European Day of Languages - 2021

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This Sunday, September 26 2021, is the European Day of Languages, and this year represents 20 years since the initiative began as part of the European Year of Languages in 2001. The European Year of Languages was an initiative by the Council of Europe and the European Union, with the stated aim of promoting linguistic diversity and language learning in Europe. That year, it was decided within the Council of Europe to continue celebrating a European Day of Languages every year on the 26th of September, and it has done so together with the European Commission since. The website dedicated to the day, available in English here, informs us that three of the general objectives of the day are: 1) raising awareness about the importance of language learning to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding, 2) promoting European linguistic and cultural diversity, and 3) encouraging lifelong language learning, be that for the sake of studies, work, mobility or exchange.

It is clear that these objectives match the aims of the Celtic Students Association, as the Association promotes the study and use of six European languages in particular: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Another page on the website dedicated to the day, available here, notes that the need to promote linguistic diversity in Europe includes what is termed “less widely used languages”, and some resources available on the website mention the Celtic languages. I would prefer to see more on the website that references the processes of minoritisation in a European context that have made these languages “less widely used”, rather than using a term that merely suggests happenstance. However, the European Day of Languages does at least make some attempt to include minoritised languages, like those we aim to support in this Association. 
With that in mind, I have thought of five ways to celebrate the European Day of Languages 2021, particularly for those of us who want to support the Celtic languages.

1) Organise or attend an event through a Celtic Language as part of the European Day of Languages. You can find advice on setting up an event here and find the list of events registered already here. Although the day takes places at the end of this week, and time for organisation is limited, you could always set up a Zoom call and invite speakers of a Celtic language to join you. What you do there is up to you - have a chat, tell stories or share your favourite poetry in the language. Whatever you do, you are giving people an opportunity to celebrate their connection to the language. 

2) Use the publicity of the day to raise awareness of and promote a Celtic language/the Celtic languages on social media. Use the hashtag #EuropeanDayOfLanguages on Twitter and tell people about your relationship to a Celtic language. What does the language mean to you? What has it brought to your life? What are some of your favourite words and phrases from the language? What pieces of trivia can you share with people about the language that might interest them? What is your favourite piece of literature or film in that language? Who knows who you might inspire by being open about your positive experiences.

3) Use the day as an opportunity to think about your own language learning. Have you been thinking about learning a Celtic language? This Sunday, set yourself some language-learning goals. Why not start by reading the blog posts from the Celtic Students Association dedicated to learning Manx, learning Irish, learning Scottish Gaelic, learning Welsh and learning Cornish? Check out our podcast episodes on learning Welsh and learning Breton in Skol an Emsav for more inspiration too. 

4) Think about language promotion initiatives that you can get behind. As I mentioned earlier, there are processes of minoritisation that the Celtic languages have faced and continue to face. In order to work against them, the Celtic languages need to be actively protected and promoted. How can you help with the efforts to do this? Can you ask your local politicians for their support? Can you offer your skills to others and promote the language through teaching? Can you conduct research that will help the language? Can you write stories and poetry through the language for people to enjoy? Consider how you can best support a Celtic language and research how to go about it this Sunday.  

5) Engage in some positive self-reflection. If you are still reading this blog post, I can only assume that you are interested in promoting the Celtic languages. For that, you can congratulate yourself, knowing that you are committed to standing against the inequalities that work against them. Promoting linguistic diversity in today’s world is a great thing. This Sunday, on the Day of European Languages, sit back and appreciate you for playing your part in that. 
 
Alexandra Philbin
BA World Languages, University College Cork (2019)
MA Linguistic Anthropology, Maynooth University (2020)
Certificate in Teaching Irish to Adult Learners, Maynooth University (2021)



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