Trying to keep a language from dying

Here is another article (“In Multilingual Switzerland, One Tongue Struggles”) from the NY Times about languages and I thought it had a great message. The article describes the decline of Romansh, a regional language in Chur, Switzerland. It has been recognized as an official language of Switzerland. There are five different dialects of Romansh. Currently, less than 1% of the Swiss population speaks the language.

Economics and business are brought up in the article. The business people think that keeping Romansh is not as lucrative as using English or German. This is a recurring issue in language learning, where reasons for learning a language is driven economics and career enhancement.

Education also comes up as an issue. I think the best quote is the following, from the mayor of a village where students can choose between classes in Romansh or German:

Language, he added, is not just about getting a job. “Language is a question of the heart, not just of understanding.”

I think this quote is a key argument in all language debates. For some, learning a language is about career enhancement and may be very crucial. But in the general debate of learning and keeping the knowledge of language, it is really about everything else: history, culture, and the intangible aspects of life.


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