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AAU Centre for Federal and Governance Studies (CFGS), Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) call a Conference

Addis Ababa University Centre for Federal and Governance Studies (CFGS) and Hanns Seidel Foundation organized a conference on Federalism and Language Policy for a Multilingual Polity on Friday November 25, 2019 at MADO hotel.

Christophe Van der Beken (PhD), Associate Professor in the School of Law and Governance of AAU, said “what languages are you going to select to be used as official language at federal level needs wide-ranging discussions and consensus politics.”

Berihun Adugna (PhD), one of the researchers, said on his part that though the Federal Government of Ethiopia has given recognition for all languages, the implementation task has not yet been effectively carried out.

Professor Eva Maria Belser, Chair of Constitutional and Administrative Law at University of Fribourg (CALF), in her presentation—“States, Laws and Languages: The Challenge of Multilingual Governance” said that different languages carry different wisdoms.

Maria Besler said multilingualism helps creating and appreciating cultural awareness and enhances creativity.

“It’s better for your brain. Being multilingual actually changes your brain structure…” Besler said.

The Chair of CALF told the staff reporter ‘researchers’ say multilingualism can fuel exports, increase salaries and help innovation.

Doctor Elizabeth Alber, from EURAC Research Bolzano, stated education often fundamental trigger to federalization processes; granting linguistic rights to communities has often been the driver for internal peace-keeping and decentralization reforms, with the use of languages in education at the forefront.

Doctor E. Alber also said the use of languages in education may also be recognized by specific international or inter-State agreements (border territories that have changed from one State’s hands to another, or international obligations linked to gaining sovereignty)

“The broader question of the constitutional accommodation of linguistic or ethno cultural communities within a multinational or multi-lingual State has implications for the use of languages in education, and on how narratives on communities are shaped”  Alber added.

Dirk J. Brand, Professor of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University, in his demonstration on “Language policy and practice- a pragmatic approach” explained the language policy of a country could state that there is only one official language, but it could be possible that local languages could be one of the options for education purposes in addition to the official language.

“Citizens must be able to communicate with their government in a language that both citizen and the respective officials understand.  It is therefore important that not only the design of a language policy, but also how it is implemented, should be responsive to the needs of people in all local and regional settings” Professor Brand emphasized.

Various government and non-government representatives, domestic and foreign researchers attended the one-day conference.

Theodros Shewangizaw November 26, 2019

Photograph by Fikremariam Beyene