My a’th kar! Unless you speak Cornish, these words are unlikely to make your heart skip a beat. There is no shortage of minority languages in the UK. In addition to Cornish, you can hear Welsh, Scots, Manx, Alderney French, Guernsey French, Jersey French as well as Scottish Gaelic.
However, their future is far from certain. Throughout Europe dozens of languages are on life support, with some 120 believed to be dying out. Worldwide every few weeks a language dies. So what can be done?
The European Parliament believes that the last word on these languages has yet to be said. On 12 September they will vote on a report by French MEP François Alfonsi with suggestions on how to support endangered languages.
“Linguistic diversity is the soul of the European construction,” he explained. “There are hundreds of languages in the European Union and each is a part of the European identity.”
The report calls on member states to produce action plans to promote endangered languages based on shared good practices and urges countries that have not yet ratified and implemented the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages to do so. The European Commission should help by coming up with concrete policy measures, while the EU should provide funding for programmes to document these languages, education and training, research and development, culture and media programmes as well as other tools.
Cultivating endangered languages is a long-term commitment, but many believe it is worth the effort. As Mr Alfonsi notes: “Without concrete support at European, national and local level, we will see a further decline in linguistic diversity over the next decades. This will leave all of us culturally, socially and economically impoverished.”