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Language Commissioners across the world to meet in Wales to celebrate association’s 10th anniversary

Efa Gruffudd Jones

AN INTERNATIONAL conference, which will provide an opportunity to explore the real effects of legislating in favour of languages in Wales and beyond will be held in Cardiff this week (10 –11 June). The International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC) will this year be celebrating its 10th anniversary with Wales being one of the founding members.

As well as practical sessions sharing the experience of Welsh institutions there will be contributions by international speakers such as Raymond Théberge, Commissioner of Official Languages, Canada, Dr Fernand de Varennes, Former UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Séamas Ó Concheanainn, Ireland’s newly appointed Language Commissioner.

One of the founders of the Association is Professor Colin H. Williams, the internationally renowned expert on language policy and planning, and he is full of pride as to how the Association has developed.

He said: “I remember, in 2013, Peadar Ó Flatharta, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, and I organised a conference devoted to human rights in Dublin. Following on from that conference and discussions, the idea was hatched to form the International Association of Language Commissioners.

“Along with the Irish Language Commissioner at the time and the Federal Official Languages Commissioner in Canada, we identified a group of potential members who would benefit from sharing experiences and expertise for the benefit of the speakers of minority and official languages represented by them.

“The Association is celebrating a decade of work and there is indeed much to celebrate. The members have contributed significantly to raising the status of official languages and have been critical in upholding language rights, in their own jurisdictions and beyond.

“The way the Association has evolved and matured fills me with pride and it seems fitting that the 10th anniversary is celebrated here in Wales as the Welsh Language Commissioner has been a key member from the outset.”  

The association has this year also welcomed two new Canadian members into the fold,  the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and the French language Commissioner of Quebec. And to foster greater engagement and collaboration between the IALC and other organisations who work in the field of language rights the association has recently created a new Observer Status. The first ever Observer Members from Guernsey and North Macedonia will be officially welcomed in Cardiff.

Welsh Language Commissioner, Efa Gruffudd Jones, is the current chair of the Association and is delighted to be hosting the event, said: “Over the years the opportunity to discuss and foster the role of Language Commissioners as well as sharing effective practices with other countries has been a core part of our work. The Welsh language needs to be seen in the context of a multilingual world and the Association and this conference allows us to showcase how the language is used naturally on a day to day basis.

“I am extremely proud that Wales is the home of the conference in this very special 10th anniversary year.”

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The aim of the International Association of Language Commissioners is to support and promote equality and linguistic diversity and linguistic rights throughout the world and to support language Commissioners so that they can work while adhering to the highest professional standards.

Jeremy Miles MS, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language, said: “In Wales, we have a clear vision for the Welsh language, and innovative plans to turn that vision into a reality. We have much to share with other minority language communities across the globe – and much to learn of course.

“It’s great to see the Association gathering in Wales as it celebrates a decade of important work, campaigning for and safeguarding minority and official languages.”

Looking forward to the conference, Shirley MacLean KC, Commissioner for the official Languages of New Brunswick in Canada said: “Along with my colleagues I am so much looking forward to coming to Wales for the conference as we celebrate our very special anniversary. Wales has always been seen as one of the founders of the Association so it is fitting that we celebrate there.

“The discussions at these conferences are always very enlightening and I suspect we will again come away with many positive ideas for the future that we can take forward in our own countries.”

The conference will be held in Cardiff on 11th June 2024 with a launch event, kindly sponsored by Darwin Gray, on the evening of the 10thJune and the members will hold their Annual General Meeting at St Fagans on Wednesday, 12th June. 

The conference proceedings will be live streamed on the Welsh Language Commissioners’ website.