Im April 2020 feiert ERIU Leipzig sein 5-jähriges Bestehen. Seit unserer Gründung bemühen wir uns stets um das Sorbische sowie Irisch, Walisisch und generell die Thematik der Europäischen Minderheitensprachen. Uns liegt es am Herzen diese Themen insbesondere an die Leipziger Studenten weiterzugeben! Unsere Mitglieder bekommen die Möglichkeit an Internationalen Konferenzen teilzunehmen und sich mit Experten europaweit auszutauschen und zu diskutieren.
Tatiana Chernyshova, langjähriges ERIU Leipzig Mitglied, berichtet im folgendem Beitrag über ihre Erfahrungen beim ELEN Kongress im Oktober 2019 in Rennes, bei dem sie als ERIU Leipzig Delegation zu Gast war.
Two-days ELEN General Assembly and Forum for Language Rights in Rennes was an opportunity to meet people who share something very important in common: they care about their languages. Representatives of different fields made their points on the language issues in media, education and politics.
Without getting into details about our stressful journey to the beautiful city of Rennes, I’d like to share an overall impression of the conference. The first day was more “Bretagne-oriented”: we heard about the political struggles for the Breton language, some of which were surprising for me – such as the fact that co-officiality of the language is illegal in France. Also, there were some examples of basic human right’s violation such as the impossibility to name a child in the Breton language with a respective spelling.
Even though it was interesting to listen to, I enjoyed the second day better. We got a chance to meet people from different parts of the world: Galicia, Catalonia, Jersey, Sardinia, Wales and many others. My proud moment was a meeting with Breton singer Gweltaz Ar Fur, who gave me his CD and promised to visit ERIU in Leipzig.
Every person at the conference was exciting to talk to, and it was a pleasure to get to know them. Among others, we spoke with Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, who is Director at Mercator International and a professor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. I personally was very glad to talk to her, as I spent a year in Wales and wrote my Bachelor thesis on Welsh national image in media, so I’ll share some interesting points of our conversation.
First, we discussed the question of national identity in general and Prof Gruffydd-Jones said that “national identity is something that you claim for yourself in many different contexts”. She also suggested that one can choose whether one wants to identify as Welsh: “there are only very few instances where Welsh identity is imposed on you from the government organisation.” She summed up by saying that in terms of nationality, she identifies herself Welsh, but as for identity in terms of geopolitical spaces, she classes herself as a European.
We also asked what language she feels most comfortable with. As I already mentioned, Welsh is her first language, and English was second. She also learned French at school, Spanish at the university, Catalan, Basque, Galician and Irish after university. It was interesting to hear about the emotional relationship that she has with Breton even though she doesn’t speak it. Recent events in Catalonia also gave more emotionality to the language. But she is happy to speak any language really, as the issue is never with the language itself but how authority uses the language sometimes. As an example, she said that one could be made uncomfortable to use the Welsh language, not because of the language itself, but the status and the prestige the language has.
The government in Wales has a program “Cymraeg 2050” which is aimed to reach one million speakers, and Elin was one of the people behind the idea. She explains that people shouldn’t deny the opportunity to be bilingual.
The Language Movement was focused on making Welsh present in all domains and on giving people something marketable, ambitious and archivable. In terms of Media environment there has been a reduction in funding for S4C channel in the past 10 years, but on the other hand there was new format development in social media: short form has been circulated through Facebook and Instagram – that helped to make Welsh content more fun, more trivial, more possible to share among young people. It is fun but also looking at quite serious issues. Young people are talking about their identities and serious questions. Those changes allowed Welsh to reach more people.Nevertheless, there is still an issue of visibility of Welsh in media: there should be more Welsh language films and not only tv drama productions. “The ability to produce audio-visual fiction in a language is an indicator of the vitality of the language because it requires a lot of institutional support, it requires funding, presence in the media and infrastructure.” There is a need in more Welsh content and local media, such as daily news: in comparison to Basque, Welsh community tweets less in their language, and the lack of daily local news can be a reason for that.
It was important that we not only listened to the speeches and sometimes heated debates but also were a part of it. For the second year, ERIU gave the updates on the situation with the Sorbian language. During ELEN business part of the day, we discussed possible projects that we could organise for the language communities. We came up with some great ideas and even developed a rough plan of actions.
I hope we will see ELEN again for the next year in Santiago, Galicia!