The European Parliament has called on governments to do more to preserve ‘regional’ languages, including Kernewek (Cornish). It also called on the European Commission to propose concrete policy measures for the protection of endangered languages.Language campaigner Sir Graham Watson MEP, who represents Cornwall in the European Parliament supported the report and commented:
“Protecting our regional culture and diversity is vital. And protecting ancient languages like Kernewek is just as important as protecting our regional food, drink and geography. For many years I have campaigned to encourage more people to take up another language. That is why I was very happy to support these proposals in Parliament today”.
“As a linguist by training, I understand the importance of languages. Language shapes thought, and linguistic diversity provides diverse forms of intelligence. Artefacts such as sculpture or scripture can be saved when a culture becomes extinct. A language cannot. It lives and dies with the people who speak it. We must therefore do all we can to preserve our languages.”
LibDem MP for North Cornwall and campaigner for the Cornish language Dan Rogerson added:
“I am pleased that the European Parliament has voted to recognise the importance of protecting cultural heritage such as the Cornish language. It is my belief that the Cornish language is intrinsically worth supporting and encouraging – but it also brings benefits to the region in terms of cultural tourism and raising the status of Cornwall.”
Armed with the result of the European Parliament vote, language campaigners now plan to lobby MPs for greater financial backing to fund initiatives aimed at promoting Kernewek in schools.
Cornish and Breton language supporters were generally pleased with the overwhelming vote but noted that among the few opponents were mainly MEPs from both England and France, and this did not augur well for their respective states to carry on this progress.
Ray Chubb, chairman of Agan Tavas (Our Language), which works to encourage the growth of Cornish as a spoken language, said: “It is clear that a large number of people in Cornwall think Cornish should be taught in Cornwall’s schools.”
Mr Chubb said he would like Cornwall Council to follow the example of the Scottish Parliament in actively supporting the teaching of its ancient tongue.
“The devolved Scottish Parliament appears to have grasped the nettle as far as Gaelic is concerned,” he said. “The Standards in Scotland’s Schools Act contains a clause which requires education authorities to report annually on the ways in which Gaelic education will be provided.
“This seems to point the way forward for us in Cornwall. It would not be unreasonable for the Government to require every primary and secondary school in Cornwall to state in their prospectus what their policy is towards the Cornish language.”
The European Parliament report will now be passed to the Council of Ministers and the European Commission for their approval and could form part of future legislation.
The report that MEPs voted on can be found online at:
11 September, 2013
Maga Kernow for more on the Cornish language, Kernewek