A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘language conflict

[LINK] “An Official Language from a Foreign Land”

Starting from an examination of the French language in Mali, Crooked Timber’s Juliet Sorenson starts an interesting debate on the utility of having a foreign language be a local official language. Neutrality in local cultural clashes is one benefit; links with the wider world and with the past are another.

French is the language of instruction from elementary through graduate school, the language of court proceedings and official documents. But according to linguists, Mali has no less than 66 languages spoken across its vast plain.

[. . .]

Many Malians have assured me that there is an upside to their official language: it is predictable and uniform, without favoring one native language or local group over another. To be sure, French is the language of Mali’s colonial past: France governed Mali as a colony from 1892 to 1960, when Mali and France agreed peacefully to Mali’s independence. While one might assume that this translates into present-day resentment, in Mali, yesterday’s colonizer is today’s ally: in January 2013, the French led a military campaign called Operation Serval to stop Islamist rebels aiming to take over the country. According to a poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in February 2013, 97 percent of Malians approved of the French intervention.

So perhaps an official non-native language is a useful thing. Nonetheless, the problem of illiteracy and inaccessibility remains. For these reasons, the role of local news organizations broadcasting in local languages is vital. In Douentza, where we work, the local public radio station broadcasts the day’s news in Fulani- the most widely spoken language in the area- daily at 6 p.m. Founded in 1993, Rural Radio Daande Douentza was originally founded to provide local residents with information about politics, democracy, and rights. In addition, the station offers programming on health, agricultural work, the environment, social issues, local and international news, local announcements and plenty of local and national music.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2015 at 9:46 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes the opening of a Detroit-style pizzeria in Toronto’s Leslieville.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper claiming that circumbinary Earth-like worlds can exist.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the American military’s mysterious X-37b space plane.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the opposition of Walmart to an anti-gay bill in Arkansas.
  • Language Hat argues that, at least in the recent past, English has displaced local languages in India. This may be changing.
  • Marginal Revolution seems to warn that too many Chinese are getting into stock speculation.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the overly-close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state and observes the closing of Crimean Tatar news media.

[LINK] “What’s in a name? A Chipewyan’s battle over her native tongue”

Rachel Browne of MacLean’s reports on the inability of a Chipewyan woman in the Northwest Territories to give her child a name in her (endangered) language.

Every March, Aboriginal Languages Month is celebrated across the Northwest Territories with book launches, workshops and traditional drumming ceremonies. Created by the Assembly of First Nations in 1993, it’s a month meant to recognize and promote the rich heritage of Aboriginal languages and cultures. It’s especially meaningful for the territory, which has the highest number of official languages in Canada: nine Aboriginal languages on top of English and French.

But this time of year can also serve as a reminder of their uncertain future. “Some of our Aboriginal languages are struggling, not because we are not doing enough to support them, but because the challenges they face are complex,” the territory’s minister of official languages, Jackson Lafferty, said in the territory’s legislative assembly on March 4.

One of the big challenges, it turns out, is the government itself. Last week, Shene Catholique-Valpy, an Aboriginal woman born and raised in the Northwest Territories, spoke out publicly about her year-long fight to have the the traditional Chipewyan spelling of her daughter’s name, Sahaiʔa May Talbot, on her birth certificate. Sahaiʔa roughly translates to: “As the sun breaks through the clouds or over the horizon.” And the symbol, which resembles a question mark without the dot, called a glottal stop, indicates the correct pronunciation and meaning; without it, the name is incorrect.

The Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that officially recognizes the Chipewyan language. Yet one month after Catholique-Valpy, whose mother happens to be the territory’s official languages commissioner, gave birth last February and filed the paperwork for Sahaiʔa’s birth certificate, she got a call from the vital statistics department, which said it couldn’t accept the name due to the glottal stop. The department said it has to adhere to the Vital Statistics Act, which recognizes only names that use letters from the Roman alphabet. Having symbols like the glottal stop on birth certificates would also interfere with obtaining passports and other documents issued by the federal government, according to an email from a department spokesperson. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada could not confirm by press time if this indeed the case.)

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Al Jazeera looks at Ello, considers the controversy over language fluency requirements in Navajo elections, looks at Malaysian criticism of a pro-dog event in that Muslim country, wonders what will happen to the Caucasus, looks at the issues of some religious minorities in American schools, examines the geopolitical challenges of falling oil prices, looks at Sioux problems with child custody in the United States, and notes that new British immigrants from the European Union contribute more than they cost.
  • Bloomberg suggests sanctions are starting to cause a Russian brain drain, looks at controversy over reports a Japanese kidnap victim died in North Korea in 1994, and suggests North Africa will become a key natural gas supplier to Europe.
  • Bloomberg view criticizes the patience of Sony shareholders in Japan, notes the Israeli prioritization of settlements over friends, provides recommendations on diminishing separatist movements, and looks at the role of immigration in possibly galvanizing the British desire to leave the European Union.
  • CBC notes that former Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller is suing Kahnawake council for its racial restrictions on residence, and notes Lynn Gehl suing in Ontario to get her status back.
  • The Inter Press Service suggests Israel is set to deport Bedouins from the West Bank, notes the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadis, looks at the resettlement of Iraqi Christians in Jordan, and notes the departure of Kyrgyzstan’s teachers for higher-paying unskilled jobs.
  • MacLean’s notes Vice media’s new television channel, looks at the association of Muslim converts with terrorism, and criticizes an egg-freezing program.
  • Open Democracy looks at media freedom in the former Yugoslavia, and considers separatism generally and in Catalonia particularly.

[LINK] “Slow translation and the revival of the Catalan language”

Open Democracy’s Alessio Colonnelli has a nice article examining the role of trabnslation in ensuring the survival of minority languages, starting from the exceptional case of Catalan.

The oldest profession in the world is….translation. That’s what Catalan-language writer and poet Francesc Parcerisas tells us in a delightful book entitled Sense mans. Metàfores i papers sobre la traducció (No hands! Metaphors and papers on translation).

In the past, state ambassadors used to heavily rely on translation. Today, in a world perpetually connected, everybody uses it; often resorting to quick, error-prone methods. That is, Google Translator’s way: really fast and since translations are truly indispensable, the automatic translator has finally managed to combine necessity and practicality. Hence its success. The traditional version, i.e. the good old editorial one – created almost by hand and with the aid of dictionaries (often still paper ones) – is a rather slow, delicate, painstaking activity that feeds on shades of grey; one that doesn’t allow for syntax errors.

Take for instance a region of Europe which has sparked much debate in recent years, Catalonia, of which Parcerisas is a native. The region is the historic cradle of Catalan, a language spoken by roughly one out of four citizens in the Kingdom of Spain (it is also used in the region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands). A language that has been able to resist intimidation and repression. They say it’s in excellent health, according to the official language academy Institut d’Estudis Catalans: the small publishers popping up everywhere testify to this, along with its widespread use on social media. It’s never been in better shape, really, at least since the fall of the Franco regime.

One could almost argue that instead of losing a language, Europe has celebrated the comeback of Catalan. A grandee of the Continent’s age-old cultural heritage – Catalan was indeed born in the early Middle Ages. Not a dialect of Spanish, as many believe, but one of the evolutions of late-empire Vulgar Latin. An astonishing linguistic recovery. Those who care about diversity in general of any kind can’t fail to be happy about it. Diversity is good. Mankind embodies diversity. Fellini, who knew a thing or two about visions and wide angles, said that each language offered a unique point of view on the world. Surely, the renowned Barcelona-based London journalist and author Matthew Tree would also agree with that. Trilingual, he’s been writing professionally and successfully, mostly in Catalan, for over thirty years now.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares pictures from last weekend’s Ukrainian Festival.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly started a discussion of the merits of small town life or vice versa, coming down decidedly against.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the concept of the Venus zone.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a study suggesting that the Moon’s gravity is not high enough for humans to orient themselves.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the elections in Crimea.
  • Language Hat examines the story of the endangered language Ayapeneco, apparently misrepresented in an ad campaign.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the American left is starting to win on cultural issues.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the collapse of Scotland’s industrial sector has led to a certain deglobalization.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla notes the discovery of a potential landing site for Rosetta.
  • Torontoist looks at a local model airplane club.
  • Towleroad notes the lead writer of Orange is the New Black has left her husband and begun dating one of her actors.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests many Westerners haven’t taken the shift in Russian politics fully into account.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares pictures of Queen Street in the 1980s.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers the idea of a digital detox.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting strange occultations of TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper suggesting plants can grow in simulated (and fertilized) Martian and lunar soil, and speculates Russia will be trying to build a space station of its own or to cooperate with China.
  • Eastern Approaches examines the shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Joan Rivers was an early HIV/AIDS activist of note.
  • Language Hat summarizes a paper suggesting that language death and economic success are correlated.
  • Marginal Revolution considers Scottish separatism, wondering about the sense of either a currency union or a separate currency, and noting the increased possibility of separatism according to betters.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog critiques Mark Adomanis’ critique of Masha Gessen’s article on Russian demographics.
  • Savage Minds notes that, alas, Joan Rivers never majored in anthropology.
  • Torontoist notes that NDP Joe Cressy, defeated in his run for the Canadian parliament, is now running for city council.
  • Towleroad notes the firing of a pregnant lesbian teacher by a Catholic school, and observes the hatred felt by some anti-gay people who would like books celebrating children pleased when their same-sex parents die (among other things).
  • Understanding Society examines the sociology of influence.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy disagrees with Henry Farrell that laissez-faire ideology contributed to the Irish Famine.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian hostility towards the Crimean Tatar Meijis, reports on things Ukrainians think Ukraine should do doing the ceasefire and things Russians think Ukrainians should do (federalize and accept the loss of the east), notes high rates of childlessness in Moscow, and suggests that the Russian victory in eastern Ukraine is exceptionally pyrrhic.
  • At the Financial Times‘s The World blog, the point is made that a Scottish vote for independence would have profound implications worldwide.

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