Bridging Communities: Language Advocacy for Human Connections

By: Cheryl

This article was originally published on Language Access Coalition of Canada. To view the video embedded in the original post, visit HERE.

The fourth annual Canadian Language Advocacy Day (LAD) was celebrated in Gatineau, Quebec on February 21st, 2024, and transcended mere policy discussions and legislative agendas; it was a testament to the profound power of language in nurturing human connections. Bringing together over 60 language advocates representing diverse linguistic communities, including Indigenous, French, American Sign Language (ASL), Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), and minority/newcomer languages in Canada, the event became a vibrant tapestry of cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

At its core, #LAD is meant to be celebration of the richness of human expression and the intricate ways in which language binds communities together, reconcile disparities and heals relationships. Through dialogue, collaboration, and sharing experiences, we hoped we will forge connections that will transcend linguistic boundaries, and foster a sense of unity amidst diversity and polarity. By affirming #languageright as fundamental #humanright, our event emphasized the intrinsic value of each language individuals speak or sign and the importance of securing access to language service in parallel with preserving and promoting linguistic diversity. In doing so, we also recognized that language is not merely a tool for communication but a repository of our heritage, identity, and collective memory.
When we think about creating human connections, Language Advocacy Day provided us with a platform to share our stories, struggles, and aspirations for a linguistically inclusive future. By focusing on the needs and the voice of marginalizing communities and thinking how to advocate for equitable and inclusive language access policies, we were aiming at demonstrating our commitment to creation of a more just, if not more empathetic society. It offered a welcome change from the usual separation and divide, encouraging broader understanding in the place of isolated thinking. By moving beyond concentrating just on issues of one separate language groups and considering a comprehensive, joint approach, we acknowledged the relationships between our shared challenges and goals. As one participant succinctly put it, “LAD24 fostered conversations with people I normally wouldn’t engage with. We somehow were able to view linguistic diversity not as a dividing factor, but as a strength, understanding that only our united voices can boost our influence and drive positive change.”
Moreover, the #LAD24 served as a catalyst for building bridges between different linguistic communities, fostering respect, and mutual appreciation for each other struggle and successes. Through exchanges, discussion, dialogues and collaborative workshop, we also gained a deeper understanding of each other’s traditions, values, and worldviews, deepened our sense of solidarity, interconnectedness and appreciation of the land we live on.
In essence, we believe that Canadian Language Advocacy Day exemplified the transformative potential of language in nurturing human connections by recognizing and celebrating linguistic diversity, fostering empathy and understanding, and advocating for inclusive policies. We trust that the #LAD24 also laid the essential groundwork for a more inclusive and compassionate society where every single voice, spoken or signed voice will be heard and valued equally.