On Friday, October 28, Professor Zsuzsanna Fagyal presented preliminary findings from an ongoing research project in her EUC Lecture, "Language Attitudes, Regional Loyalty, and the Implications of Regional Language Maintenance for the EU's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism.” In her presentation, Fagyal argued that the successful development and support of multilingualism should not overlook micro-level social factors and matters of local identity that are often missing in official governmental data.
Though EU states have adopted the Barcelona objective and Communication 566 on Multilingualism, and though the European Commission works with entities to protect Europe’s linguistic diversity and promote language learning, Fagyal pointed out that, “The EU does not have a multilingualism policy; it has multilingualism goals.” Fagyal went on to emphasize that these EU-level goals are currently more tied to market value than to culture, which is exemplified by Europol data on language use and proficiency. In these polls, regional and minority languages, such as Frisian and Catalan, “disappear” or are minimized in the rankings of language use.
This disappearance is surprising given regional and minority language speakers’ self-professed active (reading and writing) and passive (understanding and speaking) proficiency in their mother tongue. Yet Fagyal found that cultural and social factors such as age, gender, personal relationships, and regional loyalty play a role in regional and minority language use. Furthermore, “Regional loyalty corresponds to European identity,” said Faygal. “The greater the level of regional loyalty, the greater the sense of European identity.” To this listener, it would seem that, despite the dominance of state languages, regionalism could be a key to European cohesion.
For more reflections and conversations on policy and the state of European languages, please visit the EUC's blog, Linguis Europae.
The author, Barbara Myers, is a MAEUS student and FLAS Fellow (Advanced Swedish) at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois.