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The Case for Language Diversity

By Mohsin El Hallouati

Rabat – Despite all of today’s global problems stemming from differences among populations, language variety is one of several reasons the world is still beautiful. That is why it is vital to protect and preserve language diversity, and it is everyone’s duty, including governments and individuals, to contribute to the survival of minority languages.

In fact, it is noticeable that things work the best in countries that permit language diversity. In the United States, for example, every language is tolerated, and everyone owns the right to speak and transmit to their children the language of their choice. Moreover, that right, freedom of speech, is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Citizens and residents are not intimidated linguistically. They feel free and comfortable with their native languages – or the languages of their choices – at home as well as in public places. As a result, the productivity of U.S. citizens and residents rises, and the economy grows significantly.

Switzerland is also another example of how language diversity contributes – even if indirectly – to the wealth and well-being of people. The country hosts populations from different back-grounds that speak very different languages. However, different languages mean different skills, and that enriches the country culturally and economically. It brings enormous wealth.

Language diversity is also a matter of identity. Some argue that having more than one language threatens their identity. The truth is that language diversity can strengthen identities. There may be no identity without linguistic pluralism. If language diversity is important for every country, it is the governments’ responsibility to take appropriate actions in order to support it. Constitutions should recognize every local language as a national language.

A reason why minority languages should be preserved is that they represent national heritage. They must be included in school and university programs, and that cannot be achieved without the efficient involvement of both the ministry of education and the ministry of culture. Also, media and T.V. programs have to be concerned about maintaining minority languages. Individual citizens can play a major role in language diversity promotion as well as minority language conservation.

Particularly, parents are invited to transmit the languages of their ancestors to their kids. This would help avoid language shift, one of the major factors which lead to language endangerment. Children should be more educated and sensitized toward the variety of languages regardless of world languages which they already learn at school. Besides, local and minority languages should also be inculcated to young kids at home. That way, minority languages can be saved from extinction.

Morocco, for instance, has a strong tradition of valuing minority languages. Many regional variations of Moroccan Arabic are spoken in the country, in addition to a wide variety of Tamazight dialects. It has made a giant step by recognizing the Berber language as official. Even though the Moroccan initiative is recent, international observers admit that it is promising. In addition to this important measure, the country’s officials created research centers and institutes whose work focuses primarily on promoting Tamazight dialects in all their forms. However, primarily foreign languages are taught in schools, which allows students to be exposed to other languages than what they speak at home and on the street.

Protecting language diversity is essential. In the context of crisis in the world, it is what is needed to provide peace and understandings between communities within every single country. When language diversity is protected by governments and individuals, it can make our world a fertile field for tolerance, peace, and serenity.

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