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March 1997 - Issue No. #26 (p. 20)


Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights

Prepared at the World Conference on Linguistic Rights in Barcelona.
Published by International PEN (Committee for Translation and Linguistic Rights)
and CIEMEN (Escarre International Center for Ethnic Minorities), 1996, 27 pp.

This quadrilingual document Catalan, French, English, Spanish) is the outcome of the World Conference on Linguistic Rights which took place in Barcelona June 7-9, 1996 under the auspices of CIEMEN (Escarre International Center for Ethnic Minorities and Nations) and International PEN (a world organization of writers) with the support of UNESCO.

The conference was attended by 200 persons from 90 nations representing all five continents. Many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) sent representatives and advisory bodies included groups well-known to readers of this newsletter: the International Federation of Modern Language Teachers (FIPLV), the International Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) and Linguapax.

The Declaration is set out in multilingual columns which enables readers to go from one language to another, a delight for translators and language teachers. There are seven parts: Preliminaries, Preamble, Preliminary Title (Concepts), Title One (General Principles), Second Title (Linguistic Regime), Additional Dispositions and Final Dispositions..

The preliminaries give a historical account of the significant events and documents which have led to the Declaration. This provides readers with a glimpse of how a fruitful idea - adding a new member to the family of human rights - has developed, from a mention of language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) through recommendations that the United Nations approve and implement a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights as called for by the Recife, Brazil Declaration (1987) and the FIPLV Pecs Hungary Declaration (1991), which recommended linguistic rights be considered fundamental rights of the individual..

What articles in the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights have to do with the use and study of a second or foreign language? Let me give here some illustrative quotations. Interested colleagues are urged to read the original text for in-depth comprehension:

Article 13: Everyone has the right to be polyglot.

Article 26: All language communities are entitled to an education which will enable their members to acquire a full command of their own well as the most extensive possible command of any other language they may wish to know.

Article 30: The language and culture of all language communities must be the subject of study and research at university level.

Article 44: All language communities are entitled to . . . support for activities such as teaching the language to foreigners, translation, dubbing, and sub-titling.

Article 52: Everyone has the right to carry out his/her professional activities in the language specific to the territory unless the functions inherent to the job require the use of other languages, as in the case of language teachers. . .

Now that this far-sighted Declaration is available, let's do our share to promote awareness, recognition, and protection of linguistic rights. As language teachers, we should all share in this exciting enterprise by doing our best to help bring about the actions recommended. By reading the Declaration and elaborating on it, all of us and our language education organizations can contribute to making the linguistic rights of learners and teachers an innovative feature in the history of our profession. To order a copy of the Declaration, please contact:

Secretary General of CSDUDL,
c. Rocafort, 242, bis, 08029 Barcelona, SPAIN
Fax: (34) 3 444 38 09 E-mail:


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650