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Conference considers ideas about promoting and preserving minority languages

15 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Graffiti in Catalonia. Picture by Don McCullough (CC BY 2.0)

Speakers from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Canada have attended a conference to share experiences and ideas about promoting and preserving minority languages.

The event, Innovation and Good Practice in Language Policy, held on Thursday 8 February, brought international experts together to discuss the successes and challenges of preserving minority languages, and to thank Emeritus Professor Colin H Williams for his contribution to language policy.

The conference was organised jointly between the Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 and Cardiff University’s School of Welsh.

“Significant contribution”

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said: “The Welsh Government has a clear vision for the Welsh language, and innovative plans to turn that vision into a reality. The conference was an opportunity for us to share our experiences, to listen and to learn lessons from other countries.

“It was also an opportunity for us to come together to thank Emeritus Professor Colin H Williams for his significant contribution to language policy, in front of a Welsh and international audience. Colin’s research and wise advice has been invaluable, and he’s always ready to help and challenge constructively.”


The Head of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University, Dr Dylan Foster Evans, said: “For us at the School of Welsh at Cardiff University, the expertise, generosity and support of Professor Colin H. Williams is a daily inspiration.

“This conference was an opportunity to see and appreciate the impact of those qualities on colleagues and friends around the world.

“It was a privilege to be part of an event to honour Colin, and his own contributions to the discussions were incisive, adventurous and innovative, as always.

“We all have challenges ahead of us in our different fields, but Colin inspires us to face them with confidence.”

Jeremy Miles and Colin Williams

Dr Ane Ortega from the Equiling project in the Basque Country said: “One of the things that researchers and activists of minoritized languages have learned is how important it is to work together, to learn from each other, to imagine novel ways of doing things, and to give each other support.

“Professor Colin Williams believed in this, and all his visits to other parts of the world and his extensive writing prove it. The work he did was not just for Welsh, it was for all minority languages, and by extension for a more equal world.

“For me it was a real privilege to take part in this conference in honour of Colin to show the respect and gratitude that we Basques feel for him.  Eskerrik asko bihotz bihotzez, Colin!

Dr Maite Puigdevall Serralvo from the Open University of Catalonia said: “The conference was a celebration of the outstanding and enduring contributions of Emeritus Professor Colin Williams to advance language policy in Wales and in many other minority language communities in Europe and the world.

“The conference mirrored the way he has been working during all his long professional trajectory in search for best practice interventions that may serve to strengthen and advance policies and practices in other minority language contexts.

“But for me, the most important feature of the gathering was the demonstration of respect and love from students, friends, colleagues and family for his legacy and the personal impact that his mentoring, encouragement, generosity and support has had on many of us.

“It was the best way to say, thank you to Colin for what you have done for us all, the academic, the political but also the personal contribution.

Global expert

Colin Williams was among the first pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen. Following  a career as a lecturer and Professor at Staffordshire University’s Geography Department, and subsequently as a researcher on the Canadian People’s Encyclopedia project, ‘Multicultural History Society’ at the University of Toronto, Canada, he was appointed Professor at Cardiff University’s School of Welsh in 1994.

He was recently honoured Emeritus Professor of Cardiff University. He is a fellow of the Von Hügel Institute, University of Cambridge. He has been elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

His research projects include comparing the European and Canadian Language Commissioners; he has also conducted a study of language strategies in Canada and Europe.

He was one of the lead authors of the From Act to Action report concentrating on the implementation of language policy legislation. He was a Member of the Scientific Committee of Lingua Mon, Barcelona, 2007–2013. He was one of 6 global experts to drive the Irish language’s 20-year strategy. He was Member of the former Welsh Language Board.

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5 months ago

Cyfraniad enfawr gan yr Athro Colin Williams i ddwyieithwydd rhyngwladol – yn aml heb ei lawn werthfawrogi yn ei wlad ei hun. Da gweld y gynhadledd hon yn benodol yn ei anrhydeddu

Richard E
Richard E
5 months ago

We owe so much to Colin over many years and when the “ usual suspects “ get their gongs for reward – just give a brief thought about how one individual’s research activities have moved Wales on in understanding it’s languages place within Europe and the World .

During my time on the Welsh Language Board, his quiet guidance and evidence based information was key to delivering outcomes and progress.

Llawer o ddiolch i ti Colin am eu gwasaneth bendigedig dros ungain blwyddyn a mwy.

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