Danish Language Protection Laws Deemed Unnecessary

The Danish Culture Ministry has announced that there is no need to pass language protection laws in Denmark at this time, but that other steps should be taken to protect the Danish language.

According to the Copenhagen Post Online, the announcement marks the conclusion of a special government committee investigation into whether or not the use of English is threatening the future viability of Danish.

Although the report released by the committee did not recommend that any new laws be passed to protect Danish, it did recommend steps that the Danish people should take to help preserve their native tongue. For example, the report stressed the “duty” of Danes to preserve the language in their homes and in their schools.

The country’s university system was listed in the report as the one area of Danish life in which additional regulations might be beneficial. Some members of the committee, including its chairman, believe that additional regulation could be used to encourage the development of Danish professional terminology, reducing the reliance on English and other foreign languages.

Interestingly, the report also encouraged Danes to spend more time studying other Nordic languages, like Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese. Since all of these languages are descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, they are all closely related and it is fairly easy for a native speaker of one language to pick up one of the others.

According to the report, “Danes can achieve a deeper understanding of our neighbour languages in just a few weeks than they can by studying foreign languages for years.”

The Danish language has come under increasing pressure from foreign language entertainment in recent years, and the committee recommended encouraging TV and films in other Nordic languages to help counteract this effect.

Slovakia and Hungary in Language Law Row

On the last day of June, Slovakia passed a law governing language use in their country. According to this article, posted on, the law makes it illegal to use “incorrect” Slovak in Slovakia. The punishment is harsh with fines as high as 5,000 euros (£4,315).

Basically, the law makes it very difficult for speakers of minority languages to publicly communicate in their native language in Slovakia. For example, at public events, speeches and such must be given in Slovak first and the other language second-even if the only people present at the event speak the minority language.

Michael Gahler, the vice-chair for the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, has condemned the new language law as a violation of EU standards regarding minority languages. In the article referenced above, he is quoted as saying:

“Slovakia is violating commonly respected standards in the EU and is disregarding respective recommendations of the Council of Europe, which foresee the extended use of minority languages,” Gahler said, going as far as declaring that the country “risks discrediting itself as an EU member and becoming a totalitarian state again if the new provisions are consistently applied”.

The main minority language in Slovakia is Hungarian, which means that Hungary is not pleased, either.  The Hungarian government has asked the Slovakian government to stop the law from being implemented, but they have this far declined, with Slovakian leaders saying that it is not discriminatory.

However, Laszlo Öllős, a political analyst, was quoted as saying that the law is very ambiguous, increasing the potential for abuse.  According to Mr. Öllős, it could even be interpreted to apply to conversations between doctors and patients who speak the same (minority) language.

Debates over “official languages” and how much support to give minority language speakers have raged in many different countries. All too often, the debates become more about hostilities between two different groups than about protecting a specific language or culture. Fining doctors and patients for conversing in a language that they both share seems to be somewhat mean-spirited, and possibly dangerous if it keeps the patient from getting the best possible care.

Postmaster Loses Job after Foreign Language Ban

Bloglingua previously reported the news about the Postmaster from Nottingham who refused to serve some customers as they were unable to communicate in English.

Mr Kumarasiri was moved to new post office, on his request. He has now been told by the agency which employed him that his contract will not be renewed.

The BBC reported Mr Kumarasiri as saying, “I was forced out by a small minority of people who don’t want to integrate into society.”

Mr Kumarasiri claims that he has been threatened by people in the community and the local Muslim leaders began a petition against him. Polish migrants have reportedly also been boycotting the store as well.

The Post Office has said that the postal service they provide is for everyone and they are very concerned about the impact this incident may have on trade. The Post Office is part of Royal Mail which has been a constitution in the United Kingdom (UK) for many years. Despite its recent money troubles the company continues to operate providing a service for everyone in the UK.

What about tourists?

When we go on holiday we expect people to give us a bit of slack with the local language and be polite and helpful.

It seems obvious though when reading Mr Kumarasiri’s argument that he was specifically referring to people who have moved to the UK from abroad to live. His frustration is that he worked hard to take on the British way of life and he wishes those coming to the UK these days would give the country the same respect.

Confusion over Nazi Slogan Translations

The federal court of justice has overturned the conviction of a man who was fined 4,200 euros for possessing and transporting 100 t-shirts which were to be sold with the words ‘Blood and Honour’ printed on the front.

‘Blood and Honour’ is a translation of the German ‘Blut und Ehre’ which was a Hitler Youth slogan.

The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organisation of the Nazi party, which existed from 1922 until 1945. Young boys were recruited both voluntarily and under duress and trained to be soldiers and ‘true believers’. By the Second World War the Hitler Youth had over eight million members.

In the latter years of the Second World War the Hitler Youth held a large recruitment drive calling up boys as young as ten years old which meant that most young males in Germany became members. As part of their uniform the young boys aged 10 – 18 wore daggers which had the swastika symbol on the handle and early examples had the words ‘Blut und Ehre’ inscribed on the blade. ‘Blut und Ehre’ or in English ‘Blood and Honour had become their motto.

Today the display of Nazi symbols or slogans is forbidden in Germany, but the court ruled that the ban only applied to slogans or text written in German. The court said the context of the original phrase had been sufficiently distorted to render its usage legal. It also said, “By translating it into another language, the Nazi slogan, which is characterized not just by its meaning but also by the German language, is fundamentally transformed.”

The defendant however has not been released. He may now be charged with supplying goods with Nazi imagery on and there is a possibility he could still be convicted of using the English phrase “Blood & Honour” because it was also the name of a far-right organization that is banned in Germany, the original verdict had not taken this into account. The man has not been named at this time.

Surely that is the slogan no matter what language it is in. It has been printed for maximum effect, to offend and upset others.

Quebec’s Controversial Video Game Language Laws

A recent law passed in Quebec forbids the sale of English only games if a French translation exists or will be released at some point.

Not many games are officially translated into French (or many other languages) and I doubt that gamers will want to wait for them as many games are released in English long before they are translated.

This could be the end of the road for games shops in Quebec as gamers turn to the internet to snap up the latest releases. The goal of the new law is to protect and promote the French language. It will be even harder for local game stores to compete with the internet giants such as which these laws can’t touch.

More and more companies are starting to release translated games, especially for consoles such as the Nintendo DS as many of the games have high text content unlike action games on the Sony Playstation 3 and X-box 360 for example. Although the process of translating a whole game into a different language can be expensive and after translation it must then be thoroughly tested again as code may need to be changed in line with the new text for the game to work correctly.

Games should be available in your choice of language and a professional translation company can help game companies achieve this within budget and on time.

Unfortunately for Canadian games shops the new law is bad news and it won’t be long until these small time stores die a sad and painful death and the internet giants take over.

New Welsh Language Law Proposed

A new measure has been proposed in Wales to help encourage the use of the Welsh language there. According to the BBC, the new proposal, which was just published by the assembly government, has several key features. First, it would require some private sector companies to provide services in Welsh when requested by Welsh speakers. Telecoms, electricity and gas providers, bus and railway companies and companies providing sewage services would all be affected and could be fined for not providing adequate Welsh-language services. Public sector companies would also be required to comply.


According to the Daily Post, the fines could be as high as ₤5000, and any company that receives more than ₤400,000 worth of money per year from taxpayers would be affected by the new requirements. Second, the proposed law would scrap the Welsh Language Board in support of appointing a Welsh language commissioner with increased power to enforce language laws.

First Minister Carwyn Jones told the BBC that “The proposed measure provides us with some of the tools we need to ensure that the Welsh language can continue to prosper into the 21st Century alongside the English language.”
However, some Welsh language advocates don’t feel that the proposed legislation goes far enough. For example, the BBC quotes Menna Machreth, chair of the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg), who welcomed the proposal but cautioned:

“This measure doesn’t affect much of the private sector. The assembly doesn’t have the powers for shops to be included in this measure, which we’ve been calling for because they are a massive part of day to day lives, and if we want to see the Welsh language as a living language around us, I think the Welsh language should be mainstreamed and pulled into the private sector as well.”