Hanoi, Vietnam. The Universal Esperanto Association’s 97th World Congress of Esperanto in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 28 – August 4, 2012, was the setting for a seminar (conducted in Esperanto) on the work of the United Nations and UNESCO. The seminar, conducted by Humphrey Tonkin and Neil Blonstein, representatives of UEA at UN-New York, and Renée Triolle, representative of UEA at UNESCO, provided an overview of the structure of the two organizations and particularly their humanitarian and human rights activities. The seminar’s purpose was to promote the UN in the Esperanto-speaking community. Some forty people participated in the seminar from a wide range of countries and representing a wide range of professions, including teachers. Materials from the seminar are available on the website of Esperanto por UN, at www.esperanto-un.org, where Esperanto translations of important UN documents are available, along with a glossary of UN terms in Esperanto and a description of the structure of the UN.
On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at The Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, the Universal Esperanto Association, in cooperation with the Center for Research and Documentation on the World Language Problems, and the scholarly journal Language Problems and Language Planning, organized a symposium on “Language and the United Nations.” The symposium was announced as “a review and exploration of how languages affect the work of the United Nations family” and it brought together contributions by a wide range of professionals and academics.
Work on the symposium had begun a year earlier, in 2011. On December 15, the Association organized a preliminary consultation on the same topic, which was attended by some forty people, among them representatives of NGOs, people associated with the UN, and academics. At the December 15 event, Professor Humphrey Tonkin, of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, presented a paper entitled “Language and the United Nations,” which provided an overview of language policy at the United Nations and in the various organizations in the United Nations family. The paper was then discussed by a panel consisting of Françoise Cestac, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, Roberto Borrera, of the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Paolo Valore, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Milan, Italy, and visiting professor at New York University. After further revision, this paper was circulated among people interested in the topic, many of whom them attended the May 1 symposium.
The May 1 event was attended by close to 100 people, among them ambassadors, United Nations officials, academics, and NGO representatives. The symposium was a full-day event beginning at 10:00 a.m. and ending with a reception at 5:00 p.m.
The first session featured opening remarks by Ambassador Filippe Savadogo, Permanent Representative of La Francophonie to the United Nations, and by Alassane Diatta, Chief of the French Translation Service, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, United Nations, representing his department. Speaking in French, Ambassador Savadogo stressed the importance of maintaining a policy of multilingualism at the UN. Dr. Diatta offered an overview of the work of his department, stressing the importance of effective interpretation and translation to the sound operation of the entire organisation.
The opening session was followed at 10:30 by a session on language policy at the United Nations, chaired by Françoise Cestac, former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Conference Services. It featured two papers, the first by Marie-Josée de Saint Robert, Chief of the Languages Service, Division of Conference Management, UN Geneva. Her paper, “Policy Regarding Language Use at the United Nations” was read in her absence by Professor Bonnibeth Fonseca-Greber, of the University of Louisville. This presentation was followed by a paper by André Corrêa d’Almeida and G. Bahar Otcu (Columbia University) on “The Portuguese Language in the United Nations,” a review of the status of Portuguese at the UN and of arguments for its official status.
The following session, at 11:30, looked beyond the United Nations to the larger language policy picture across the world, under the title “The Language Policy Background and Its Implications.” Three papers explored the role of former colonial languages in the processes of development, language death in the face of modernisation and globalisation, and languages of government in multilingual settings. Each chose a separate continent: Africa, South America, and Asia. Clément Mbom, of the City University of New York, looked at the global reach of the French language in his paper “Langues et développement humain: Le français, acteur du développement dans les pays où il n’est pas la langue maternelle.” Professor Mbom was followed by Anna Luisa Daigneault, of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, who examined “The Endangered Languages of South America: Grassroots Language Activism and New Media for the 21st Century,” and by Lauren Zentz, of the University of Arizona, who discussed diglossia in the Indonesian context in her paper “Legacies of Modernity, Postcoloniality, and Globalization: Language Policy in Indonesia.”
These papers led logically to the lunchtime film screening, in which symposium participants watched the documentary film Languages Lost and Found: Speaking and Whistling the Mamma Tongue, created by Iris Brooks and Jon H. Davis, of the Northern Lights Studio, who presented the film and discussed its contents.
After lunch, the topic “The Language Policy Background and Its Implications” was resumed by educational policy expert and education professor Timothy Reagan, of Central Connecticut State University, who took a somewhat novel approach to the question of mother-tongue education, an edutational ideal promoted by UNESCO, by questioning such concepts as mother tongue and native language in the fluid context of the developing world. He discussed the difficulty of defining and delivering mother-tongue education in “But What Is My Mother Tongue? Rethinking the Challenges of Mother Tongue Education.” Following his presentation, Myriam de Beaulieu, translator at the United Nations, in “Loss of lexical and cultural diversity with global communication,” looked at the accelerating pace of linguistic borrowings from English to French.
There then followed a broad discussion among the presenters in both of the previous two sessions and with the audience.
The 3:00 p.m. session, on “Language Teaching and Learning,” featured three papers. The first, by Bonnibeth Fonseca-Greber, of the University of Louisville, “Preparing the UN’s Next Generation: A Professional Development Plan for Translator Candidates,” described a university translation program aimed at the UN’s needs. Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth and Brianna Avenia-Tapper, of New York University, Patricia Duffy, of the UN Language and Communications Programme, and Jill Kalotay, webmaster and consultant, presented a joint paper on “Learning English for Peace: An Online English Course about the UN,” and Sohair Soukkary, Baruch College, CUNY, in “Language Teaching: Tapping the Right Side of the Brain,” described her experience in teaching Arabic.
The final session, on “The NGO Experience,” featured presentations by the Legion of Goodwill (Danilo Parmegiani) and the Universal Esperanto Association (Dr. Steven Brewer), describing their work in a multilingual context and their approaches to promoting understanding across languages.
Closing remarks were provided by Professor Humphrey Tonkin, of the University of Hartford, who noted the rising degree of interest in the ramifications of the language situation at the United Nations and urged on participants the importance of serious scholarly study of the UN’s linguistic practices, and Françoise Cestac, who reminded those in attendance of the role that the convenors of the present symposium had played over the years in promoting such study. Professor Tonkin also proposed that an ongoing working group of people interested in the topic be established.
The symposium’s rich and abundant programme made for some stimulating discussions among presenters of papers and the other participants, but there was a general feeling that time was insufficient to do full justice to the topic and that it was imperative to continue discussion, particularly on the UN-specific parts of the programme. It was agreed that mechanisms should be found to allow the discussion to continue, particularly to examine certain major issues, for example the maintenance of multilingualism at the United Nations, the relationship among the Organisation’s working languages, and the ad hoc arrangements arrived at in the face of necessity, particularly in areas and situations away from the UN headquarters and the operation of formal language policy.
When and where: Wednesday, December 15, 2010, 2:30-5:00 p.m.; the Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. In the program: a celebration of a new biography of L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, and the launch of a memoir by Tivadar Soros, translated from Esperanto. Humphrey Tonkin, professor and president emeritus of the University of Hartford, former president of the Universal Esperanto Association and the president of the Esperantic Studies Foundation, will deliver the presentation Soros in Siberia. For more info, click here.
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. Saturday-Sunday, 26-27 February 2011. Under the leadership of Ulrich Becker (poet and publisher), Duncan Charters (linguist), Humphrey Tonkin (critic), Tim Westover (author). Click here for more information and application process.
July 11, 2009, University of California, San Diego
ESF directors and advisory board members recently participated in a symposium marking the 40th anniversary of the NASK program held at the University of California, San Diego. NASK is an intensive three-week, university-credit immersion program in the international language. ESF directors included Dr. Humphrey Tonkin (President) and Dr. Mark Fettes (Vice-President). Presenations were also made by ESF advisory board member, Dr. David Jordan (UCSD) and Ms. Spomenka Štimec, a leading Esperanto author, teacher, and cultural activist from Croatia.
Click here to view the symposium presentations.
June 11 - 13, 2009, Orlando, Florida
ESF directors recently participated in two panel discussions at the International Society for Language Studies (ISLS) Conference in Orlando, Florida on June 11 – 13, 2009. Session I focused on interlinguistics and critical linguistics, and included not only an overview of interlinguistics as a field of study, but also an examination of why the planned language Esperanto merits the serious attention of language scholars. Session II focused on contemporary issues of Esperanto and education, and included presentations about Esperanto and foreign language education in the U.S. and consideration of the empirically demonstrated propaedeutic value of Esperanto in promoting further and additional language learning by students. The session abstracts can be accessed here.
July 17 – 18, 2008, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
ESF underwrote the costs associated with a conference on this subject held in July 2008, hosted by the University of Amsterdam and organized by CED (The Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems). Objectives of the conference included the exchange of information and ideas, planning for the exchange of personnel, and cooperation in curriculum, libraries, etc. The conference, chaired by Prof. Wim Jansen of the University of Amsterdam and Dr. Humphrey Tonkin of ESF, brought together some 50 academics from 30 universities in 23 countries: Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK, USA, and Venezuela. Its concluding document contained 24 recommendations grouped under the above three headings: programs of study, exchanges, and administration. Many of these recommendations are now being pursued, in part by ESF, in part by CED (which is affiliated with the Universal Esperanto Association), and in part by other individuals. The website Edukado.net has established web pages for the exchange of information and the initiation of activities. This is the first time such an effort of this kind has ever been attempted, and it bodes well for what has hitherto been a fragmented field largely lacking in coordination. Follow-up events were held in 2009 in Krakow and Bialystok, Poland.
April 11 – 13, 2008, SUNY College at Old Westbury, NY
ESF Board and Advisory Board members presented several papers at this conference.
Language policy at the international level: Toward a research agenda.
Language policy and social imaginaries in a globalizing age.
Nancy Schweda Nicholson (Advisory Board member):
Language planning and policy development for European Union (EU) law: Efforts to establish uniform standards for interpreter services in criminal matters.
February 15 - 18, 2008, Boston, MA
ESF provided funding to support a symposium organized by former board member and ESF co-founder Dr. E. James Lieberman at the 2008 conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 2008 in Boston. The symposium addressed linguistic inequality in the scientific community and featured three speakers: Dr. Jose Antonio Vergara (Chile), Dr. Ulrich Ammon (Germany) and Dr. Humphrey Tonkin (USA). The symposium caused a considerable stir among scientists who had hitherto failed to recognize such language discrimination in their ranks, and reports appeared in newspapers across the world, including Die Welt in Germany and newspapers in Belgium and Pakistan. The US periodical The Scientist ran an editorial on the subject stimulated by the symposium.
Oct. 18 – 20, 2007, Vancouver, B.C.
ESF Board members presented at PDK’s 2007 Conference in Vancouver, B.C. The presentation abstract is provided below.
Getting Hooked on Language: Beginning the Process of Language Learning
Humphrey Tonkin, Mark Fettes, Ian Richmond, Grant Goodall, Bonnie Fonseca-Greber
We are inclined to put language learning in a separate category from global studies, but the reality is that learning another language is the quickest way to an understanding of human difference, and the best way to understand cultural diversity – both fundamental elements in global studies. But many students stumble as they tackle a second language, and many educators tend to downplay the importance of language as a factor in international education. While it is true that English is growing in popularity around the world, most people do not speak it, and many of those who do are at a disadvantage when dealing with native speakers. One goal of international education is the pursuit of equality of communication, leading to awareness that speaking more than one language is not just a good thing, but a necessity for a truly globalized world. Two of our panelists are from the US and two are from Canada. Two are language teachers and two are specialists in international studies. All have a history of thinking out of the box when it comes to language in an international setting.
European Languages and Asian Nations: History, Politics, Possibilities
ESF was the official sponsor of the 5th Nitobe Symposium which was held in Japan in August, 2007. This symposium explored the linguistic dimensions of Asian integration and globalization, and also provided a further step in the on-going Nitobe process. The ESF has been a supporter of the Nitobe process from its inception, and it has become an integral part of our overall mission.
Dates: 2a - 3a de aŭgusto 2007
Theme: Europaj lingvoj kaj aziaj nacioj: pasinteco, politiko, potencialo
Concluding document: Nitobe5
Lecturers: E.Annamalai (IN), Richard B. Baldauf Jr.(AU), Probal Dasgupta (IN), Feng Zhiwei (CN), Mark Fettes (CA), Kimura Goro Christoph (JP), Robert Phillipson (DK), Timothy Reagan (US), Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (DK), Humphrey Tonkin (US), Usui Hiroyuki (JP) k.a.
More information: http://www.info.sophia.ac.jp/ei/nitobe2007.htm
More information on Nitobe Symposiums in general: http://esperantic.org/en/research/nitobe
University of Hartford Translation Conference
October 20 - 21, 2006, Hartford, CT
ESF co-sponsored a conference on “The Translator as Mediator of Culture” at the University of Hartford in October 2006. Several members of the ESF board and advisory board participated, and a planning meeting of the advisory board was held following the conference.
Additional information from the conference program can be found here.
Dates: July 30th -
Theme: Aspects of the language politics of expansion of the European Union
Concluding document: Nitobe4
Lecturers: Humphrey Tonkin (US), Mark Fettes (CA), Robert Phillipson (DK), Francois Grin (CH), Philippe van Parijs (BE)
Theme: To a new international language order
Concluding document: Nitobe3
Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Humphrey TONKIN (US), Dr. KOBAYASHI Tukasa (JP), YANG Guang (CN), Michael CWIK (EU), Prof. SU Jinzhi (CN), Noel MUYLLE (EU), Prof. LIU Haitao (CN), MIYOSHI Etsuo (JP), Kimiko SCHWERIN (EU), Prof. Dr. LEE Chong-Yeong (KR)
Theme: Globalisation and language diversity
Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ammon, Dr. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Prof. Claude Piron, Prof. Dr. Florian Coulmas, Mrs. Emma Bonino
Theme: Towards linguistic democracy
Concluding document: Nitobe1
Representatives: UN, UNESCO, EU, NGO:s