INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF LANGUAGES (2008)
July 19, 2008
As per Resolution No. 52/23 (November 27, 1997) of the United Nations General Assembly, there is a prevailing policy on Multilingualism recalling the earlier Resolution No. 50/11 (November 2, 1995). It requests the Secretary General to submit during the 54th session a comprehensive report on the implementation of Resolution No 50/11. And likewise, it also includes Multilingualism as part of the General Assembly’s agenda for the session.
The implementation of UN’s Multilingualism policy is still binding up to now. This can be observed during its Plenary Sessions and General Assemblies wherein delegates are encouraged to express themselves using their native tongue. Clearly, this policy shows that the UN sees cultural and linguistic diversity not as a threat to diplomacy and understanding, but rather as human rights that must be respected in order for nations to bridge themselves towards spiritual unity as members of the human race. This also avoids the prevalence of a dominant language or culture base which more often than not, leads to hegemony and cultural oppression which in turn leads to misunderstanding. Besides, a good number of languages die everyday in the name of linguistic uniformity. There is then a need to reverse this phenomenon.
Even if language is said to be arbitrary, the legislature is still a powerful state apparatus that could greatly influence and spell either the death or survival of the various languages. The UN seems to be on the right track in this regard just by crafting Multilingualism as a policy. In fact, UNESCO declared this year to be the International Year of Languages with the slogan: “Languages Matter!”
Although UNESCO cannot fund all of the pro-linguistic diversity projects being implemented around the globe, it encourages local initiatives. It also has a listing of some of the most important cultural and linguistic enterprises. The list includes Dalityapi Unpoemed’s Makata, a multilingual poetry site; and this blogger’s ‘Pagsasatubuanan Modernistang Poetikang Bikolnon’, a work on Bikolnon poetics written in the Bikol-Naga language.
It is a ray of hope to see Philippine based projects making it in UNESCO’s IYL list. It is a known fact that the country’s Constitution deems the other Philippine languages as mere auxiliaries to English and Tagalog/Filipino. And the prevailing policy on language in the academe is that of “Bilingualism” and not “Multilingualism”. Even with the CHED Memorandum Order No. 44 there is yet a dearth of regional literature in classroom and campus discourses. The way to go it seems is by local and individual/group initiatives from the private sector.
The Dalityapi Unpoemed has sponsored poetry readings in Manila campuses and continues to accept poetry contributions written in the various Philippine languages. While this blogger’s work on Bikolnon poetics, as it is written in a regional language, hopes to fill the scarcity of materials written in the Bikol-Naga language. Not to mention the need for more works under the genre of literary criticism to provide critical perspectives with regard Bikolnon literary aesthetics.