Claim a minority language | Megaphone

South Asia is one of the most socially and linguistically diverse areas on the planet, with a considerable number of languages ​​from different genealogies – according to some estimates, this region will host around 11% of the world’s languages. Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), an island country located south of India, has a similar ethnic and linguistic richness, including at least eight languages, of variable status, genealogy and vitality.


Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole is just such a language. It is the mother tongue and the natural means of communication and cultural cohesion of Burghers Portuguese, a community of Eurasians of Portuguese origin that has sought to maintain its identity specificity and that is more or less pressured to incorporate cultural and linguistic traits and practices of the majority groups with which it coexists in numerical, social and economic imbalance for centuries to this part.

In a highly multicultural and multilingual country, it is not surprising that Burghers Portuguese are also configured as a nation without a state, manifesting their identity through material and immaterial artifacts that sometimes spread beyond the borders of the community, sometimes remain circumscribed there.

The language that part of the community still preserves in everyday interactions and in some domains and expressions of a social nature practiced contemporaneously is one of these artifacts. Its maintenance in social practices transmitted over generations attests to its vitality as an identity and unifying vector that does not alienate, but rather brings together members of the community, regardless of their levels of proficiency. Today, however, it is an endangered language, spoken by an ever smaller number of people.

Despite this, its disappearance is not an inescapable fatality. There are still many community members who actively seek to slow down or reverse the effects of the linguistic threat, choosing to speak, transmit and to preserve this language. See the case of Derrick Keil who, following his participation in “The Voice Sri Lanka”, recently launched his first musicone remake one of the most popular songs in the songbook of Burghers portuguese.

So let’s celebrate all Burghers Portuguese and other speakers of minority and/or endangered languages ​​who throughout the world continue to claim for their languages ​​the space that is rightfully theirs, ignoring all pressures, more or less deliberate, for assimilation. Let us celebrate all those who insist on continuing to use their mother tongues in all social functions, public and private, intra- and extra-community, and who do so with a view to its preservation, transmission and future projection. Let us celebrate, on this International Mother Language Day, global linguistic diversity.

The author writes according to the new spelling agreement.

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