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Language diversity protection highlighted in UNESCO proclamation

2019-02-22 08:35:19China Daily Editor : Jing Yuxin ECNS App Download

A man writes Tibetan words, one of the ethnic minority languages in China. (Photo/CCTV)

The first document released by UNESCO on the preservation of language and cultural diversity calls on member countries to combine the protection and promotion of linguistic diversity with the development of science and technology.

The document-Protection and Promotion of Linguistic Diversity of the World Yuelu Proclamation-was jointly issued by the Ministry of Education, UNESCO, the State Language Commission and the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO in Beijing on Thursday.

The proclamation was adopted in September during the international conference "Role of linguistic diversity in building a global community with a shared future", in Changsha, Hunan province.

The proclamation states that the protection and promotion of linguistic diversity is crucial to the sustainable development of mankind, since linguistic diversity is ultimately about equal opportunities to access quality education and other basic public services, employment, health, social inclusion and participation in society.

"Languages are as diverse as peoples are diverse and different," said Frederick Russel-Rivoallan, an expert on social and human sciences at the UNESCO office in Beijing. "One of the fundamental preconditions to human development and indeed the very existence of human society is manifested in diversified language."

The world's languages, however, are disappearing at an alarming rate. There are about 7,000 languages in the world, 40 percent of which are endangered. And about 97 percent of the world's population speaks just 4 percent of its languages, while 3 percent speaks 96 percent of the indigenous languages, he added.

It also stressed the necessity to combine protection with advanced science and technology-from information and communications technologies, artificial intelligence and innovation to advanced tools for the collection and analysis of language data.

According to the Ministry of Education, China-as a country with more than 130 ethnic minority languages and 10 major Chinese dialects, has been taking active measures for the protection of languages resources.

The Ministry of Education and the National Language Commission launched a project in 2015 aiming to survey, protect, display and develop language resources some six decades after the country's first census on dialects and ethnic minority languages in 1956.

The project has made a series of achievements and offered experiences that other countries and regions could use for reference, the ministry said in a news release on Thursday.

An online platform was established by the ministry and the commission in 2017 to collect and demonstrate Chinese dialects and ethnic minority languages for academic research and language promotion.

Chinese companies have also helped to safeguard the world's linguistic diversity. In 2017, Talkmate, an online language learning platform, cooperated with internet giant Tencent to build a world language learning platform and collected language resources worldwide to help indigenous languages become more audible, visible and available to learn and use.

Tian Lixin, director-general of the ministry's Language Information Administration Department, said that China has spared no efforts in offering solutions to protecting linguistic diversity to the world.

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