Ainu Language Essay

2121 Words 9 Pages
Both Iceland and Japan’s language policies are resistant to change – both countries are seen as homogenous both internally and externally, which especially in Japan has resulted in language planning and policy being slow to respond to changes (Gottlieb 2008; Hilmarsson-Dunn 2006). In Iceland, long traditions in lexical purism have affected the official language policies, but in recent years, the focus has shifted more towards ensuring Icelandic’s status at the national language in the country against the forces of English (Hilmarsson-Dunn & Kristinsson 2010). In Japan, on the other hand, Japanese is a ‘killer language’ due to the reluctance to acknowledge the existence of indigenous languages, let alone their rights, until recently (Gottlieb …show more content…
This is why language policies regarding other languages than Japanese and English have also been slow in the making: only in 1997, after centuries of neglect and the 1899 Hokkaido Aborigines Protection Act, which enforced Japanese education for Ainu children and forbade the use of the Ainu language as well as the traditional customs of the people, a governmental body on the Ainu language, Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture, was founded. It focuses on the promotion of research on the language, the revival of the culture and language and education on the traditions of Ainu people. The other indigenous language communities, Okinawan and something, on whom similar assimilation policies were established alongside the Ainu people, still have not been acknowledged by the government. As Japanese is strongly prominent in the country and needed in employment, language shift in these communities is occurring – Japanese acts as a kind of ‘killer language’ in relation to the regional languages, which will continue unless stronger policies will be implemented (Ibid.). In addition, English is strongly promoted by the MEXT at the expense of other foreign languages – ‘foreign language teaching’ is essentially seen as synonymous for ‘English teaching’ (Gottlieb 2012). The status of English as the key to improve Japan’s competitiveness in the international market is greatly emphasised in the proposals for enhancing proficiency in English in Japan by the Commission on the Development of Foreign Language Proficiency (2011). Unlike in Iceland, where English has been able to pervade the private lives of individuals, Japanese students seem to have much less contact with the language outside of

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