Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Greenlandic - Stronger After Independence?

I welcome Greenland's move towards independence. As a Welsh nationalist I'm also a Kurdish nationalist, a Tibetan nationalist as well as Breton, Basque ... and Greenlandic.

We're very different of course, but also there are many similarities. Whilst I hope for Greenland's independence and a thriving Greenlandic language I have once concern.

My concern is that having Danish as an official language has in many respects in recent years, strengthened Greenlandic. That is, once the tipping point was passed in the 1970s, Danish was never strong enough to kill off Greenlandic. The fact that native Inuit became bilingual with Danish strengthened their language rather than weaken it. Danish became just another language, another asset among many possible languages and language skills, the prime one being of course, English.

My fear is this; come independence Greenland will only have English as the second language as Danish will be discarded (as it was in Iceland following their independence in 1944). That could undermine Greenlandic in a way Danish never did as English becomes the only 'other' language. An all-powerful 'other' reality.

The danger for small languages like Welsh (and possibly Greenlandic) isn't that Welsh was conquered by another language (English) but it was conquered by only one language. It would have been a strength for the Welsh language if our people also spoke another language on top of English and Welsh - Spanish, French etc. The ability to communicate in more than two languages makes the weaker indigenous language stronger not weaker. Their language is evidently just one among many linguistic possibilities. When a weaker linguistic community becomes bilingual in just one other (stronger) language, then the indigenous language is always in the orbit of the stronger, always in its shade always as a comparison to it.

So, independence to Greenland. But for tactical as well as cultural plurality and diversity, don't give up on Danish!


Brian Barker said...

As far as learning a second language is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto?

Although it is a living language, it helps language learning as well. Four schools in Britain have introduced this neutral international language, in order to test its propaedeutic values.

The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester, and the initial results are very encouraging. These can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf

An interesting video can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU. Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations. A glimpse of Esperanto at http://www.lernu.net

Robert said...

What about Urdu my grandson school has been teaching this for the last term, perhaps they know something we do not.