21.02.2012 - Culture Sector

Concerted efforts for the revitalization of Jeju language

Chorale d'enfant au festival de langue jeju en 2011 © Jeju Special Self Governing Province (Division of Cultural Affairs)

In 2010, Jeju was included in the Atlas of languages in danger. Also called « cheju » or « ceycwu », this language, spoken by 5 to 10 thousand people on the Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea, is in a critical situation because it is spoken mostly by elderly people aged 70 and more. Since its inclusion in the Atlas, numerous measures were taken by the island’s inhabitants in order to increase the vitality of this language and ensure its presence and survival.

Among these measures, one could mention the opening, on 12 August 2011, of the Research Centre for Jeju Studies, which is part of the Jeju Development Institute whose mandate includes the following: carrying out preliminary practical and scientific research, publishing a collection dedicated to the study of Jeju and developing research projects on Jeju language preservation. A few months before the opening of this centre, the Committee for the protection of Jeju language was created. This committee, formed by 16 members, will meet on a regular basis to discuss prospective projects for the safeguarding of the language.

The Framework for the preservation of Jeju language was revised and the superintendent of the Education Bureau was given the task of promoting Jeju in school education, through the introduction of several projects including a training programme for teachers and an oratory speech contest. Other initiatives have already been implemented: a radio broadcasting space available online, a Jeju language festival and a radio campaign for Jeju slang which will take place four times a year.

In addition, an iPhone application of Jeju was developed, including a glossary, proverbs, collections of poems and quizzes, among other electronic documents.

Reforms are also planned for the next few years. In 2012, a new action plan for the protection of the language will be launched by the Research Centre on Jeju Studies. This plan will be carried out over a period of five years (2013-2017). An introductory conversation brochure will be distributed to the island’s visitors and inhabitants in order to encourage a wider use of the Jeju language. Finally, a language database will be compiled and will be used to produce audio-visual materials.  

The Jeju Island representatives of the Division of Cultural Affairs welcomed the inclusion of Jeju in the Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, and by the first encouraging results concerning the revitalization and the prominence given to this language. They consider that the efforts made for the protection of Jeju through its documentation and promotion will contribute to preserve this endangered language.




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