UCSB to Host International Mother Language Day Conference

Event commemorates University of Dhaka students who participated in the Bengali Language Movement and died defending their language

Originally published 11:05 p.m., February 18, 2014
Updated 11:05 p.m., February 18, 2014
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Sixty-two years ago today, a group of students from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) were killed as they participated in the Bengali Language Movement protests. The student activists were seeking to have Bengali recognized as an official language of Pakistan. In their memory, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared February 21 — the date of the protests — as International Mother Language Day.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UC Santa Barbara will commemorate the event with an afternoon conference beginning at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building, at UCSB. It is free and open to the public.

The conference, which brings together a diverse group of scholars, seeks to promote multilingualism, awareness of the plight of language minorities, tolerance toward different cultures and the preservation of linguistic diversity. It will focus on “Language and Identity,” examining the topic from linguistic as well as legal perspectives.

“Worldwide, it is a day to encourage people to continue using their mother language, while learning and using more than one language, to unveil policies in support of language learning and cultural diversity,” said Viola Miglio, associate professor of linguistics at UCSB, and the Barandiarán Chair of Basque Studies in the Spanish and Portuguese department. “Spanish in California — and in the U.S. in general — suffers the stigma of an immigrant language, and many problems ensue from this lack of status and prestige.”

Celebrating Mother Language Day has become something of a tradition for theDepartment of Spanish and Portuguese at UCSB (this marks the fourth year). The department has a special interest in establishing a more positive image for Spanish, which according to Miglio should be considered a historical language of California. “We believe that promoting multilingualism and multiculturalism fosters tolerance and understanding toward groups with other languages and traditions, and is, therefore, a beneficial service for society at large that language and literature departments such as ours give to the community,” she said.

Among the conference participants are Carole Chaski, a computational linguist and executive director of the Institute for Linguistic Evidence, who will examine models of language for forensic identity; and María M. Carriera of California State University- Long Beach, whose research focuses on heritage languages and on identity, resilience and heritage language development and maintenance.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The irony is that "multiculturalism" is often the encouragement of people to hold onto their culture to the extent that they don't assimilate into their adopted country--which means they don't learn any languages other than their native tongue.

As for "stigma" against Spanish, I would like to see verifiable examples cited and discussed.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2014 at 6:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If people wanted to hold tenaciously on to their home country culture, why didn't they stay there.

Sure the private celebration of one's ethnic traditions is part of who we are. But institutionalizing them at everyone else's expense is demanding far too much from the host country whose character was shaped long before they arrived here ….willingly.

Slavery ceased 150 years ago, so don't even bring up that hoary old saw. Freed slaves were given opportunities to return to Africa and the country of Liberia was set up for the return of freed slaves.

Therefore anyone choosing to remain in America after the abolition of slavery means one is here by choice. No reparations whatsoever are appropriate. That offer expired a long time ago.

America is a mono-culture: based upon the US constitution, the English language, universal free public education, land of opportunity, due process and the Bill of Rights.

Time to put a lid on all this multiculturalism nonsense and get back to basics: what it means to be an American; not an unassimilated angry collection of hyphenated ethnic splinter groups. Phooey.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2014 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The irony is that Spanish was brought to this hemisphere by means of force. If one wants to play the linguistic victim card, include the whole story, not just what's politically correct.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 2:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

" Phooey."

foofighter (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2014 at 9:03 a.m

Ha!, I get it..."Foo" and "Phooey", a homophone!

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 2:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@billcausen: "The irony is that Spanish was brought to this hemisphere by means of force. If one wants to play the linguistic victim card, include the whole story, not just what's politically correct."

Hey Bill, English was also brought to 'this hemisphere' by 'means of force'. Are you going to include *that* in 'the whole story'?

EatTheRich (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 4:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you my Communistic Cannibal co-blogger, I will gladly address your point.

I based my comment on the assumption that the readers of this blog are perceptive enough to know (as you know) that it goes without saying that English (like every other Indo-European language spoken in the Western Hemisphere) was introduced with shotgun barrels pointed.

My point is that the claim that Spanish was not the language of the indigenous people of Turtle Island but was also brought in by force. It's akin to those who romanticize the idea that this land once belonged to Mexico when in fact Mexico was a political boundry moved south in a turf war by warring colonial powers.

In other words, you can't have it both ways.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 5:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Communistic Canibal". I will now one-up you ETR with this music video.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 5:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

re your first post, BC: but multiculturalism and appreciation of diversity [linguistic, ethnic, religious, musical, and so on] have also helped "people[s] to hold onto their culture to the extent" that they retain pride in their heritage whilst also fitting into the tapestry or mosaic of encroaching cultures. How about the fondness Bavarians have for their crazy-sounding Bay'risch dialect, weird leather trousers, and bizarre little hats??
Assimilate doesn't have to mean complete submersion of, say, the Chumash [Sama] language, does it? The ca. 15% Hindu Tamils in modern Malaysia retain their religion, their way of life, and so on while in another land [I know this is a poor e.g. since they are also in dire poverty]... It is far too simplistic to just howl "multiculturalism" is bad -- so OK, let's use other terms. In a shrinking world will we end up with a monoculture of dominance, with English or Mandarin Chinese the elite language, and no others. The article states the UCSB Span. Dept. will sponsor this and thus promotes "multilingualism" -- this a a good, no?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 6:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@dolphinpod14: "I will now one-up you ETR with this music video."

Well played. ;)

@billclausen: "Thank you my Communistic Cannibal co-blogger, I will gladly address your point."

And thank you, Sen. McCarthy, but I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party.

@billclausen: "...a political boundry moved south in a turf war by warring colonial powers."

So what? The initial foundation of the United States was the result of a 'turf war [between] warring colonial powers.' The standards by which you want to 'de-romanticize' Mexico's history in California also apply to the U.S.

But more to the point, I fail to see what this has to do with anything. It never ceases to amaze me that, in a place where the vast majority of streets and cities take their origins from Spanish or Native American languages, we still have people so paranoid about 'multiculturalism' and 'assimilation'. Perhaps it's *you* who need to do the 'assimilating'?

EatTheRich (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 6:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I like carrots. And you people should get jobs.

CompetentObserver (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 8:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ETR: De que manera tengo que mezclar? Favor de decirme. Quizas puede definar que significa "multiculturalismo". Una palabra puede querer decir una cosa a uno e otra a otra. Me gustaria continuar discutir esto, pero (debido a la influencia de los conquistadores) en El Epanol. (Favor de disculparme por no incluir el tilde con la balabra "Espanol" pero el teclado no tiene la tecla para escbribirlo.)

Le toca a Usted.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 3:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"palabra" not "balabra", and yes, I see the humor (and know the history) of your "I am not, nor have ever been" comment from the Blacklisting days.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 3:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Richtig DrDan, oder in Franzosich "touche", aber was bedeutet ein wort zu ein personen kann zu andere bedeutet andere dinge.

Sorry about the bad German grammar, but I'm posting this off the top of my head, and like my Spanish post, I'm not using any translation aids.

Yes, I'm in agreement with you DrDan, and let me be clear that I strongly encourage the retention of one's native language (muttersprache)after they emigrate from their native country (vaterland) to their new country. I also think it's good to pass on their native tongue to their children, and I think studying foreign languages is a good idea, but there are many who hide behind "muliticultural" while promoting policies that ensure that people who immigrate to the U.S. don't learn English.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 9:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm not familiar with Malaysia proper per language policies but last I heard in Singapore (With a 76% Han Chinese population) school instruction is in English, and the one of the other three major languages (Tamil, Chinese, and Malay depending on which is the native tongue of the student) but the idea is to promote a (irony noted for the foreign word I'm about to use) lingua franca. In Switzerland, where German, French, and Italian are the main idioms, every person has to learn at least one of the two other languages so that in any given situation, they can communicate.

What we see (especially in California) is balkanization. There is no way any good can come from people being unable to communicate with each other. What the pro-Spanish language only supporters don't talk about (or don't understand) is that Spanish isn't the only language beside English spoken here. Why should someone from Japan, Russia, or any other country in the world who comes to the U.S. be expected to not only learn English, but also Spanish? It's unfair to them, or, perhaps there are those who think everyone should be able to come to the U.S. and not have to learn English? Imagine someone frantically screaming to a 9-1-1 operater in Tamil, Farsi, Czech, or any one of the six major dialects of Chinese?

What is ironic is that if you walk down the streets of some non native-English speaking countries (The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries come to mind) you might find it easier to communicate in English than in some of the big cities in the U.S., although even if I went to those places, I would still learn the languages of those places out of respect for the cultures.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2014 at 9:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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