Report: Paris 2019 – ERIU Leipzig on Tour


UNESCO Headquarters, Paris France , 28.01.2019
Submitted by Society for protection of minority languages
“ERIU Leipzig”
(Leipzig, Germany) / on behalf of ELEN

(Serbska wersija buźo skóro w serbskem casopisu publicěrowana)

United Nations has declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019). On the 28thof January 2019, UNESCO held the opening event in order to promote and create more stable network for all indigenous languages.


–      Official website:

–      Every minority organisation could add their own event to the general “event map” on the UNESCO website. It served as a very efficient networking platform to find out about the upcoming events in the field of minority and indigenous languages in different countries.

– Click here to register your own organisation:  


The day was divided into two portions. The roundtable in the morning and the opening ceremony in the afternoon. Simultaneous interpretation into English, Russian, French, Spanish and Arabic was provided.


Director i.a. of the Knowledge Society Division Boyan Radoykov opened the event with a speech, mentioning that he was highly pleased with the numbers of participants attending the event, which displays the importance of the topic to the society and great interest. Mr Radoykov named 3 main (but not only) aims of the event:

–      To raise awareness

–      To show what kind of activities could be done in that respect

–      To set the publications

The member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) Aysa Mukabenova– congratulated all visitors and colleagues with an official opening. Despite the fact that we had a loss of languages and culture in the past, the closest future may become much more disastrous in this respect. Therefore the stable and gradual development of the network of minority languages is needed. Discriminating laws against the indigenous and minority people are still a reality in many countries. The languages of indigenous people are a complex basis of knowledge about our world.

The government often talks about the lack of financial capacities while talking about language planning programmes. The speaker, however, encouraged that indigenous people actively show their political will and perseverance. Measures to support revitalization of the minoritised languages were to create an international base for juridical documents, such as United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (13.12.2007). She also admitted that the governments, more often than not, do not side against languages and that the situation is improving and linguistic diversity is not considered as a source of risk anymore. The reason for that is an increased activity of indigenous initiatives. To ensure the survival of languages, the intergenerational transmission  is tremendously important as Mukabenova emphasized.

The next session of her committee will be held in 2 months and is open for suggestions and ideas  


Alexey Tsykarev– Expert Mechanism of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP)
The next guest pointed out that a right to a language is a human right, but particularly crucial to indigenous people, culture, traditions, languages, philosophy. Therefore, states should be able to form committees to cooperate with UNESCO in case of the autochthonous people

The Human Rights Council made the decision to take urgent measures and to discuss the indigenous issues on the open forum, which expands language policies to help the preservation and revitalization. There is certain pessimism on the global level about the future of indigenous people, which should be erased – so this year is an opportunity for the progressive policies implementation.

Clément Chartier– Métis National Council, Canada .
This speaker suggested that the activities of indigenous people should be increased in order to raise awareness in recognition of their rights. He also mentioned that Canada has been fortunate enough to have a government, which recognizes our right fully, so we ween the court processes. Justin Trudeau government and our indigenous local government worked together on projects . So Canada, in fact, is acting on their part. Their substantial  boost could be used as an example – if the political will is there the legislation could introduce the new structures.

Belkacem Lounes– African Indigenous Peoples Network, Аlgeria Lounes
has mentioned  three principles of the Amazigh philosophy – language, the land, and the human. He also mentioned language as the main element that distinguishes individuals and allows them to make valuable connections and transfer their knowledge and skills. Language is the most important element of every nation. Losing a language means losing the possibility of a new outlook on things, shades of a rainbow and it leads to impoverishment. Therefore, this year is very useful.

Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states the right to pass on to the younger generation a culture, literature as a fundamental one. Oral languages are under threat, their numbers are decreasing and it is necessary to undertake measures to save the indigenous languages. The problem goes as far as that some of them are even considered a threat to dominant languages and there are judgements that they are not important and a hindrance to the development of science. Therefore, it is often a case that parents of children refuse to pass on the language to their children. These dangerous ideas must be fought against. Indigenous and minoritised people have the right to their own language.  

Aili Keskitallo – President of Sami Parliament (Norway)

Since the development of language technologies, there has been a possibility to  use a computer in a language with activities such as group reading, translation, participation in dialogues. Dominating technologies work well for dominant languages. The minority languages‘ structures are often vastly different from English, so much that they are impossible to work with (e.g. grammatical complexity, very little text available). But no language is too hard to function in the modern (web) world. There are ways of making sure that users of minority languages have enough opportunity to use their own language

The University of Tromsø is currently developing tools for the Sami languages and production of Sami text, such as internet platforms (keyboards, electronic dictionaries ,etc). The Sami parliament plans to present in to the United Nations in New York (cooperation with the Norwegian government). The technology providers should be open to make technologies for indigenous languages available and to encourage the technology providers to open the barriers for indigenous languages as well as to allow access to the innovations for the indigenous people

Joseph Mariani– Director of Research Emeritus, Mechanical and Computer Engineering Laboratory, French National Center for Scientific Research (LIMSI-CNRS), France….

The language situation is very different for the 7000 languages around the world. English is the only one with very good coverage and even the other dominant languages are just about covered when it comes to research. There is often a lack of digital instinction or cross lingual technologies and especially oral, indigenous or sign languages are very challenging when it comes to innovation and language resources. A multilingual approach has to be implemented as well as programmes that are used daily and improve and develop themselves on a daily basis with the data collected from users. Language technologies should be made available for all and suit all linguistic domains equally. For this to work, a sponsorship is needed to finance the projects.

Talitha Tolles– Global Program Innovation, Indigenous Programs and Relations,, Canada

This guest felt that as an indigenous person, she had the responsibility for her community and the common threat, as for all the other communities is a loss of language. She emphasized the importance of face-to-face learning and not just digitally and pointed out that 83 full days are needed in order to acquire a language. Despite this, she encourages new language learners with a plan for a global learning center, where language acquisition could be carried out either in person or virtually. Usually, a problem of communities is that they don’t have access to to newest language innovations because of the remoteness of some facilities. This is what the new concept could ameliorate and this year holds the opportunity to do so.

Evgeny Kuzmin– Intergovermental Information for All Programme (IFAP)

Kuzmin started his speech with a statement that there are approximately  100 groups of indigenous people in Russia, as mentioned in the recently published “Anthology of Modern Poetry of Russian People”, which has been supported by the the government. They are, however, facing rapid re-conversion of linguistic diversity. He then goes on about how indigenous languages reflect social and historical experiences of nations and are unfortunately used as means of ideological manipulation and later end up changing the identity of entire nations.

He also warned that in 100 years, only 15 languages will remain and the possibility that these languages could be of cyborg origin. To avoid that, active support of the media is very much needed. Science has to be supportive of new technologies and education has to be supportive of new methods and tools.
A conference has been announced, too: Preservation of World Languages – Multilingualism in Cyberspace – Irkutsk, July 1-5, 2019

Mandana Seyfeddinipur, SOAS World Languages Institute, University of London

This speaker has mentioned the problems with accessibility of knowledge and that lots of materials are hidden from the public. We do not have a linguistic problem, but a political one. We need spaces where languages could be used.

Nina Veisalova – First Vice President, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) Russia, speaker of Even language

Indigenous people should take responsibility over the future of their family, especially the older generation. Schools and textbooks can teach the native language. But the native language should be instilled in families, the state should raise prestige so that families use their own language. “My grandmother taught me, I did not learn the language at school. I studied in St. Petersburg. Institute of the Peoples of the North. Having received an education there, I came back to the village and started teaching this language at school, it was not there before.”

A congress of teachers of small languages has been founded, a group of around 400 teachers – an association of the founders of the native languages of indigenous languages, all undertaking action towards the development of the concept of teaching. The outcome has been very positive so far, eg. the „Voice of the North“ literary contest, a literary collection and a development of a national plan for the implementation of the year of native languages.

“Never forget the trails of your ancestors. How long you speak your tongue –
so long will you live”

Delicia Villagra Batoux, Academy of the Guarani Language, Paraguay

This speaker emphasised the right of the indigenous people to use their own languages. The official languages of Paraguay are Spanish and Guarani and are both a part of cultural heritage and Paraguay is, in fact, a multicultural country. A Law on Languages has been propagated for in 2010 and since then, two institutions have been formed – Secretary for the language policies in 2011, which has a symbolic status and the Guarani Language Academy established in 2012 with a Department of Linguistics taking care of language development and language policies. Article 51 of the constitution states that Guarani language should be granted the writing form  to ensure that the Guaraní language becomes a fully fledged official language used daily in the work process – done successfully, the language is going to be used in administrative life. Other small languages share this right, but first, they do need to be standardized.


OPENING CEREMONY of the Year of Indigenous Languages

A number of speakers were addressing the public from the stage in room  2 on different topics and issues. The list of speakers is available for viewing in the program (see attached).

The intensive day was closed with an indigenous languages cultural program.

Folk music group “Twin Flame” (Canada) represented the beautiful songs in Inuktitut language with modern guitar melodies. The young artist Katarina Barruk from the Sámi minority (Sweden) presented her yoik-based and modern musical variations. Ragtyna Tymkyl, speaker of Yukaghir language, surprised the listeners with a musical variation copying the animal and floral world of her native land.  

ERIU Leipzig © 2019 
LW, proofreading by AM