Universities and endangered languages

Published on 06 December 2019 Go back to The ACU Review
ACU Review Cover image  | Endangered languages | Image by DrAfter123 at iStock - resized

It's my great pleasure to welcome you to The ACU Review – a new magazine celebrating the remarkable work of our member universities and their contribution to the world around them. Each issue explores a different theme, chosen to highlight the value of higher education to society, and to reflect the rich diversity and shared challenges that characterise our global network.

Our first issue focuses on language loss and revitalisation, and coincides with the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages – a year-long celebration aimed at prompting urgent action to preserve, revitalise and promote our linguistic diversity. The theme is one that has deep resonance in the Commonwealth context, whose member nations are overwhelmingly those in which land was seized or swindled from its legitimate owners, resulting in the decimation of indigenous languages and cultural practices.

This history – as one of our contributors, Nathan Thanyehténhas Brinklow, reminds us – is part of the shared heritage of the Commonwealth. Recognising and reclaiming indigenous languages will be key to starting to address historic injustices, and to realising a modern vision of the Commonwealth: one which promotes diversity, democracy, equality, and is built upon the principles of cooperation and mutual support.

Every page of this issue highlights the sense of loss experienced by communities whose identities, values, and histories have been shaped through their language, and the incalculable wealth of human wisdom that is encoded within the words, ideas, stories, and syntax of every culture. But it is also clear that universities have a valuable role to play – supporting language revitalisation and documentation through their research, resources, and technical expertise, and by integrating indigenous languages and perspectives into their courses and campuses. Most important of all is that universities work in open, respectful partnership with indigenous communities themselves, supporting their goals and promoting reciprocal learning.

The wealth of inspiring work being undertaken by universities across the world means that our print edition features only a fraction of the work in motion. However, our online version remains open to new articles, and we hope it will grow into a rich repository of work in this area. Our thanks to all those who’ve shared their stories and to the indigenous communities whose words, images, and heritage inform and enrich these pages.

Dr Joanna Newman is Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU.

Image by DrAfter123 at iStock

The ACU's Commonwealth Peace and Reconciliation Network is a global forum for universities to share knowledge and experience around higher education’s contribution to truth-telling and reconciliation.

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The ACU Review is published for information purposes only and no liability is accepted for its contents by the ACU or by any contributor. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the ACU.