This post was contributed by FEL Executive Committee member Tjeerd de Graaf.
The Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL) has various relations with regional organisations and groups which co-ordinate local activities about endangered languages, and it stimulates the creation of such groups. In those groups one or more representatives have the following tasks:
- establish and strengthen the relation of specialists with the endangered language communities and organisations in their region;
- report on best practice experiences of such EL communities in the field of language maintenance, revitalisation, etc.;
- disseminate Endangered Languages news stories and inform mass media about them;
- build links with linguistic and other professional organisations (national, local);
- contribute to (the preparation of) FEL conferences and publications in the FEL blog, Ogmios and on the FEL web site;
- support the documentation of endangered languages in their area and provide an inventory of existing material (archives, sound recordings, teaching materials, literature, etc.);
- set up fund-raising events and look for possible sponsors of the work of FEL in the area;
- join a network for area representatives, with whom information can be exchanged. For this purpose the internet plays an important role.
One of the organisations involved in working with (endangered) minority languages is the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. This is an independent and recognised centre for researchers, policy makers and other professionals. The Centre is hosted by the Fryske Akademy in the Netherlands, which concentrates on fundamental and applied research related to the Frisian language, culture, history and society.
Illustration 1. Mercator
The Mercator Centre is an academic platform where experts and policy makers can meet and exchange knowledge through conferences and workshops. With its Database of Experts, Mercator offers an overview of European expertise in the field of lesser-used languages. Via its Network of Schools, Mercator provides contacts between schools that teach lesser-used languages and the possibility to exchange ideas about their challenges.
The Centre shares knowledge via its publications:
- Mercator Regional Dossiers, written by local experts, describe policy and education of lesser-used languages;
- Research Reports, where results of the research projects are published and which are freely downloadable;
- the Mercator Network Newsletter, in which 2000 subscribers share news about lesser-used languages and upcoming events.
Mercator gathers knowledge from all European countries about multilingual education and legislation and provides information to places all over the world. As an example, one can mention the Regional Dossiers, which in recent times are also published about some of the endangered languages of the Russian Federation (Nenets, Khanty, Selkup, Udmurt). In this sense, there exists an important link with the work of the Foundation for Endangered Languages.
Illustration 2. Nenets dossier in Russian
Dossiers about these languages are also published in Russian in order to reach more local people. We have safeguarded and published historical language material, not only texts, but also sound recordings. The reconstruction of endangered sound archives provides material that can be used for the study and teaching of these languages, many of which are spoken in Siberia. This work can be considered as one of the aims of another regional organisation: the Foundation for Siberian Cultures, which works for the preservation of indigenous languages of Northern Eurasia. Learning tools and teaching materials by and for indigenous communities in Siberia may help to counteract the forces bringing about the loss of cultural diversity and the dissolution of local ethnic identities. Relevant learning tools have been and will be produced together with local experts using modern technologies. They are used for the teaching of the endangered languages to members of the local communities.