Foundation for Endangered Languages

Home | Manifesto | Membership details | Proceedings | Grant Applications | Newsletter | Links | Bibliography


4. Language Endangerment in the News

A Shocking (or Encouraging?) Statistic

The Wycliffe Bible Translation Society was the 72nd largest nonprofit in the US last year [1999], clocking in at just over $100,000,000 in receipts. Yes, that's one hundred million dollars in one year.

Best, Doug Whalen DhW

The Endangered Language Fund
Dept. of Linguistics
Yale University
P. O. Box 208236
New Haven, CT 06520-8236 USA
Tel: 203-432-2450
FAX: 203-432-4087
Georgia signs Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities

STRASBOURG, 21.01.2000 - Georgia today signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Ambassador Lana GOGOBERIDZE, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the COUNCIL OF EUROPE, signed this text in the presence of Walter SCHWIMMER, Secretary General of the Organisation.

Opened for signature on 1 February 1995, this text is the first legally binding multilateral instrument for the protection of national minorities. It is already in force in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malta, Moldova, Norway, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Ukraine, the United Kingdom as well as Armenia. It has also been signed by Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.

The Framework Convention sets out the principles to be respected and implemented by the States Parties. They thereby undertake:

to combat discrimination,
to promote full and effective equality, between national minorities and the majority,
to promote the conditions necessary to preserve and develop the culture and safeguard the identity of national minorities, their language, religion and tradition,
to afford persons belonging to national minorities freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
to ensure the right to access to and use of the media,

in the field of linguistic freedoms
to allow the use of the minority language in private and in public,
as well as in dealings with administrative authorities,
to recognise the right to use one's name in the minority language,
to recognise the right to display information of a private nature visible to the public in the minority language,
to make efforts to display topographical indications in the minority language,

in the field of education,
to provide opportunities for learning a minority language and for receiving instruction in this language,
to recognise the creation of educational and training establishments,
not to hinder transfrontier contacts,
to foster transfrontier and international co-operation,
to encourage participation in economic, cultural and social life,
to promote participation in public affairs,
to prohibit forced assimilation.

The Convention includes a monitoring mechanism, whereby the Committee of Ministers, assisted by an Advisory Committee composed of independent experts, evaluates the adequacy of the Convention's implementation. The States Parties will be obliged to present, within one year after the entry into force of the Convention, a report containing full information on legislative and other measures taken to give effect to the Convention. Moreover, each Party shall thereafter submit a report every five years and whenever the Committee of Ministers so requests. The reports of the States and the conclusions of the Committee of Ministers will be made public.

Non-member states may also be invited to accede to Framework Convention.

Press Contact: Christiane Dennemeyer, Council of Europe Press Service. Tel. +33 3 88 41 25 63 - Fax. +33 3 88 41 27 89 E-mail: PressUnit(at)

Nicola Markes-Goerlach
Council of Europe
Directorate General of Human Rights
Minorities Unit
F-67075 Strasbourg-Cedex

Tel: + 33 - 3 90 21 44 33
Fax: + 33 - 3 88 41 27 93

Eurolang: New Brussels-Based News Service

-- As the far-right Austrian Freedom Party moves closer to government, Austria's linguistic minorities express concern for their future (Eurolang).
-- German Romanies protest against their exclusion from a new law compensating survivors of Nazi atrocities (Eurolang).
-- Loyal Irish government members are rewarded in a cabinet reshuffle, but how will the Irish language be influenced by a lack of competent speakers in the key ministries? (Eurolang).

Find out more by visiting the Eurolang website (

Eurolang, a new Brussels based service specialising in serving national and regional media throughout Europe with news concerning cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe, went online on Tuesday 1st February. The news service, which will be free for an initial period of two years, has been set up under the auspices of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and is a project funded by the European Commission.

News desks and correspondents will be able to access the Eurolang website free ofcharge and will be able to download news stories and pictures which will fill a gap in the present coverage of European affairs.



"It's our intention to provide a comprehensive and current news service relating to lesser used languages and their communities throughout Europe. Quite frequently, these communities are marginalised by the mainstream media and issues relating to their linguistic development ignored. Therefore, we'll be offering a unique source of information which is not readily available at present to the media", says John Walsh, Editor in Chief of the Eurolang service, a journalist and researcher from Ireland who heads Eurolang's team of eight correspondents distributed around Europe.

The daily news feeds will cover stories from Ireland, Britain, Spain, Netherlands, Finland, Germany and France, and other locations will be covered through Eurolang's contacts with journalists among linguistic minorities in other EU member states.

"The primary aim of Eurolang is to enhance public awareness of lesser used language issues, and to emphasise the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe", explains John Walsh. "As well as the latest news of relevance to the linguistic communties, we'll be providing longer, in-depth feature articles from time to time, as well as interviews with relevant people across a variety of fields. We'll also be bringing the latest news regarding minority language matters from the EU institutions, the Council of Europe and various NGOs in Brussels and in other cities."

The online service will be updated daily. A wide variety of media, both national and regional, have been contacted in many countries. The response has been very positive, as journalists and editors have recognised that our service is something unique and different.

Access the site at
and get your free password online.
Contact Editor-in-Chief, John Walsh,
on +32 2 218 25 90/+32 479 294 594.

Moroccan King Commits to School and University Education in Berber

Middle East International: Nick Pelham, Rabat, 7 April 2000

Berber languages are to be taught in Moroccan schools. In mid-March, the Papalace announced a tight timetable stating that from next September primary schools would begin courses in Berber, and that research centres would be set up in universities.

Introducing the Education Reform Act at the beginning of March, Prime Minister Youssoufi said the package would both boost Berber Moroccan culture and facilitate the teaching of Arabic amongst the 40% of the population whose mother-tongue, according to official statistics, is Berber.

The bill aims to reverse Morocco's position at the bottom of the literacy league in the Arab world. For msot Moroccans, their mother tongue is either Colloquial Arabic or one of the three main Berber dialects, Tarifit, Tamazight and Tashilhit. But at school Moroccans are taught in Arabic, at university largely in French. Many students spend more time poring over their dictionaries than their textbooks. henceforth, the language of tuition is to be left to choice.

Morocco has undoubtedly suffered from the fact that so many schoolchildren were taught in a language that they did not understand. Some 2.5m Moroccansof school age play truant each year (schooling will now be compulsory). Illiteracy rates in the mountains are twice those in the cities: 90% of girls in rural areas cannot read.

The resulting marginalization spawned a language movement, sometimes with decidely separatist or republican sentiments. Berber revivalists demanded recognition of "Morocco's indigenous tongues" and coined pan-Maghrebi anthems and flags. The two pronged tident the letter "z" in Berber script is etched on the walls from Agadir to Kabylie in Algeria.

Since becoming king, Mohammed VI has bowed to many of the Berber demands, reversing his father's policy. Many of his key advisers are Berber activists themselves, most notably Hassana Aourid, his schoolmate and spokesman. The king tals of regionalization and of the richness of Morocco's cultural diversity. And one of his first acts was to tour the Rif, the Berber mountains looming over Morocco's Mediterranean coast, which his father hasd boycotted throughout his reign following an insurrection in 1958.

So far, the bill remains wonderfully fudged. It is not clear how many hours a week Berber will be taught, nor whether it will be compulsory and country-wide. Parliament is still debating its finer points and is likley to do so for at least another month before it enters the statute books.

The result is that even Berber groups are less than satisfied. After years of struggle, they should be proclaiming victory. Berber will now be on both the school and university curricula.

But many Berber associations smell a rat. They argue that the lack of preparation is a sure way of ensuring the project's failure. Berber lessons are due to begin next September, but as yet there is not sign of textbooks or teacher-training. After years of Palace skullduggery Hassan II decreed Berber would be taught in schools in 1994, then did nothing till his death last July Berber activists find it hard to belive his son is sincere. A demonstration planned outside parliament to voice their grievances in mid-March was banned by the authorities "for reasons of state security".