Committee: 7th UNESCO
Topic Area: Safeguarding endangered languages and dialects
Delegate Name: Anastasios Doulgeridis
Language has proved to be the best advancement humans ever achieved, as it opens a window on the world and once you look through it, you become more open minded. Languages are not only considered as a means of communication but also as a whole body with a wide range of culture and history elements, beliefs and values inherited from one generation to the next. It is, therefore, clear that when a language vanishes all the aforementioned elements are lost. There are many reasons why languages die. The reasons are often political, economic or cultural in nature. A major reason for this is that most speakers of minority languages find themselves in a disadvantaged position believing that their language reveals low economic or social status. They, therefore, decide that it is better for their children’s future to teach them a language that is tied to economic success. This is clearly proved of the vast majority of second-generation immigrants who do not speak their parents’ languages fluently. In this sense, migration plays an important role in language change or language death. Natural catastrophes, famine or disease put at high risk dialects spoken by a handful of people in various places around the world. War and genocide is another very serious reason why languages and dialects disappear.
Linguists are becoming increasingly alarmed at the rate at which languages are going out of use. UNESCO, in an effort to preserve languages, released ATLAS of the World’s Languages in Danger, highlighting areas around the world where linguistic diversity was being seriously depleted. The project was born out of a concern for the loss of diversity in the most basic human resource. Moreover, the EU Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the EU convention on the protection and promotion of endangered languages, contributes an enormous number of actions to safeguard them.
Hungary is a country where except for the official language there are at least 6 dialects spoken by 13 minorities. Thanks to our consequent and continuous minority policy, we possess the institutional background necessary for the protection of minority languages. The written press and the publications of minorities are almost exclusively financed from central state resources. As regards language use, the Hungarian State seeks to promote the use of minority languages by developing cultural and educational autonomy and favorable legal conditions as well as by actively supporting minority activities. For instance, the so-called Sunday schools, where the minority language is spoken, can contribute to improve the language knowledge acquired in the family.
Given the above, the delegation of Hungary strongly believes that preventing a language from extinction is of great importance, since we do not only lose a way to communicate, but also history and traditions of our countries. Specific funding for endangered languages should be given to ensure their survival. All nations should be encouraged to produce national strategic plans for the promotion of the dialects spoken in their regions and language revitalization should be the main focus within the educational system. Robust educational policies are required, therefore, to promote the learning of endangered languages beyond the strict boundaries of the family.
Finally, we wholeheartedly support that the right to use one’s own language, in public or even in private is a fundamental linguistic human right and that linguistic intolerance can mask other discrimination, especially racism. So we call for concerted effort to safeguard minority languages in order to sustain all cultures and learn from them.