Human diversity is what makes this world so fascinating
: so many cultures, lifestyle, traditions, religions, styles of architecture
and languages. These 3 maps illustrate the geographic distribution
of ethnic groups at continental scale, national scale (China) and local
scale (chinese province of Yunnan).
Governments often see this cultural diversity as a threat to national
unity. In many countries, so-called minority or regional languages are
at the best tolerated but discouraged and at the worst forbidden. In
China, a Miao person from a tourist office told me about the Miao people
(an ethnic group in Guizhou province) : " the children only learn
chinese at school". He added with a sad look "that way we
will all be the same, no more rebellions", referring to the many
times in history when Miao people revolted against central Han administration.
Centralist governments are afraid that regions with their own cultural
heritage will develop some hopes about independence if their culture
is preserved. Assimilation is their solution.
Many languages will disappear from the world, either because of repression
or from lack of support from the authorities. When a government chooses
not to help schools that teach in a language, not to sponsor events
or TV programs in a language, that goverment is contributing to the
decline and the extinction of that language. Once a language is dead,
it is gone. Just like an extinct animal species, it cannot be revived.
It is part of mankind's heritage that is lost.
The chinese governement is not the only one with policies that favour
the dominance of the national language to the detriment of regional
languages. While it prides itself to be a defender of human rights,
the french government still has not ratified the European Charter on
regional languages. The government say we should all be equal and able
to communicate in the same language. Fair enough, but it is well known
that one can easily learn two languages during childhood, and it is
even a great chance to do so. In the meantime, the french government
claims that it is necessary to defend the french language against "english
hegemony" in the world , but what about "french hegemony"
in France, which, whatever image the government wants to show, is a
multicultural country ?