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Languages 4 Core Value - Language Sovereignty | The First Pillar of Languages 4

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February 10, 2023

Languages 4 Core Value - Language Sovereignty | The First Pillar of Languages 4

What exactly is language sovereignty, and why is it such an important topic? As I began my work in the Indigenous language reclamation, preservation, and revitalization effort, it was a concept that I vaguely understood but greatly underestimated, especially compared to the more tangible statistics of language loss. However, the more conversations I had and the more mentoring I received (for which I am forever grateful), I began to understand the profound importance of preserving not just the language itself but the role of caretaker and arbiters. These languages hold priceless cultural, historical, and social value, and they play a crucial role in shaping the identity of Indigenous communities. Therefore, it made sense that these same communities should ultimately shepherd their health and preservation.

The semantics and context for this discussion must be clearly defined. Simply put, language sovereignty is the right of Indigenous peoples to control and manage their ancestral languages and to determine how their language is used, preserved, and revitalized. Historically and tragically, this has not been the case. The terms of ownership, proprietary, and scholarship have been used as weapons against indigenous communities by governments, religious organizations, and even “support” foundations. These efforts have had devastating consequences.

Therefore, efforts to reclaim, preserve, or revitalize a heritage language should always be guided and driven by the affected communities. Furthermore, all collaborative projects with Indigenous communities must resolve questions of sovereignty clearly and resolutely. It is a crucial factor for the success of any process.

That's why promoting language sovereignty is one of the fundamental principles of Languages 4, a cornerstone in the foundation of our business model and practices. Clarity and transparency, as well as all things financial, have been informed with this core value. We believe that our Indigenous partners have the right to determine the protection and use of their ancestral languages while we help guide and develop resources together to reclaim and preserve and or revitalize them.

Tim O'Hagan - Founder and President, Languages 4

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