Uyghur language outlawed in schools of the Uyghur Autonomous Region

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I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw the Radio Free Asia headline:

"China Bans Uyghur Language in Xinjiang Schools" (7/28/17)

Some excerpts from the article:

Authorities in northwest China's Xinjiang region have issued a directive completely banning the use of the Uyghur language at all education levels up to and including secondary school, according to official sources, and those found in violation of the order will face "severe punishment."

The new ban marks one of the strongest measures yet from Beijing aimed at assimilating ethnic Uyghurs, who complain of pervasive ethnic discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression by the China's ruling Communist Party in Xinjiang.

In late June, the Education Department in Xinjiang's Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture issued a five-point directive outlawing the use of Uyghur at schools in favor of Mandarin Chinese "in order to strengthen elementary and middle/high school bilingual education."

[VHM:  This is confusing.  How can they strengthen bilingual education when they outlaw Uyghur in the schools?]

Under the directive—a copy of which was obtained by RFA's Uyghur Service—schools must "insist on fully popularizing the national common language and writing system according to law, and add the education of ethnic language under the bilingual education basic principle."

[VHM:  How will they add ethnic language education when they've banned it?]

Beginning in the fall semester this year, Mandarin Chinese "must be resolutely and fully implemented" for the three years of preschool, and "promoted" from the first years of elementary and middle school "in order to realize the full coverage of the common language and writing system education."

The directive instructs schools to "resolutely correct the flawed method of providing Uyghur language training to Chinese language teachers" and "prohibit the use of Uyghur language, writing, signs and pictures in the educational system and on campuses."

Additionally, the order bans the use of Uyghur language in "collective activities, public activities and management work of the education system."

Any school or individual that fails to enforce the new policy, that "plays politics, pretends to implement, or acts one way and does another," will be designated "two-faced" and "severely punished," it said, using a term regularly applied by the government to Uyghurs who do not willingly follow such directives….

"Even the Uyghur textbooks will be replaced with Chinese textbooks from inland China. All teachers and students are required to speak the Chinese language only in the school and education system," he added….

"Education authorities decided to ban the use of the Uyghur language in order to create a favorable environment for minorities to study the national language," he said.

"This is, in fact, good for Uyghurs to study the national language. Uyghur students will not study Mandarin if they learn from Uyghur language materials in the school system. That is why they should immerse themselves daily in Chinese language announcements, propaganda, signs and other materials."

"All meetings and collective activities" in the school system will be held in Mandarin in the future, the official added.

Illegal policy

While Beijing has attempted to implement a "bilingual" system in Xinjiang's schools over the past decade, Uyghurs say the system is monolingual and reject it as part of a bid to eliminate their mother tongue and increase their assimilation into Han Chinese culture.

Additionally, the bilingual education policy is in violation of both China's constitution and regional ethnic autonomy laws.

Article 4 of the first chapter of China's constitution states that "the people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs."

Article 121 of the charter's sixth section states that in performing their function, the organs of self-government in China's autonomous regions should "employ the spoken and written language or languages in common use in the locality."

Additionally, Article 10 of the first chapter of China's Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law on Language states that agencies in ethnic autonomous areas "guarantee the freedom of the nationalities in these areas to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and their freedom to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs."

Article 37 of the law's third chapter states that "schools (classes) and other educational organizations recruiting mostly ethnic minority students should, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use these languages as the media of instruction."

Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, told RFA that Beijing is attempting to skirt its own laws by labeling the new policy part of a bilingual education, while it works to "eradicate one of the most ancient Turkic languages in the world."

"In fact, by enforcing this new policy at the preschool level, the Chinese government intends to kill the Uyghur language at the cradle," he said.

"It is nothing short of cultural genocide. The international community must not allow China to destroy our beautiful language and culture, which has thrived for several millennia."

Report in Chinese from Taiwan.

I wonder if they will do, or already have done, the same thing in Tibet.

Such a drastic, draconian move bespeaks tremendous insecurity on the part of the Chinese government.

[h.t. Chau Wu]



61 Comments

  1. Brian said,

    August 1, 2017 @ 7:20 pm

    There may be an additional factor in this situation, making it more complex. Iran makes an intoeresting comparison. Public education in Iran has always been in Persian, and in the 1960s when there began to be some efforts to introduce local languages (mainly Turkic, but not all), the government would not allow it. But the stated reason (and the way everyone I knew at the time understood it) was that for over a thousand years Persian had been the only language of literacy. Even Arabic in this Islamic country was secondary to Persian, and not the medium of education, except to some extent for the religious class. And yet a large percentage of the population (possibly as much as half) spoke a form of Turkish at home, and still does. A satyrical weekly newspaper, Tawfiq, which closed in 1974, was allowed to publish a column in what might be called "street Turkish," because it essentially ridiculed Turkish. It was generally considered that proper education was not possible except in Persian.

  2. Finn said,

    August 1, 2017 @ 11:05 pm

    If this RFA report is accurate, the purported way in which this might "strengthen bilingual education" is that students will be learning Uyghur at home and in public, and Mandarin in what amounts to an "immersion school". We in the West would generally think of sending a child to a language immersion school as being a good way to raise a child to be bilingual.

    (Personally, I would consider such a justification to be… dubious. Just offering up one possible way that the Chinese government might seek to justify that policy. Is the complete text of the relevant directive available?)

  3. Michael Watts said,

    August 1, 2017 @ 11:29 pm

    How can they strengthen bilingual education when they outlaw Uyghur in the schools?

    As Finn says, presumably in the same way Mexicans in California became more bilingual when they couldn't be stuck in Spanish-language education ghettos.

  4. Andrew said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 1:31 am

    I think that "add the education of ethnic language under the bilingual education basic principle" means that Uyghur will (may?) be taught as part of a Uyghur-language course (as though a second/foreign language), and the ban applies to teaching materials, lectures, etc. in all other subjects. It has a certain kind of sense to it, and I think that if you assume that, all of the stuff you quoted is consistent (at least up to the limits of mediocre translation).

  5. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 3:37 am

    @Michael Watts

    The retention rate of Spanish among Hispanics in the US is shockingly low. Third generation is less than 20%. Monolingual English education encourages English monolingualism.

    http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/380/380reading/heritagelangretention.pdf

    Spanish was spoken in the Western states of the US long before English and Spanish-speaking Americans should have the legal right to conduct every aspect of their day-to-day lives in Spanish.

  6. Guy_H said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 4:29 am

    Thanks for disseminating this – I wouldn't have heard about this otherwise. 自由最大的武器是知識. The PRC's attitude to the preservation of minority languages is depressingly retrograde. As the article notes, this move is plainly unconstitutional and I cannot see how it can be defended.
    And to everyone comparing this to Spanish bilingual education in the US, I think a difference is that most Spanish-speakers are recent immigrants (even in the western states which formed part of Mexico) and not indigenous to the territory. Xinjiang is the one and only homeland of the Uyghurs, and if the language cannot be maintained there, it will simply disappear.

  7. DDOwen said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 5:25 am

    "I think that "add the education of ethnic language under the bilingual education basic principle" means that Uyghur will (may?) be taught as part of a Uyghur-language course (as though a second/foreign language), and the ban applies to teaching materials, lectures, etc. in all other subjects. It has a certain kind of sense to it, and I think that if you assume that, all of the stuff you quoted is consistent (at least up to the limits of mediocre translation)."

    From what I know of the difficulties that that kind of second language Welsh education in English-medium schools in Wales has in producing fluent Welsh speakers (as opposed to Welsh medium/fully bilingual education, which tends to produce fluent speakers of both Welsh and English) this will pretty much fail to deliver fluency in Uyghur, and is clearly part of an attempt by the state to induce a language shift in the region.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:11 am

    Zìyóu zuìdà de wǔqì shì zhīshì

    自由最大的武器是知識

    "The greatest weapon of freedom is knowledge."

  9. Joseph F Foster said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:17 am

    to "boynamedsue"

    French was spoken in Louisiana long before English. Siksika 'Blackfoot' was spoken in a part of the United States before English. How many languages are we supposed to learn and the government and private businesses supposed to use in order that native speakers of languages-here-before-English be able "to conduct every aspect of their day-to-day lives in [them]"?

  10. languagehat said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:38 am

    We in the West would generally think of sending a child to a language immersion school as being a good way to raise a child to be bilingual.

    But we in the West would generally revolt if ordered by the government to send our children to a language immersion school ("you can speak [your language] at home, but at school your kids will be taught in [Mandarin or whatever]").

    I'm frankly surprised at the eagerness of commenters to find ways to justify this terrible (and unconstitutional) ban.

  11. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:42 am

    @JFF

    Regionally speaking, all local languages should be recognised and respected, and all should be free to operate in them. This is uncontroversial in Europe, France excluded. The fact that the American state has successfully eliminated many languages does not mean it has a right to continue doing so.

    I would greatly welcome an initiative to increase French language use and recognition in Louisiana, particularly in education. I'm not familiar enough with Native American languages to know what the needs and desires of each linguistic minority is, but after you nicked their country and committed cultural/literal genocide against many of them, I'd say the USG should basically just do whatever they ask it to.

  12. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:46 am

    BTW, it is worth remembering that, while China is behaving appallingly in the Uyghur region, its linguistic policy is still light years ahead of the US. This isn't whataboutery, because the Chinese must be stopped from this unconstitutional attempt at linguicide and all should rally to their cause, but is worth remembering that much worse happen(s)(ed) in France and the US.

  13. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 8:50 am

    The idea that the preservation of local languages is a "progressive" cause is relatively recent. I will quote from an essay of mine:

    In the last third of the twentieth century the promotion of linguistic diversity and the preservation of threatened linguistic species became causes associated with left-leaning, "progressive" movements (though such causes are of course inherently conservative, in the literal, nonpolitical sense). At least in part their adoption may have been a reaction to the "one-nation-one-language" policies that were a hallmark of the fascist and quasi-fascist regimes of the century's middle third, in contrast to the promotion of regional languages practiced by communist regimes. Even today, opposition to such policies as bilingual education is most likely to come from the right. But it wasn't always thus. The French Revolution saw the dialects spoken by the masses of France (roughly three-quarters of them knew no French, according to a survey undertaken by Abbé Grégoire, the "patriot priest") as obstacles to social progress; Grégoire's report to the National Assembly was pointedly titled "On the need and the means to wipe out the patois and to universalize the use of the French language." A century and a half later, the French linguist Albert Dauzat, writing about attitudes toward the use of Breton in Brittany in the 1920s, reported that "the socialists… are rather lukewarm if not hostile, not to mention that their internationalist views, in general, mesh poorly with regionalism. Conversely, all conservatives are ardent supporters of Breton among the peasants, whether to keep the latter tied to the land or for the sake of social conservation." And as recently as the year 2000, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, the leader of the leftmost faction of French socialism, resigned as interior minister in order to protest Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's plan of autonomy for Corsica that would include the teaching of Corsican in the island's public schools.

  14. languagehat said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 9:22 am

    Coby Lubliner: Just to be clear, are you saying the suppression of all languages but French was a good, progressive thing? And are you saying the Chinese suppression of Uyghur is a good, progressive thing? Or are you just providing a random bit of historical trivia?

  15. KeithB said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 9:29 am

    boynamedsue:
    "Spanish was spoken in the Western states of the US long before English and Spanish-speaking Americans should have the legal right to conduct every aspect of their day-to-day lives in Spanish."

    And they do. Have you been to Los Angeles lately?

    First Nations have already been discussed, so I will only add this: At least China is not taking the kids away from their families and forcing them to stay at a boarding school that teaches only the national language.

  16. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 9:50 am

    languagehat: I am saying that the perspective of what is "a good, progressive thing" has changed over the years. And I don't think this is trivial.

  17. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 10:04 am

    In my self-quote (from 2002) I mentioned " the promotion of regional languages practiced by communist regimes." This was especially true of the USSR and Yugoslavia, but it applied to the PRC as well. It now appears, however, that China is hardly communist any more, and is becoming more fascist-like, like Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain. The change in language policy is consistent with this trend.

  18. languagehat said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 10:06 am

    languagehat: I am saying that the perspective of what is "a good, progressive thing" has changed over the years. And I don't think this is trivial.

    Fair enough, but it might have been a good idea to add something about your take on how this relates to the current situation, because without that it kind of looks like you're saying "Hey, this is perfectly OK, it's got a long tradition, it's the progressive hand-wringing about poor, oppressed languages that's the historical anomaly."

  19. Thorin said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 10:16 am

    I think it's worth citing Bolivia and Paraguay as examples of countries who have made their indigenous languages official. All 36 of Bolivia's indigenous languages are official and, from what I understand, enjoy the same rights as Spanish except in schools in urban areas where indigenous language instruction was nominally introduced but never really implemented. In Paraguay, Guarani and Spanish are the official languages, although Spanish is mainly taught in schools.

  20. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 11:52 am

    @KeithB

    I don't know America very well at all, I'm afraid. The rights I would have thought are absent are the right to speak Spanish in the California legislature, the right to a trial in Spanish, and the right to education in their own language.

    Given the pretty terrible intergenerational transmission of Spanish, I'd say this was necessary. If Welsh was transmitted at such a low rate, then it would be dead in 3 generations.

  21. Alyssa said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

    @boynamedsue

    It's not really fair to say that "[China's] linguistic policy is still light years ahead of the US" – Spanish is not illegal in the US, and many public schools are Spanish/English bilingual. That doesn't mean the government couldn't be doing more – I live in Quebec, which implemented very extensive laws to support the French language, and there's a good argument that that kind of legislation is necessary to preserve a minority language.

  22. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 1:25 pm

    @Alyssa

    China's ethnic minorities have the right to education in their own language, which is why this policy is so shocking. Uyghur is not illegal either, but you are right, this means Uyghur is now more discriminated against than Spanish in some places in the US. This is the first time a Chinese minority language has been officially in this position, though I suspect it may also have happened in Tibet, and Marx alone knows what might have gone on during the CR.

    If the US was analogous to China, there would be German schools in Pennsylvania, Gullah schools in Georgia and Carolina, Welsh schools in Ohio and French schools in Louisiana.

  23. KeithB said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

    @boynamedsue
    "I don't know America very well at all, I'm afraid. The rights I would have thought are absent are the right to speak Spanish in the California legislature, the right to a trial in Spanish, and the right to education in their own language."

    You are free to speak any language you want in the legislature. Most won't understand you, which seems counter-productive.

    You have a right to an interpreter in court.
    http://www.lacourt.org/generalinfo/courtinterpreter/GI_IN001.aspx

    There are bilingual programs in the schools, but I don't know that you have a "right" to them.
    https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/7524#spn-content

  24. KeithB said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

    boynamedsue:
    Another point is that the Spanish are no more indigenous than the whites are. And very very very few of the Hispanics that were here in 1848 still speak Spanish. It is the new arrivals that speak Spanish.

  25. Lazar said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

    @KeithB: I'm not sure how well that generalization holds. Spanish still predominates in a big chunk of northern New Mexico, on the strength of the pre-1848 Hispano population, and I'm pretty sure the Spanish-speaking areas along the Rio Grande in Texas have been that way the whole time as well.

  26. boynamedsue said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

    @KeithB

    Yeah, like I say, those rights don't currently exist. They should do. At the very least, a bilingual state should have translation services in parliament so that Spanish speakers can use their own language should they choose. A trial in your own language in your own state is not the same as having translation facilities available. And there should be bilingual or monolingual Spanish schools available as a right for all, as is the case in bilingual regions like Wales or the Basque Country.

    And as for being no more indigenous than "whites", well, Spanish-speakers come in all shades, but I'll let that pass. A bilingual region should afford native language education even where the linguistically subordinate group is not native, especially when they make up 30% of the population. But in any case, there has been a continuous Spanish speech community in the US since the Louisiana purchase, and that also holds true for the South West since it was "acquired".

  27. KeithB said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 6:41 pm

    Lazar:
    Spanish as a first language is *much* less prevalent in Northern New Mexico than Los Angeles. (Speaking as a person who *lives* in Northern New Mexico!)

  28. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:41 pm

    KeithB: Absolutely, also speaking as a person who lives in northern N.M. The post-World-War-II generation was forbidden to speak Spanish in school, even at recess (for our friends overseas, that's the time in elementary schools when the children go outside and play). As a result, most people of that age don't speak Spanish well, though many understand it, and most of their children hardly speak it at all—just enough to say Vamos a comprar un seis de Bud, as one of my students put it.

    languagehat:
    But we in the West would generally revolt if ordered by the government to send our children to a language immersion school ("you can speak [your language] at home, but at school your kids will be taught in [Mandarin or whatever]").

    Generally, maybe, but not if we were ethnic minorities. The last revolt in New Mexico was in 1847 (not counting some protests with shooting in, Wikipedia tells me, 1967 and 1968).

    Speaking of the home language, a late friend of mine who was born in the early 1950s told me that he went to elementary school in Denver, also formerly Mexican territory but with no tradition of Spanish. Not only was school in English, at one point school officials came to his house and told his parents that if they didn't speak English at home, little Ray would never get anywhere in school. His parents complied for a long time, till his grandmother found out, and as Ramón described it, "ripped my dad a new one". As a result, he didn't speak Spanish fluently till later, after study in Mexico and elsewhere.

    (It's possible that my great-grandparents spoke English at home so their children would learn English well, but they immigrated to America on purpose.)

  29. languagehat said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 7:45 pm

    Generally, maybe, but not if we were ethnic minorities.

    An excellent point; thanks for making it.

  30. Jonathan Smith said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 10:37 pm

    We may grant that language preservation is an objectively noble goal and grant also that pursuit of that goal can be framed, to begin with, in terms of the identification and extirpation of flagrant violations of human rights and dignities. But the difference between preservation and replacement doesn't hinge simply on the absence versus presence of such violations; instead, in part, it is a function of individuals making particular economic choices that do not and could not have any basis in the very real but to large degree intangible value to be found in the long term survival of their language community.

  31. Akito said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

    Linguistic, cultural, political, religious, and military invasion—isn't this more or less what happened to the Kingdom of Hawaii? Independent nationhood wasn't sufficient to prevent imperialism, let alone "autonomous region"-hood.

  32. Victor Mair said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 11:32 pm

    "China's Muslim minority banned from using their own language in schools: Regional government accused of 'cultural genocide'"

    Caroline Mortimer, Independent (8/2/17)

  33. Victor Mair said,

    August 2, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

    "What the Hawaiian language revival means for conservation"

    by Kehau Springer
    May 11, 2016

    "The Great Work of Saving the Hawaiian Language"

    University of Hawai'i Foundation

    Hawai'i is the only American state to have two official languages: Hawaiian and English. However, Pidgin, a third unofficial language is also widely spoken.

    Source

    Wikipedia:

    =====

    In 1949, the legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi commissioned Mary Pukui and Samuel Elbert to write a new dictionary of Hawaiian, either revising the Andrews-Parker work or starting from scratch.[44] Pukui and Elbert took a middle course, using what they could from the Andrews dictionary, but making certain improvements and additions that were more significant than a minor revision. The dictionary they produced, in 1957, introduced an era of gradual increase in attention to the language and culture.

    Efforts to promote the language have increased in recent decades. Hawaiian-language "immersion" schools are now open to children whose families want to reintroduce Hawaiian language for future generations.[45] The ʻAha Pūnana Leo's Hawaiian language preschools in Hilo, Hawaii, have received international recognition.[46] The local National Public Radio station features a short segment titled "Hawaiian word of the day" and a Hawaiian language news broadcast. Honolulu television station KGMB ran a weekly Hawaiian language program, ʻĀhaʻi ʻŌlelo Ola, as recently as 2010.[47] Additionally, the Sunday editions of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the largest newspaper in Hawaii, feature a brief article called Kauakukalahale written entirely in Hawaiian by teachers, students, and community members.

    Today, the number of native speakers of Hawaiian, which was under 0.1% of the statewide population in 1997, has risen to 2,000, out of 24,000 total who are fluent in the language, according to the US 2011 census. On six of the seven permanently inhabited islands, Hawaiian has been largely displaced by English, but on Niʻihau, native speakers of Hawaiian have remained fairly isolated and have continued to use Hawaiian almost exclusively.[48][49][50]

    =====

    Yin Binyong, the foremost authority on Hanyu Pinyin orthography, learned Hawaiian.

  34. Akito said,

    August 3, 2017 @ 12:32 am

    Thank you, Professor Mair, for providing the links to articles on recent efforts to revive Hawaiian language and culture. I have seen TV documentaries on such efforts but haven't explored the subject further. I just felt it strange that, while many commenters mentioned minority languages on continental U.S., nobody mentioned the most obvious case, that of Hawaii.

  35. Bathrobe said,

    August 3, 2017 @ 5:05 am

    Regrettably, the "official policy" of the Chinese government and what that government is actually doing are two different things. China has set itself on an insidious course of almost complete assimilation but is trying to keep this as quiet as possible. One Mongolian bookseller who tried to let the cat out of the bag was sentenced to 15-years in prison sentence on charges of espionage and separatism. When he finished his sentence he was taken directly into secret detention.

  36. languagehat said,

    August 3, 2017 @ 8:30 am

    But the difference between preservation and replacement doesn't hinge simply on the absence versus presence of such violations; instead, in part, it is a function of individuals making particular economic choices that do not and could not have any basis in the very real but to large degree intangible value to be found in the long term survival of their language community.

    Both true and irrelevant. "So what if the company fired 500 people; some of them might have decided to quit anyway!" You're just muddying the waters.

  37. Jonathan Smith said,

    August 3, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

    "So what if the company fired 500 people"

    Didn't say that and certainly don't feel that way. Conversation had extended to language preservation is general; I was just pointing out that this pursuit overlaps with but is not neatly definable in terms of really worthwhile pursuits like the fattening of Freedom and Justice. Focus on the latter (e.g., those in OP) and accept that there will continue to be such thing as, for instance, second-generation Mexican-Americans in the U.S. southwest who don't speak a word of Spanish. Waters is muddy.

  38. languagehat said,

    August 3, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

    certainly don't feel that way

    Glad to hear it. But I still don't see what second-generation Mexican-Americans in the U.S. southwest who don't speak a word of Spanish have to do with the Chinese government suppressing Uyghur. I mean, yeah, they both have to do with language; so does my preferring Russian to German. Neither my preferences nor those of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. southwest have anything to do with the topic. And if one insists on dragging in irrelevant things, the waters are muddy because one has muddied them.

  39. dainichi said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 1:31 am

    > in part, it is a function of individuals making particular economic choices

    Yes! I feel this is a point which often gets ignored in the progressive echo chamber.

    I'm a non-native English speaker living abroad in a non-English-speaking country, and my (local) wife and I currently choose to raise my son bilingually in the local language and English, not the local language and my native language. It pains me to turn my back on my native language, but for different reasons (availability of exposure and community, not wanting to shut my wife out of conversations etc) I believe this is the right choice, although I have doubts all the time. If my son ever consciously decides that he wants to learn my native language, I will support him 200% of the way.

  40. dainichi said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 1:35 am

    > my (local) wife and I currently choose to raise my son

    More precisely, that should have been *our* son, to avoid any misunderstandings.

  41. languagehat said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 7:39 am

    I'm a non-native English speaker living abroad in a non-English-speaking country, and my (local) wife and I currently choose to raise my son bilingually in the local language and English, not the local language and my native language.

    Again, I fail to see how this is relevant to the actions of the Chinese government. And are you claiming that concern about a government trying to keep its citizens from using their native language is purely a product of "the progressive echo chamber," and sensible people don't bother their heads about such trivia?

  42. dainichi said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 9:53 am

    > I fail to see how this is relevant to the actions of the Chinese government.

    I wasn't responding to the OP, but to Jonathan Smith's comment. I don't know why you're insisting that people stay on topic so rigorously.

    > And are you claiming […]

    Absolutely not. I don't know much about the Uyghur situation, but everything I've learned so far points towards the regime doing a horrible thing.

    But to return to Jonathan's point, I can't help but think that sometimes language preservation and revitalization enthusiasts are more concerned about the language itself than the well-being of its (would be) speakers. "Echo chambers" can have the effect that a means ceases to be a means and becomes an end.

  43. languagehat said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 9:59 am

    I don't know why you're insisting that people stay on topic so rigorously.

    Sorry, didn't mean to come across as the Topic Police! It's just that the topic strikes me as an important and pressing one, and I feel like commenters who take the discussion in the direction of "Hey, sometimes people just want to change languages for their own reasons" are distracting from it. But I am not the Topic Police, and I'll back off now.

  44. DHD said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 10:16 am

    It is true that the preservation of minority and indigenous languages is an inherently conservative project, and in many cases the primary "agents of conservation" for them have largely been the religious authorities – this was certainly true for Breton in France and French in Canada. But times have changed, and in the cases above they changed quite a while ago (in the 1960s and 70s). The problem with enforcing a single national language in the name of universal values is that in a globalized world, that supposedly universal international language turns out to actually be the language of one dominant place and group of people in particular, whether it's Paris, Beijing, or Hollywood.

    There are many things that were once advocated in the name of "progress" that created vast amounts of cultural, economic, and ecological collateral damage. It seems to me that what is truly progressive is the ability to learn from past mistakes.

  45. dainichi said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 10:27 am

    > the topic strikes me as an important and pressing one, and I feel like commenters who take the discussion in the direction of "Hey, sometimes people just want to change languages for their own reasons" are distracting from it

    Granted, it is an important topic. And maybe I didn't choose the best place to state my point, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while, so when Jonathan went in that direction, I took the opportunity.

    More on topic, though. Wikipedia says about Xinjiang:

    > Smaller minorities, however, do not have a choice and must attend Uyghur-medium schools. These include the Xibe, Tajiks, Daurs, and Russians

    I imagine that these minorities might prefer Mandarin education to Uyghur if they had to choose. Not that that justifies anything, but just adding color.

  46. LisaRR said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 11:10 am

    I believe Tibetans within the Chinese borders are very concerned about the abilities of today's children and future generations to be fluent and functional in Tibetan.

    Canadians are accustomed to have access to government services in English or French. "Minority" languages (Francophone in an English region and vice versa) are able to access first-language education as a constitutional right. There are pressures now in Toronto, for example, to build more francophone high schools due to demand – which could be due to immigration from France and francophone countries.

    There have been discussions to add aboriginal languages as official languages in some way – for example to give a Cree speech with English/French translation in Parliament.
    The northern territory of Nunavut has Inuit as an official language as well as English and French.

    I noticed South Africa is discussing adding sign language as an official language. Are there other countries which use sign language as an official language? (I could go look that up …)

  47. The Other Mark said,

    August 4, 2017 @ 10:46 pm

    I don't know America very well at all, I'm afraid. The rights I would have thought are absent are the right to speak Spanish in the California legislature, the right to a trial in Spanish, and the right to education in their own language.

    They have the "right" to an education in Spanish. What they don't have is a government prepared to pay for it. They want to send their children to a Spanish speaking school, they can.

    Let's not merge the Hispanics in the US with the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are in their homeland. The Hispanics are voluntary immigrants. The Uyghurs do not want to assimilate. The Hispanics, for the most part, do.

    Mexicans in China wouldn't expect the Chinsese pay for Spanish speaking education for their children.

  48. languagehat said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 7:59 am

    Thank you; very well said.

  49. dainichi said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

    > The Uyghurs are in their homeland. The Hispanics are voluntary immigrants.

    We're talking about the education of children here. I don't think children deserve any less than somebody in their homeland, just because they descend from somebody who migrated voluntarily. A lot of problems are happening in the west because countries import people for labor when it suits them, then fail to integrate their descendants properly.

  50. jan Schreuder said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 1:44 pm

    "Let's not merge the Hispanics in the US with the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are in their homeland. The Hispanics are voluntary immigrants"

    This might not be entirely true for all the Hispanics in the Southwest. 1846 – 1848

  51. Bathrobe said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 4:50 pm

    We're talking about the education of children here. I don't think children deserve any less than somebody in their homeland, just because they descend from somebody who migrated voluntarily.

    I don't think you understand what is happening. The Chinese government is currently engaged in what is virtually an open war on its Uighur citizens — living in their ancestral homeland — with a view to forcibly assimilating them. This includes the suppression of religion, massacres of unarmed civilians (on both sides), blatant job discrimination, increasingly bitter racial discrimination, massive immigration from outside the region, and an unstated but clear goal of eventual suppression of a culture and language with a written tradition. What will be left is a region with a majority of Han Chinese and a minority that speaks a local patois. The education of Uighur children in Chinese is a major pillar in the Chinese government's policy, along with mass immigration.

    This is rather different from the notion that immigrants joining a society, whether imported as labour or not, should have the right to schools that educate their children in their own language. This may be the next frontier as far as language rights are concerned, but it's a far cry from what is happening in China.

  52. jan Schreuder said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

    "The education of Uighur children in Chinese is a major pillar in the Chinese government's policy, along with mass immigration."

    Is that so much different from what happened in the Southwest after 1848? The Mexicans in California f.i. , suddenly unmade Mexican , were made a minority in their own country, their culture suppressed, suffering blatant job discrimination increasingly bitter racial discrimination, massive immigration from outside the region, and an unstated but clear goal of eventual suppression of a culture and language. Maybe we should be a bit modest when condemning cultural destruction abroad or at least acknowledge our own history.

  53. languagehat said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

    Maybe we should be a bit modest when condemning cultural destruction abroad or at least acknowledge or own history.

    I've never understood that form of perverse relativism. I heard it half a century ago from lefties who said we had no business condemning communist oppression because of the way black people were treated in America. I guess the idea is that unless someone is pure in heart and deed, they have to ignore everyone else's crimes. Or, as a great American once said, "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know…."

  54. Bathrobe said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

    So current crimes can be ignored because someone did something similar in the past?

  55. jan Schreuder said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 9:01 pm

    I don't think I said anything about ignoring crimes. For the record I think what the Chinese government does with the Uyghurs is terrible. I originally reacted to a post that stated that Hispanics are voluntary immigrants and pointed out that this wasn't true for many Hispanics in the Southwest. When I read subsequently Bathrobe's summary of the Chinese actions against the Uyghurs, I was struck by how well this applied to the Mexicans in the Southwest. No relativism, perverse or otherwise was intended. I probably should have left the modest bit out. But I was actually thinking about the great American you were quoting. And he is rather loud-mouthed about the raping and pillaging done according to him by Mexicans. Thats how the modest bit snuck in. Let me rephrase it then. Yes we should condemn in the strongest terms what the Chinese government is doing with the Uyghurs, especially because it is not widely known. And to our great president and many of my countrymen: learn some American history. It is interesting.

  56. InstarDei said,

    August 5, 2017 @ 9:31 pm

    "In late June, the Education Department in Xinjiang's Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture issued a five-point directive outlawing the use of Uyghur at schools in favor of Mandarin Chinese "in order to strengthen elementary and middle/high school bilingual education."

    [VHM: This is confusing. How can they strengthen bilingual education when they outlaw Uyghur in the schools?]"

    Isn't it possible that the policy simply means using Mandarin as the standard medium of instruction while relegating Uyghur to specific Uyghur language classes? I'm struck by the fact that the only comments in the article are from Uyghur dissidents and that no Chinese official sources were asked to clarify or comment on this supposed new policy.

  57. Rodger C said,

    August 6, 2017 @ 11:20 am

    I originally reacted to a post that stated that Hispanics are voluntary immigrants and pointed out that this wasn't true for many Hispanics in the Southwest.

    To my knowledge (and in my experience), "real" Californios, at least, are a tiny minority who tend to be snobbish toward the great majority of their Hispanic neighbors.

  58. dainichi said,

    August 6, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

    > This is rather different from the notion that immigrants joining a society…

    I completely agree that the Chinese situation is a lot worse than the American one. But that has nothing to do with voluntary immigration.

    Descendants of voluntary immigrants are not voluntary immigrants. When they face problems because they're being integrated poorly, are you going to tell them "Too bad, blame your parents, they should've known what you were in for"?

  59. jan schreuder said,

    August 8, 2017 @ 9:40 am

    Calefornios might be a tiny minority now and the ones who are snobbish are the ones who are and probably were well off. But were there no poor Mexicans in 1848 and how did they fare? I know this is going beyond the original discussion but let me quote Wikipedia:

    Californios in the California Gold Rush[edit]
    In 1848, gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma, California.[46] This discovery was made only nine days before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, which turned over California to the United States as a result of the Mexican–American War.[47]

    A group of Californio prospectors led by Antonio F. Coronel set out from Los Angeles to prospect for gold in Campo Seco.[46] After a change of plans, the group spent a few months in campo de Estanilo mining alongside mostly Californios. After this, they left to head north into Sonoma, where one of the group members is ambushed and violently attacked, left for dead with only Colonel to tend to him.[46] This ambush and lack of response by any authorities or other White Americans shows how Californios were tragically the victims of Euro-American vigilante violence and often forced to leave their native land.

    Large Influx of Foreigners Diluting Californio Population[edit]
    From the end of 1849 to the end of 1852, the population in California increased from 107,000 to 264,000 due to the California Gold Rush. In early 1849, approximately 6,000 Mexicans, many of whom were Californios who remained after the United States had annexed the territory, were prospecting for gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.[48] Although the territory they were in had up until recently been Mexican land, Californios and other Mexicans very quickly became the minorities and were seen as the foreigners. Once the Gold Rush had truly started in 1849, the campsites were segregated by nationality, further establishing the fact that "Americans" had taken the title as the majority ethnicity in Northern California.[46] Because the Californio "foreigners" so quickly became a minority, their claims to land protected under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo when miners overran their land and squatted.[49] Any protests by Californios were quickly put down by hastily formed Euro-American militias, so any legal protection provided by the new California legislature was ineffective when the threat of violence and lynchings loomed.[49] Even if Californios were able to win their land back in court, often lawyer's fees cost large sums of land that left them with a fraction of their former wealth.

    Working Conditions[edit]
    Many Latino miners were experienced due to learning a "dry-digging" technique in the Mexican mining state of Sonora.[50] Their early success due praise and respect from Euro-American miners, they eventually became jealous and used threats and violence to force Mexican workers out of their plots and into less lucrative ones.[50] In addition to these informal forms of discrimination, Anglo miners also worked to establish Jim Crow-like laws to prevent Latinos from mining altogether.[50] In 1851, mob violence as well as the Foreign Miners' Tax discussed below forced between five thousand and fifteen thousand foreigners out of work in just a few months.[46]

    According to Antonio F. Coronel's accounts, there was systematic race-influenced violence conducted by Americans to force out Californios and other Latinos. One account tells of a Frenchman and "un español" being lynched for supposed theft in 1848. Despite offers by Californios to replace the reported amount of gold stolen, they were still hanged.[46] In addition, later in the Gold Rush, Coronel and his group found a rich vein of gold on the American River. When Euro-Americans caught wind of this, the invaded the claim armed and insisted it was their plot, forcing out Colonel and ending his mining career.[46] Accounts like these show the harsh and violent living and working conditions that Californios were faced with during the Gold Rush. Discriminatory and racist treatment and laws as well as being so vastly outnumbered forced them out of their native lands despite assurances by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that they could remain.

    Foreign Miners' Tax[edit]
    In response to the Mexican resistance to the American population, white miners called for something to be done about the "Sonoran" miner "problem". In response, in 1850, the Californian government introduced a tax on foreign miners who were working plots, called the Foreign Miners' Tax Law. The claimed purpose of the tax was to fund the government's efforts to protect the foreign workers. There are conflicting reports on the amount of the tax ranging from $20 to $30 per month.[46] This extremely high tax forced all but the most successful Latinos to stop mining as they were unable to obtain enough gold to make mining profitable. This left only the most successful of the Mexican prospectors, who ironically were the ones who drew the most ire from the Euro-American miners initially. By 1851, when the tax law was repealed, approximately two-thirds of the Latinos and Californios that had been living and working in mining areas had been driven out by the tax.[51][unreliable source?] After repealing the $20 or $30 per month tax, the California legislature instituted a much more reasonable $3 per month tax in 1852.[50] However, at this point, many of the Californios had already been driven out of their homes and mining plots, making it somewhat of a moot point. These taxes were for the most part only enforced against Latinos, including Californios, and the Chinese, but not any other foreign, but white Europeans, showing systematic racism on the part of the newly formed California Legislature.

    Notable people[edit]
    dia:

  60. Eidolon said,

    August 9, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

    "Isn't it possible that the policy simply means using Mandarin as the standard medium of instruction while relegating Uyghur to specific Uyghur language classes? I'm struck by the fact that the only comments in the article are from Uyghur dissidents and that no Chinese official sources were asked to clarify or comment on this supposed new policy."

    That's pretty much what it is. The authorities are demanding that Mandarin Chinese be the *primary* language of instruction, as opposed to offering Uyghur as an alternative. The reason this is spun as promoting bilingualism is because the perception is that Uyghurs are too monolingual in *Uyghur*. The bilingualism they are seeking is bilingualism in *Mandarin Chinese*. Actually, the whole idea of linguistic conservation –
    a principle of modern Western liberalism – barely registers in the minds of Chinese authorities. Their motivations are nationalist and practical, the latter because one of the main reasons given for Uyghur poverty is their lack of fluency in Mandarin Chinese, and therefore their "unemployability" by Chinese businesses.

    As far as historical precedents go, there are tons, because "linguistic unification" was and is a core principle of *nationalism* in the 19th century, and up to the present day. While alternatives to linguistic nationalism did exist in the heydays of nation-building, the "one nation, one language" idea eventually triumphed over other conceptualizations in Europe. One could argue, to this end, that much of the wars of the 19th century in Europe were fought over linguistic borders, as states attempted to bring together speakers of the same language and either remove or assimilate speakers of other languages. The role 19th century linguists played in defining and justifying the nation, and thus in the rise of nationalism, is often underappreciated.

    Coby Lubiner made the astute observation above that this ideal of monolingualism, so fundamental to the ideology of nationalism, suffered a major set-back in the aftermath of World War II due to its association with the horrors of fascism. The rise of late 20th century liberalism essentially reversed the earlier idea that linguistic unity was instrumental to progress and nation-building, stressing instead the virtues of multi-culturalism. In this and many other matters, the new liberal left was in ideological alliance with the Marxists, and were both considered – and are still considered – part of the political Left. This is the reason the PRC, a former Communist state whose constitution was modeled on that of the Soviet Union, had a constitutional guarantee for multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism. This is what has been described as being "light years" ahead of US language policy, which was never so deeply Marxist or liberal progressive.

    The modern PRC, however, is not a Marxist state, and it is certainly not a liberal state. Coupled with the systematic failure of "multi-culturalist" policies in regions like Xinjiang, which have been persistently restive and resistant to integration, PRC authorities seem to have abandoned multi-culturalism altogether, and are reverting to the 20th century East Asian pattern of nationalism, which was modeled after 19th century European nationalism and emphasized assimilation – cultural, linguistic, and ethnic.

    To this end, I have no doubt that PRC policy is designed to ultimately produce a "homogeneous" "Chinese nation," to the extent that they are able to. This is seen as no different, from the PRC perspective, from what European states did during the process of their own nation-building periods, and is seen as beneficial to national security and political stability. The modern West will protest because such policies are considered a primitive relic of the past; but nationalism, in the traditional sense, is still very much the dominant ideology in the PRC, and probably most of East Asia.

  61. Volkan said,

    August 10, 2017 @ 5:29 am

    We can very easily see the evil in this movement.
    1. China has given the rights of getting the education of their own for minorities, in the Constitution. So it is illegal actually for the government to take away that right even not changing the constitution.
    2. We are not talking a bunch of people forced to go to a school that only teaches in Chinese, this policy trying to change the reading, writing and communicating habit of more than 10 million of people overnight, without a legal ground, without the consent of those people.
    This will not only change the habit it also makes tens of thousands people jobless, I am talking about those who are making a life with teaching, writing, publishing related works.
    3. Many actions discriminating these people are taken recent years, including dressing, giving Islamic names to the child, reducing most of the religios activities, even keeping a beard is judged as illegal, it is not difficult to foresee a pattern here, which tells us more evils are on the way to come.

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