The 21st century has seen an ambivalent approach towards languages, particularly concerning local languages. On one hand, globalisation forces people from different countries to find the most widespread common language to communicate, exchange products and information in the simplest way possible. Former colonial languages have been chosen for this task, or have rather imposed themselves thanks to the economic power they embodied. English, above all, has spread its seeds in most languages, as all the vocabulary related to internet and computers is usually adopted in their English original version into the other countries.

On the other hand, though, there is a growing cultural interest concerning minority and local languages. The issue here is a tangled one.

Sociolinguistic research showed that in the second half of the 20th century, along with the television, official national languages reached every house of Europe. At the same time, local dialects started losing their role as local languages and becoming linguistic social indicators for farmers and lower working classes. Lots of parents decided to speak their national official language at home so that their children could have better social chances. This tendency was even more marked in countries where local languages and dialects were or had been hindered by authoritarian regimes, like in Italy and in Spain, as in the dictators’ eyes the unity of the language symbolised the unity of the nation.

A couple of generations later, though, people have started to realise that losing their local languages would mean the loss of centuries of local tradition and culture, so a lot of cultural associations have been created in recent years with the aim of recovering and promoting local languages that were going to dissolve in the sea of globalisation.

Multilinguism seems then to be a likely future scenario for Europe, with people able to speak their national language, their local one and at least one popular global language. The benefits of multilinguism have been discussed in this blog previously, and certainly future generations will be more prepared to face a multicultural and multilingual world.

You can find more information about local languages in this Lingua Translations blog.

Later this week we’ll talk about European policies to safeguard local languages; stay tuned!