Language diversity for beginners


Wednesday 6 November, 15.00-15.30, E0103

The purpose of my paper is to report on the creating and testing of teaching materials on language endangerment and language diversity developed for secondary school use in Europe. 

Crystal (2011) mentions school curricula as one of four ways of interacting with the general public to raise awareness about language endangerment. A set of lesson outlines that aims at engaging in interaction with school communities has been developed within the scope of Innovative Networking in Infrastructure for Endangered Languages Project (INNET). I will concentrate on the material created for English as a Foreign Language, with its theme ‘The Heritage Languages of the Channel Islands’. The lesson is designed to focus students’ attention on the fact that it is not only English used in the English-speaking world. 

The testing of the outline has brought to surface issues connected with school environment that need to be considered before any attempts to effectively raise students’ awareness of language endangerment are made. If the teacher herself is absolutely convinced there is a fundamental difference between language and dialect, it becomes obvious that rather than on eg. the advantages and disadvantages of multilingualism, attention should be focused on the fact that the number of languages in the world is 7 000 and not 700. Interviews conducted with students after the lesson reveal it was the most surprising thing they had learned and it is quite probable they will keep this single fact in mind rather than think what is lost when a language dies. 

References:  Crystal, David (2011): Language diversity, endangerment, and public awareness. British Academy Review 18, 12-20.