Local Minority Languages v. Foreign Minority Languages

Simon   Tuesday, February 25, 2003, 14:29 GMT
In Scotland they want measures to protect not only the local minority languages Gaelic and Scots but also the foreign local languages, e.g. Urdu, Arabic etc.

Personally, I think you have to make a difference between redressing the linguistic balance in a complicated country like the United Kingdom, i.e. support Gaelic and Scots. However, Urdu and Arabic are only spoken because people speaking those languages have come to the UK to live. When these people came, they knew that their languages were not official and never really expected to use anything but English.

Therefore, I think that only English, Gaelic and Scots should have any official backing in Scotland.

The same goes for other places, i.e. Dutch, French, German in Belgium but not Arabic, Turkish, Congolese etc.

What do you think?
Tom R   Tuesday, February 25, 2003, 18:25 GMT
I agree with you simon. I believe that langauges that are established or part of the area's traditions/cultures should be recognised. Languages recently brought in shouldn't be recognised as offical scottish/british languages. But then you have the problem of what is recent, and what isn't. Therefore i reckon a language shouldn't be 'official' unless its been spoken for about 10 years, by the majority of the population in that area.

But then this could create trouble etc, so maybe it should be up to the local district council (whatever its called) to decided what the 'official' languages spoken in that district is, and when people want it to change, they just petition the council or something. This would then solve problems as that in Cornwall. Virtually no-one speaks the cornish language, yet the people living there want it to be recognised as a proper minority language (which has happened).
cmhiv   Tuesday, February 25, 2003, 18:39 GMT
I think that "cultural" languages should have backing by the government, but not foreign ones, unless a significant amount of time has passed and the foreigners still speak their language after a couple hundred years.
Jim   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 03:56 GMT
I agree. But it should be a couple of hundred years, like cmhiv suggests, rather than ten or so. What kind of want measures to protect not only the local minority languages measures and backing are we talking about though?
cmhiv   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 05:47 GMT
I think that we are talking about media; tele, newspapers, and then some literature readily available carried in the bookstores and libraries.

To reiterate my point about when a minority language should be protected, is in two cases; one, the French of Canada. These people have been speaking French since the mid 1600's (well, the descendents of the original people), and they make a sizeable part of the Canadian populaton. The other people are the Pennsylvania German and other groups who use this language. They have been in America since the late 1600's, and their language today is petering out. We need to preserve the language.
Jim   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 06:59 GMT
French isn't in much danger of dying out in Canada. Almost all lables on products all across Canada are written in both French and English, Canadian passports are bilingual. French is an official language of Canada. The PM is a francophone. It's a shame about the Pennsylvania German language's petering out. It should be preserved but how?
mjd   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 08:24 GMT

How many people speak Pennsylvania German today? I haven't been out to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a long time, but is it common to hear it spoken there today among the Amish community?
Simon   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 13:29 GMT
But I think the difference is that people in Scotland were speaking Scots or Gaelic as their native language. The developments took place around them. It's not their fault that their own languages were overwhelmed by English. However, someone speaking Urdu arrives in the United Kingdom knowing the official language is not Urdu and therefore surely does not have the same moral rights as a native speaker of Scots or Gaelic.

Also, does a language need official status for it to survive?
J   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 18:04 GMT
Look at English, the Normans didn't give it a second thought....until it crept up behind them and bashed them over the head!
cmhiv   Thursday, February 27, 2003, 19:49 GMT
I think it is something like 10,000 people speak Pennsylvania German in and around Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

As for a language needing official status to survive; maybe. I think it depends on the language and the country it is in. Pennsylvania German will never get any type of recognition for a couple of reasons; 1.) The majority of speakers are religious people who have little contact with the modern world. 2.) Possibly the biggest reason is that America is reluctant to give official status to languages like Pennsylvania German because of the people who speak them; these people are, Americans in every sense of the word. Next to the Native Americans, these people are the "most" American. So, why should "Americans" speak anything other than English, the American government might ask.

As for the Pennsylvania Germans being "more" American than any other Americans, well, they were driven out of their homelands in the late 1600's, and then they came to a land that was "free," and ever since then, they have never viewd Germany, Austria, Switzerland or Alsace as their true "Heimland."

I am not a Pennsylvania German; my German-speaking ancestors were from the same places as the Pennsylvania German, and they went to America at the same time, but my ancestors went to New York, and stayed there until after the American Civil War. Plus, I am more English than anything else, including American, so, I just like the Pennsylvania Germans because they are of the same stock as my German-speaking ancestors.
Simon   Friday, February 28, 2003, 07:50 GMT
French in England was only ever the language of a ruling elite. A lot of people learned it as a foreign language but when the French power went back to France, the language died as a native language in England.
mjd   Friday, February 28, 2003, 08:19 GMT

Did you acquire fluency in French by moving to Belgium or were you fluent before by studying in school etc?
Simon   Friday, February 28, 2003, 08:43 GMT
I started learning at school then I lived in France for a little while. After that I continued to study it at school and majored in it at university. Belgium has helped somewhat but Brussels is a bad place to learn French: there's a very big English-speaking community, lots of Flemish people who speak excellent English and don't want to promote the use of French but where there's a will, there's a way.

Belgium's a nice country but from a French point of view, you'd be better off in France. However, culturally, I think Belgium's less of a giant leap for British and American people.

Belgium's a very interesting country, linguistically speaking. You can find lots of information about it on the internet, most of it biased from one side or another.