Safeguarding and Regenerating European Indigenous Minority Languages

On Tuesday 28 November 2023, the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive Brussels (ONIEB), Channel Islands Brussels Office, Scottish Government Brussels, Welsh Government Brussels Office and Isle of Man Government hosted an evening panel discussion on safeguarding and regenerating European indigenous minority languages.

Speakers from across the regions formed two panels, moderated by Davyth Hicks, Secretary-General of the European Language Equality Network (ELEN), and drew from their wide range of experiences to discuss the benefits indigenous minority languages can bring to communities and the role that government policy can play in supporting effective language recovery.

ONIEB was delighted to be joined by Dr Frank Ferguson and Dr Niall Comer from Ulster University who participated in the first panel discussing ‘Why is regeneration of minority languages important/what benefits can this bring?’. The audience also heard from Professor Mererid Hopwood from Aberystwyth University; Ealasaid MacDonald, CEO of Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Professor Julia Sallabank from SOAS University of London. They each discussed how we can best support the regeneration of minority languages and their development and the benefits minority languages can bring whether it be economic, identity, community cohesion, pride, health, social or educational.

The second panel focused on ‘how can government policy and initiatives support language regeneration’. The moderator was joined by Professor Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Director of the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies; Ben Spink the Head of Office du Jèrriais; Rob Teare, Manx Language officer, Isle of Man Government and Sir Richard Collas, Chair of the Guernsey Language Commission. They discussed how government policies can assist the regeneration of minority languages, including funding for language programmes both through direct funding for new, specific language projects and also by incorporating language education and usage in mainstream government activity.

The discussion was followed by a reception featuring food and drink from the different regions represented, including Scotch whiskey, Jersey fudge and Poitín from Northern Ireland. Guests were welcomed to the event with music from Channel Islands band, Lihou, who performed an array of music both in Jèrriais and Guernésiais. Lihou also accompanied the reception and were warmly received by guests.