ANKARA: Long Way To Go Before Kurdish Becomes Official Language


Today’s Zaman
July 30 2009

According to a study by the Turkish Parliament’s research center,
some changes should be made in the Constitution and in 18 relevant
articles of law to enable the government to allow the use of an
official language other than Turkish. The prospects of such changes,
however, appear far away at the time being.

In Turkey there are many laws stating that the official language of
the country is Turkish. In the case of allowing languages other than
Turkish to be used, laws regulating political parties, elections
and associations would need to be amended as they contain strong
prohibitions on the use of any other language.

Parliament decided to conduct a study of official languages used in
the world’s parliaments after a controversy was sparked by a speech
delivered by Democratic Society Party co-chairman Ahmet Turk, partly
in Kurdish, during a parliamentary group meeting on Feb. 24, 2009.

The report was based on research into countries such as the US,
France, Armenia, Algeria, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia
and Latvia. In many countries, only one official language is used,
and this is stipulated by law. In some countries, such as Algeria,
even computer hardware and equipment which does not allow printing
in the Arabic typeface are forbidden from being imported. In India,
Canada, Ireland and Finland two official languages are used. But even
in such countries, there are still some strict rules about using two
official languages. It seems the country most comfortable about its
official languages is Canada.

No regulations exist in either the constitution or law about
the official language in Germany but diverse German dialects are
used. Belgium, whose official languages are Dutch, German and French
because of its three-region state structure, and Switzerland, whose
official languages are German, French, Italian and Romansch, were
not in the scope of the research.

Here is the Parliament research center’s summary regarding the
countries’ official languages and their usage:

US: Although the English Language Unity Act has been drafted, this
law is still being debated in Congress. No language other than English
is used in official correspondence.

GERMANY: There is no definition of Germany’s official language. No
laws about official language exist as it is accepted that language
should maintain its own development. There is a custom of using
regional languages in the federal parliament.

ALGERIA: There is a special law to extend the use of Arabic. It is
obligatory to use Arabic in all public corporations and associations
and in the names of media organizations and in international

ARMENIA: According to its official language law, Armenia’s official
language is Armenian. Minorities living on the border of Armenia
are free to use their mother tongue. The language used in education
is Armenian, but minorities taking compulsory Armenian lessons are
authorized to learn their mother language. For representatives of the
country, knowing Armenian and using it in international meetings is
obligatory, and public agencies are forbidden from communicating in
any other language.

ESTONIA: According to the Republic of Estonia’s language law, the
official language is Estonian. All languages except Estonian are
given the status of foreign languages. Public enterprises, local
authorities and associations with an autonomous status are obliged
to use Estonian. During the EU process, minorities were granted the
right to use their mother tongue.

FINLAND: According to its language law, Finland’s official languages
are Finnish and Swedish. Law courts, government agencies, local
authorities and autonomous organizations use both Finnish and
Swedish. The choice of how and which of the official languages will
be used is determined by population density. Finnish is used in
publishing and in legislation.

FRENCH: On the basis of the constitution and in accordance with the act
concerning the use of the French language, French is used in official
corporations and associations. It is obligatory to use French when a
product is produced, named and exhibited and it is forbidden to use
any other language in audio-visual advertisements. It is imperative to
use French in meetings held in public areas and in public corporations
and associations as well as public transportation vehicles. French
translations of all kinds of magazines and news published in different
languages are compulsory. French is the language of education and
examinations. In addition to this, using a language other than French
is restricted in the judicial sphere.

INDIA: According to the Official Languages Law, English and Hindi
are the official languages. English is used in official acts and
parliamentary activities. Correspondence between federated states which
do not have Hindi as an official language and the central states which
do are written in English. Hindi is used both in correspondence with
countries which accept Hindi as an official language and with countries
which do not, although translations are made in this case. In public
associations and in parliament, both languages are used.

IRELAND: According to the official language law, while Irish or Gaelic
is the priority language, English is accepted as a second official
language. Official language authorities appointed by the president
officiate over the use of Irish in public institutions to guarantee
the use of the language.

CANADA: In Canada, the official languages are English and French. In
parliamentary business, both languages are used, as they are in
international correspondence and court procedures.

LATVIA: The official languages act states that Latvian is the official
language. In respect of this act, in which there are some regulations
about the protection of the language, minorities are not prohibited
from using their mother tongue although it is compulsory for them to
learn Latvian. It is obligatory to use Latvian in public enterprises
but not in unofficial correspondence, communication and services
which are religion-based.

LITHUANIA: According to the language laws of the Republic of Lithuania,
the official language is Lithuanian. To use this official language is
obligatory in official corporations and associations, courts and local
governments. Those who do not know enough Lithuanian cannot work in
public corporations. Within the scope of the Lithuanian Parliament,
there is a Language Commission which checks public bodies to determine
whether or not they are using Lithuanian.

POLAND: According to the Polish language act, the official language
is Polish. Special laws exist to protect the Polish language, and it
is obligatory to use Polish in public corporations and associations.

SLOVAKIA: According to an act of the Republic of Slovakia, the
country’s official language is Slovak. In religious ceremonies and
rituals the language determined by the church or other religious
associations is used. The government is obliged to teach Slovak to
all citizens. The codification of the official language is the task
of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

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