08.08.2011 - UNESCO

Towards UNESCO guidelines on language policies

UNESCO held an expert meeting, Towards UNESCO Guidelines on Language Policies: A Tool for Language Assessment and Planning, from 30 May to 1 June 2011. For the first time at UNESCO, more than forty international experts working in areas such as linguistics, anthropology, education, media and the Internet, participated in a joint meeting aimed at revising the language endangerment criteria used by UNESCO. The event also focused on how to improve current approaches in support of the world’s more than 6,000 languages, tackling all stages of the process from vitality assessment to strong presence in cyberspace.

The meeting was financially supported by UNESCO and Norway, in the framework of the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger programme.

“We hope to contribute to UNESCO’s efforts to promote multilingualism and preserve language diversity around the world through education, science, culture, communication and information technologies (ICT) using an interdisciplinary approach,” declared the experts representing universities, research institutes, non-governmental organizations and private companies from more than twenty countries.

Participants expressed deep concern about the fragile status of endangered languages and stressed the urgent need to implement all existing international instruments and commitments in support of the world’s linguistic diversity. They suggested that governments and communities could benefit from more user-friendly and efficient tools than the currently available in order to assess the relative health or endangerment level of languages in particular contexts, and to plan effectively for the maintenance and promotion of linguistic diversity and multilingualism. In addition, experts underlined that the assessment methodology should be comprehensive and flexible enough in order to produce context-specific data that adequately informs national language policies. The latter should be elaborated from an interdisciplinary perspective, focusing on possibilities for practical action including the use of ICT, and addressing the socio-economic development aspects.

Experts concluded the meeting by stating that “multilingualism should not be seen as a problem, but rather as a solution, a powerful resource for peace, democracy and dialogue among nations”.

All materials related to the meeting will be made available online here.

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