As we draw to the end of 2008 – which is designated as, among other things, International Year of Languages (IYL) – I wanted to ask what’s next? And to propose the possibility of an International Decade of Languages to follow up on issues that the IYL dealt with as well as some others.
A year is a short time to do much more than raise awareness, achieve some limited project results, and begin to link and expand networks interested in such a vast topic as languages. Is it time to prepare the rationale and plans for a longer term campaign?
Issues that could be addressed by an International Decade of Languages might include:
- What more can be done for endangered languages and their speakers, from documentation and preservation, to development and education
- Highlight the situation of languages that are not on lists of endangered languages like the Red Book, but are contracting or not being developed for education and advancement of their first language speakers.
- Explore how the languages of the least powerful regularly get less attention in education and development, than those of the more powerful, even when significant numbers of speakers are involved.
- Related to the above, consider the importance of languages in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the objectives of the UN Literacy Decade, etc.
- Discuss how to develop language policy and planning worldwide, on country, regional and global levels.
- Consider the importance of language education for individuals and in regard to other goals of education and language development.
- Develop an official International Declaration of Linguistic Rights for ratification by the UN and the world’s countries.
- Explore how localization of ICT and application of human language technologies can impact language preservation, development, arts, and learning.
- Consider whether, how and when to adopt an official international auxiliary language (or to just let English continue to evolve into this role de facto).
- And others.
There is a little bit of time yet to consider such a concept before the end of the IYL – which was officially launched on the last International Mother Language Day (21 Feb. 2008) and will officially close on the next (21 Feb. 2009). Should proclamation of an International Decade of Languages be a recommendation to come out of the IYL experience?