Linguapax Prize to BASAbali

The annual Linguapax Prize, which recognizes contributions to “preservation of linguistic diversity, revitalization and reactivation of linguistic communities, and the promotion of multilingualism,” is traditionally announced on IMLD. This year’s prize was awarded to BASAbali, an organization founded in 2011 to support and develop the Balinese language of Indonesia, and to develop language revitalization methods.

BASAbali’s founder, Alissa Stern, is quoted on the Linguapax site as describing the group as follows:

BASAbali is founded in the belief that all languages, but most importantly a language of a great culture such as Balinese, deserve recognition and use in the modern world — and not be relegated to a language of rural farmers or a language of home, not worthy of activities associated with learning, public affairs and local educational and political practices. The aim, in short, is to develop facilities that will enable Balinese and other local languages to occupy a position of prestige alongside modern national and international languages and to carry forward their rich cultural traditions.

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Terralingua “returns to its roots” (a CFP)

Terralingua's logoLangscape, the magazine of the NGO Terralingua, just extended the deadline of the call for abstracts for its spring issue. Extracts from the call (with February 7 deadline!) are copied below, but what caught my eye about this particular issue was how its theme, “Voices of the Earth,” was framed as “going back” to Terralingua’s roots.

I first learned of Terralingua shortly after it was founded in the late 1990s when its slogan was “Partnerships for Linguistic and Biological Diversity” (the call copied below explains how the organization’s name comes from linking those two concepts). Its active concern with connections between languages and biodiversity was, if not unique, certainly uncommon. At the time I found it a source of inspiration for some of my evolving thinking about connections among agriculture, language, environment, education, and technology.

Terralingua and its director, Dr. Luisa Maffi, have continued to do interesting research in the area now known as “biocultural diversity.” Langscape is one of the organization’s activities.

In any event, it is good to see the focus of the upcoming issue of Langscape on the linguistic diversity/biodiversity links within the larger system. The following is adapted from the full call for abstracts (refer to the full call if you are considering submitting).


Call For Abstracts

Langscape Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2016
“Voices of the Earth”

Abstract Submission Deadline: EXTENDED TO February 7, 2016

This year, Terralingua turns twenty!  We came into the world two decades ago, with a unique mission: to sustain biocultural diversity – the interconnected and interdependent diversity of life in nature and culture.

To celebrate this milestone, we are “going back to our roots” with the theme for the next issue of Langscape Magazine (Spring 2016):  “Voices of the Earth”.

In 1996, we chose the name Terralingua to suggest two things at once: the language of the Earth – the voice of Mother Nature; and the languages of the Earth – the many voices of the world’s diverse peoples, which have evolved through intimate interaction with the Earth in particular places.  When that bond is strong, the Earth is healthy, and so are we.  When we lose that bond, the Earth is weakened, and we are weakened with her.

Here are some possible (but not the only!) questions for the “Voices of the Earth” theme:

  • How are language and the environment connected?  How is language shaped by human relationships with nature, and how is nature shaped by language?
  • How does each language reflect the specific natural features of the place in which it evolved?  How does it express people’s relationship with nature in that particular place?
  • How do words, stories, myths, oral histories, and other verbal expressions convey traditional knowledge and wisdom, cultural values, and spiritual beliefs about the link between people and nature?
  • Is there an “inner language” that connects us to the Earth and bonds us to specific places?  What happens to our individual and collective well-being when that bond is broken?
  • How does language loss affect our relationship with nature?  And how does environmental change affect the resilience of languages?
  • What do we do to reawaken a language when its voice is fading?
  • What is the voice of the Earth telling us about our environmental predicament?  And what are the voices of the Earth saying about it?

Contributions to Langscape may take different forms, either text-driven or artwork-driven…

Please submit your Abstract – your idea for a contribution, in 1-2 paragraphs maximum – NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 7, 2016, using the submission form accessed through the “Submit Here” link below.  Please attach your document in Word .doc or .docx formats only.
After reviewing all abstracts, we will let you know by February  9  whether we would like to invite you to submit a full contribution.

PLEASE NOTE:  An invitation to submit a full contribution does not mean that your contribution is already accepted for publication. It means that we are interested in your idea and would like to see your full submission.

IMPORTANT: Be aware that Langscape does not publish formal scientific or technical papers.  We seek contributions that, while based on solid scholarship, express concepts in accessible language and in a literary rather than academic style.  Tell a story!

[Full call for abstracts]  [Page for uploading submissions]

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2009 Linguapax Prize winner: Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira

Maori language activist, educator and author Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira of New Zealand (or Aotearoa as it is known in Maori) is the recipient of the 2009 Linguapax Prize (source, Hispanidad press agency). She has been active for 30 years on Maori language issues. In 2001 she was recognized in New Zealand with the Te Waka Toi Exemplary Award. The press release on the latter mentioned further that

Among her many achievements Katerina has been affectionately described as the mother of Kura Kaupapa Maori, having co-authored Te Aho Matua – the philosophy and charter for kaupapa Mäori schools.

In 1996, Katerina’s lifetime contribution to te reo Mäori was recognised by Waikato University when she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. A year later, she was named in the Queen’s Honours List as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. (Scoop.co.nz, 2001/10/23)

Huia Publishers has a short bio on Katrina Te Heikoko Mataira in which she is described as a prolific writer. Bookfinder.com has a list of several of her publications in Maori and English.

Linguapax awards the Prize annually on International Mother Language Day. This is the eighth year that the prize as been awarded.

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2008 Linguapax Prize winner: Neville Alexander

The recipient of the Linguapax Prize for 2008 is Dr. Neville Alexander of South Africa. The prize is awarded annually (since 2000) in recognition of contributions to linguistic diversity and multilingual education.

Although the Linguapax site does not at this writing have updated information, the website of the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia (which is connected with Linguapax) has this press release dated 22.02.2008:

The South African linguist Neville Alexander will receive the Linguapax Award today in Barcelona, on the occasion of the Mother Language Day. The ceremony is framed in the Intercultural Week organised by the Ramon Llull University. Alexander, who coordinates the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa has devoted more than twenty years of his professional life to defend and preserve multilingualism in the post-apartheid South Africa and has become one of the major advocates of linguistic diversity.

There is various material online about Dr. Alexander including:

I don’t want to be negative about the Linguapax Institute‘s efforts, but publicity about this really has been lacking. An email request to Linguapax for more information received no reply. I hope to have more information about Linguapax and its important work in a future posting.

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