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Support for International Year of Languages 2008 : Overview


While UNESCO, as the UN agency charged with coordinating observance of International Year of Languages (IYL), has its own plans, it cannot do everything and its role does not exclude other initiatives. One notes that in the case of the International Year of Planet Earth that there is actually an "IYPE Corporation" that has a full-fledged website for that observance, and is coordinating efforts with UNESCO. No such structure or website exists for IYL.

Indeed, it seems that the year is upon us without much advance thought or preparation - or even awareness that it existed - among people or organizations who specialize in language, or the general public. (It got some mention in news, blogs, and in one academic article we are aware of  following declaration of the year last May, but no systematic organizing outside of UNESCO.)

It seems worthwhile to take the initiative in some way to promote discussion on (1) how diverse organizations, people, and initiatives concerned with language might collaborate effectively in supporting IYL, and (2) what sort of outcomes and perhaps structures they would want to see as a result of work on IYL.

Existing proposals: three perspectives supporting IYL

At the outset of Year, there were three very useful perspectives on how to make the most of IYL. One, the LADDA framework, was put forth by David Crystal in the article mentioned above. Another was a very practical list of action points written by Phil Cash Cash. The third is the suggested areas of activity on the UNESCO site.

These three "takes" complement each other well and are an excellent guide to a range of possible actions and activities. One might add some other specifics, but such amendments could be endless, given the range of language-related activities.

(more to come)

Role of other organizations

The UNESCO site has a page on Languages and Multilingualism > Worldwide partners > Presentation  that underscores the importance of work relating to languages by other entities, both in general and during IYL:

The success of UNESCO’s work on languages and multilingualism depends on the effective mobilisation of UNESCO’s Member States and field offices, regional and national networks, civil society and private partners, scientific institutions, foundations, intergovernmental organizations.

It also depends on the creation of a variety of new partnerships. ...

The International Year of languages 2008 will provide an exceptionally favourable framework for the launching of unprecedented partnerships.

Other ideas

A summit for "language museums," which represent an emerging category of institutions dedicated to raising awareness and educating about the importance of languages.

(more to come)