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Opening of First World Language Resources Protection Conference in Changsha

2018-09-20 16:34:00

On September 19, the first World Language Resources Protection Conference was held in Shangsha, Hunan Province. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, sent a congratulatory message to the Conference. XU Dazhe, Governor of Hunan Province and Deputy Secretary of the Hunan Provincial CPC Committee, DU Zhanyuan, Vice Minister of Education and Director of the National Language Commission, and Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information under UNESCO attended the Conference and delivered speeches. Over 200 representatives from over 40 countries and territories, including 10 ministerial officials and 13 diplomatic envoys based in China attended the opening ceremony.

Under the theme “Role of linguistic diversity in building a global community with a shared future: protection, access and promotion of language resources”, representatives shared their practices and experience with regards to language protection, from introducing policy measures for protecting the diversity of languages and cultures, creating standards and cultivating professionals for the conservation of language resources, to developing and promoting the use of language resources. They also discussed the prospect of utilizing modern IT solutions to protect, develop and use language resources, and facilitated the adoption of the Yuelu Declaration as a major outcome of the conference.

Du noted that the Chinese government had always firmly supported and actively participated in related UNESCO work, strengthening the country’s cooperation with the organization over the years, and the co-hosting of the present conference was further testimony to the efforts made by both sides to reinforce their partnership.

Du noted that languages were a fundamental resource upon which human societies were built and a major vehicle for passing culture down through the generations. He said that China cherished and had been protecting the diversity of language on its territory as a national treasure through a whole range of measures, including promoting and standardizing the use of mandarin, conserving the spoken and written language systems of all minority groups, and improving language education and language-related services nationwide. As a case in point, he particularly referred to the “China Language Resources Protection Project” launched by the Chinese government in 2015, the largest of its kind in the world in terms of scale, scope, investments and number of people involved. He said that over 70% of China’s population were fluent mandarin speakers and that illiteracy had dropped from 80% over half a century ago to 5% today thanks to these efforts. He called for all countries to be more active in exchange and cooperation, and share good practice in the field of language protection, in order to build a global community with a shared future.

In her congratulatory message, Audrey Azoulay said that UNESCO was committed to protecting language resources and linguistic diversity, and that the conference presented a major opportunity for countries to reach a consensus on the need to protect their language resources. Delegates applauded the significance of the conference held under a theme that reflected UNESCO’s mission and hailed it as a milestone in the “China Language Resources Protection Project”.

The conference was jointly organized by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, the China National Commission for UNESCO, the National Language Commission, and the People’s Government of Hunan Province, and supported by the Hunan Provincial Language Commission, the Hunan Provincial Office of Education, the Changsha People’s Government, Beijing Language and Culture University and Hunan University. It was a major event dedicated to the celebration of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

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