Strengthening minority languages in the Cap of the North

Övertorneå municipality, University of Oulu and Kvensk institutt has worked cross borders in the Interreg Nord project ”Collaboration platform for minority languages in the Cap of the North”. The project has generally speaking been a success. While the pandemic has certainly had a large impact on the project activities, the most important goals of the project have been reached.

The project ”Collaboration platform for minority languages in the Cap of the North”

During the project, several online events/seminars were organised with lectures from experts in meänkieli, kven language and sami languages, as well as music and theatre performances showcasing different cultures. The ”digital meeting revolution” that resulted from the pandemic has enabled the project to reach perhaps a different, and certainly a wider audience than they would have otherwise. They have been able to showcase and strengthen the regions culture and cultural heritage quite successfully. A strong cultural profile for the region provides also economic benefits through enlivening the cultural life and hospitality industry. While in-person meetings are important for workshop-type activities, the digital solutions have certainly made the collaboration platform more durable and sustainable considering its future potential.

The most important concrete results from the project are mapping the translator situation for meänkieli and kven language and producing a development plan for translator education based on the mapping work. The resulting practical deliverables of the project; the mapping reports of translator situations for meänkieli and kven language, and the development plan for translator education for meänkieli and kven language, have been successfully written and published on the project website. Information on the results has been successfully disseminated to relevant parties in the three countries, such as:
– The truth and reconciliation committees in Sweden and Norway
– Administrative municipalities for meänkieli in Sweden
– The Institute for Language and Folklore in Sweden
– Several universities in all three countries
– Instances responsible for translator authorisation
– Cultural/minority language associations.

The main findings of the mapping work of the translator situation for meänkieli and kven language are the following:
– Those in need of translators cannot find contact information for translators, or translators that are available.
– The translators are very busy and often work under short deadlines.
– There is no way currently to estimate the quality of translations.
– The translators are in desperate need of helpful tools and materials, examples and peer support.
– There is a vast need for more translators, in Sweden particularly because of the information availability requirements at the municipalities belonging to the administrative area for minority languages.
– An alarmingly large part of the most expert translators, and even the language bearers, are of a senior age group, making the situation rather urgent.

This is why the most important practical recommendations for the future are 1) keeping the collaboration platform active and alive, 2) organising translator courses both in the short- and long term, and 3) developing a hub, for example a website, with a closed forum and material bank for the translators to provide support and ease their workload, but also with information about the translators, for example their contact information and areas of expertise, so that the customers could find translators more easily. The project has woken up a wide, underlying, sleeping contact network of people over a large geographical area and different types of industries and institutions, all working for the same goal: awareness, preservation and enrichening the regions culture and minority languages. The language communities for both meänkieli and kven language are getting small, and the social responsibility for preservation of the languages has been placed on a small group of people. This makes collaboration both on small and large scales vital, and as this project has shown, cross-border collaboration in minority language work is not only useful, but necessary. With active cross-border collaboration the project has found new hope for minority languages in the whole region of the Cap of the North.

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