The Coming Together of Speakers of Minoritised Languages and the Association of Celtic Students

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When it came to writing this blog post and thinking about possible topics, I was on a flight from València to Dublin after the 1st International Conference on the Right to Languages. This three-day event, which took place at the University of València, saw scholars working in law, translation and interpreting, social sciences, social work and linguistics come together to discuss language rights and linguistic justice, especially in relation to language policies and translation and interpreting. People joined from around the world, coming to València from Latin America, Oceania, North America and other parts of Europe, as well as those who presented online. On the flight after the conference, I was thinking about what a wonderful opportunity it had been for meeting people from other minoritised language contexts and hearing about their experiences. In this blog post, then, I will reflect on the coming together of speakers from different minoritised language communities and what that can bring us. As this is the Association  of Celtic Students’ blog, I will also discuss the role that the Association plays in bringing the Celtic language communities together.

The Conference wasn’t the first time that I had been to an event that brought many minoritised language speakers together. Another one that comes to mind is the Endangered Languages Project’s Festival of Indigenous Languages that took place in January this year. This online event included talks from revitalisation experts around the world, along with coffee chat sessions. These sessions were a chance to meet speakers and learners of minoritised languages and share our thoughts and experiences. The benefits to such a session were clear to me. It offered a chance to learn more about different minoritised language communities so that we can better support speakers and advocate for them, to show an interest and solidarity with other minoritised language groups, spread awareness of our own minoritised languages and ensure that they are taken into account in discussions, get inspiration from speakers of other communities on language promotion initiatives and language-learning recommendations and see how much we all have in common, while appreciating the diversity of our stories. When I attend events like the Conference and the coffee chat sessions at the Festival, I always come away feeling enthusiastic, empowered and supported. The work people are doing for different languages is inspiring and I feel privileged to form part of this global community.

The Association of Celtic Students is another organisation that brings together speakers from different minoritised language communities, specifically speakers of Irish, Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Before joining the Association in 2020, my exposure to the Celtic languages other than Irish was quite limited. Although I had some knowledge of their contexts, the Association allowed me to hear the other five languages being spoken, to read texts written in them, to hear music produced in them and to learn more about what is happening in the communities of speakers, the excellent initiatives going on to promote the languages and the difficulties that speakers face on a daily basis. From the Celtic Students Conference, where speakers have presented their research on and in the Celtic languages, to the Celtic Students Podcast, where speakers have shared their projects and personal stories, the Association has allowed speakers to come together and share their experiences. Being on the committee has also put me in more contact with speakers and I find that our committee meetings can also be places of sharing and learning. There is a certain base of knowledge and experience that we share from which discussions of not only our research and general studies can grow, but also our lives as speakers of a Celtic language.

Although the Association is limited to the promotion of six minoritised languages out of the thousands of endangered languages listed on the Endangered Languages Project’s Language Map, the focus on various languages still offers an escape from viewing the situations in an insular way. The processes of language conflict affecting each of the Celtic languages are not isolated phenomena and linguistic discrimination is not unique to any of the places that the Celtic languages are spoken, although specific contexts have their own particularities within that. This can be brought out by bringing together speakers of the six languages in discussions. It may be clear that the Association of Celtic Students recognises the history that is shared by the six languages, but it should also be highlighted that it builds on that history by focusing on the shared present of the speakers of the languages too. While there is still room to improve, by gaining new members that speak a Celtic language and by enabling more multilingual discussions, the Association of Celtic Students is already playing an important role in bringing minoritised language speakers together, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Alexandra Philbin
PhD Student in Social Sciences, University of València


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