Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA)
The language of Kormakitis Village .
A language “goldmine” for ethnographic and linguistic research,
with links to the language of Jesus but very near to its “death”
Struggle to carry on the tongue
The Sanna Project: Workshop on The Revival of Cypriot Maronite Arabic Learning from the Sámi Experience
The Sanna House
(Kormakitis Club, Paphos Gate, Nicosia)
5-6 February 2010
Friday, 5 February, 3.30pm – 6.00pm
3.30 - 3.50 : Opening Addresses
Greg Reichberg, Director of PRIO Cyprus Centre
Michael Hajirousos, President of NGO HKI FI SANNA
Sverre Stub, Ambassador of Noway
Pantelis Demetriou, Managing Director of First Elements Euroconsultants
Session I Language Revival in the Context of CMA and Sámi Experiences
Chair: Costas Constantinou
3.50 - 4.10: Brian Bielenberg, Endangered Languages and their Revival: A Comparative
4.10- 4.30: George Skordis/Christiana Diola, The State of Cypriot Maronite Arabic
4.30 – 4.40: Brief Comments anf Questions
4.40 – 5.00: Marit Myrvoll, Overview of Sámi Culture and Rights to Language
Abstract: This presentation will give the participants a brief knowledge about the Sámi people, their history, society and current situation. The focus will be on the region where Várdobáiki is located, to show the cultural and linguistic context of the revitalisation efforts. An overview of cultural, linguistic and political rights provided in Norwegian acts and regulations will be given.
5.00 – 5.10: Beatrice Fløystad, The Experience of Growing up in the post-“Sámi-fight-
Abstract: My grandparents are all Sámi, they grew up under the harsh assimilation period and were forced to learn Norwegian language and way of life. The choice they had was: Stand up for their rights or disappear. My grandparents chose the latter because they didn’t want their children and grandchildren to suffer in the same way as they did because of our ethnic belonging. With my grandparents’ choice as a starting point, I will focus on political changes and how this affects my identity and life as a young Sámi in a very positive way. I will also talk about how it feels like to have grandparents who don’t want to support my Sámi identity; neither admits that they really belong to the Sámi people. As a grandchild searching for Sámi identity I’m the one bringing back disturbing and unpleasant memories, reminding them about their choices from the past.
5.10 – 5.20: Marit Myrvoll, The Importance of Cultural Heritage
Abstract: The acknowledgement of a history and thus cultural heritage of a people gives “identity roots” and a common memory of the past and a positive identity of today. With few written sources of history, the maintainance of immaterial cultural heritage is important to Sámi society – such as the continous story telling of traditions, both in past economic adaptations and religious/mythological beliefs.
5.20 – 6.00: Questions and Comments
Saturday, 6 February, 9.00am – 6.00pm
In the following four sessions in addition to their presentations our Sámi partners will bring teaching aid kits to show what they use in their language revitalisation work.
Session II Kindergarden and Pre-School children
9.00 – 9.25: Beatrice Fløystad: Teaching Language and Culture to Pre-school children
Abstract: In a region where we strive for revitalization of the Sámi language, it’s very important to have institutions where the language can be heard at an early age. It is also very important to introduce children to several aspects of the Sámi culture, and thus give them positive confirmation about their own culture. At the same time the children will learn about cultural similarities and differences, and about tolerance and respect for other cultural expressions. This presentation will give an overview of several ways to give an early introduction to and education in the Sámi language and culture. I will show how to use human resources from the local community in the kindergarden and how to make new contexts around the education in order to teach the children Sámi words as their first concepts about aspects of life. It is important to create new “rooms” where the Sámi language can be heard and used in many different ways.
9.25 – 9.30: Magne Huva: Language-Training/Courses for Kindergarden Staff
Abstract: It has been a challenge for the language situation in our kindergarden that most of the staff is not native Sámi language speakers. It has been impossible to get only Sámi-speaking employees. To meet the need for language competence, training courses started. The courses are designed for the daily routines in the kindergarden – having focus on relevant language concepts relating to for instance the interior of the kindergarden (wall, door, toilet) and situations as dressing, meals, indoor and outdoor plays. The employees also take part in regular courses for adults.
9.30 – 10.30: Discussion
10.30 – 10.45: Break
Session III School-Children and Youth
10.45 – 11.05: Beatrice Fløystad (1) The process of Sámi language/culture education in the region: pupils from 6 to 18 years and (2) Youth activities: Annual music and culture festival Youth club (Nuoraid Siida)
Abstract: In Norway, the ordinary school period is from age 6 to 18. In our region there is no separate Sámi school – all Sámi children attend the ordinary national elementary school. At the same time: Every Sámi pupil in Norway has a right to education in Sámi language if the parents choose so. So this presentation will give an overview of the development for the last decades and how the school situation has improved concerning the legal right to learn Sámi language and the increase in curriculum content concerning Sámi history, society and culture. There are many challenges, though, for instance to get qualified teachers.
Organisations and institutions like Várdobáiki, the Sámi Youth Club, the Sámi festival, the Sámi handicraft house, the school and the kindergarden are all important arenas for the Sámi population in the community. The youth wanted to create their own arenas and their own expressions of Sámi identity and belonging – and so the Youth club and the annual music and cultural festival Márkomeannu were established. To have a special meeting place and arrangements for the youth is very important. Várdobáiki is giving support by offering localities and an office for the festival. The youth meets at the youth club once a week where they have a common social meeting place – listening to music, reading Sámi newspapers and magazines, doing school homework, discussing relevant issues and taking relevant action (according to themselves). Márkomeannu – originally a Sámi youth festival, now attracting several generations – is arranged annually in the surroundings of our Sámi outdoor museum (a traditional Sámi farm). The festival’s focal point is modern and traditional Sámi music, performed by famous and not so famous musicians. But much more is happening and I will use photos to guide you around the activities in the youth club and festival.
11.05 – 11.15: Magne Huva, Teaching by doing: One-day school with Sámi culture, language and history. Target group: Elementary school, class 5 – 6 – 7.
Abstract: The Sámi language education in school is given in the regular Norwegian schools. This means that there are classes with just a few Sámi pupils in the schools, the majority of the pupils know little about Sámi language and culture. For the Sámi as a minority it is crucial that the majority population has both a good knowledge and good understanding of Sámi culture. In order to give these pupils some knowledge, and to raise the status of the Sámi students, we invite all pupils at these schools to a one-day school at our outdoor museum (an old traditional farm). They are presented to Sámi culture through practical themes like making traditional Sámi handicraft, learning Sámi songs and traditional way of singing and different activities related to outdoor life and primary industries (ex: catching running reindeers with a lasso).
11.15 – 12.15: Discussion
12.15 – 1.30: Lunch
Session IV The Parents Generation
Chair: Antonis Skoulos
1.30 – 1.55: Magne Huva, Language Education offered by Várdobáiki to the grown-up, out-of-school-generation: Ordinary courses + language-baths + courses based on activities
Abstract: There is a whole generation of Sámis in our region that did not learn the language as their primary language at home, and will have to take it back themselves. For more than ten years Várdobáiki has offered language courses at different levels: a) courses for new-beginners, who speak little or nothing of the language, b) courses for persons who understand, but have no speaking command of Sámi, c) courses for persons who speak the language, but are analphabets. There are few arenas where persons can hear and speak the language day and night; therefore we also arrange language-baths where participants are gathered for several days, doing various activities, and the only language allowed is Sámi. We have also arranged grammar courses (quite an advanced level), and courses for motivating persons to activate their language based on doing cultural activities like constructing a traditional Sámi tent, making Sámi food, doing outdoor activities like making bird snares.
1.55 – 2.00: Marit Myrvoll, Experience: Taking Back the Language as a Grown-up
Abstract: Growing up in a town in the 1950’s there was no option to learn Sámi language – even if my parents nurtured my Sámi identity and belonging. Becoming an adult with a very little command of the language, I wanted to learn it – and this presentation is about some of the victories and losses on the “language road”.
2.00 -300: Discussion
3.00 – 3.15: Break
Session V The Grandparents Generation
Chair: Joseph Kassapis
3.15 – 3.35: Tone Elvebakk, The Elders as a Language and Cultural Resource: Arrangements and Activities
Abstract: In this lecture the focus will be on the elders and how important they are in language revival efforts. Our elders know the local Sámi dialect, many have spoken it as their first or second language. Because of the assimilation politics and the devaluation of the culture and cultural expressions, the elders tried to hide their cultural background and the natural transfer from one generation to the next, from parents to children was almost broken. This transfer is crucial to revitalize and increase the awareness of the cultural heritage, and has to be done in other ways. So Várdobáiki is implementing this transfer of language and culture in arrangements and activities for elder Sámis. This generation’s Sámi identity has been devaluated, and when we are asking for their experiences and knowledge, their Sámi identity is given a positive value.
3.35 – 3.45: Tone Elvebakk, The Experience of Moving Back Home.
Abstract: Sharing experiences from moving back home from a city life among Norwegians to the home place. This presentation will be mostly about the deep impact cultural heritage has on everyday life, but yet how unaware we are about it.
3.45 – 4.45: Discussion
4.45 – 5.00: Break
Session VI Concluding Session
Chair: Brian Bielenberg
5.00 – 6.00: Discussion on Lessons to be learnt and Recommendations
The dual purpose of the SANNA project is to provide childcare and youth empowerment for the Maronite community of Cyprus while simultaneously protecting and reviving its seriously endangered language, known to its speakers as sanna and officially as Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA). The SANNA Project will do so by establishing and running a multipurpose cultural/language centre for Cypriot Maronite children and youth (the Bait el Sanna - “House of Sanna”) and by organizing a practitioners’ workshop for educators, activists and youth leaders interested in protecting and reviving CMA. Currently, a structural policy for revival of CMA is being developed by the Cypriot government; however, there remains a lack of communal facilities, relevant experience and well-targeted action.
The objectives to be achieved through this project are: (1) to create a novel community cultural/language centre targeting Maronite (pre-school and school) children and youth; (2) to provide healthy opportunities for recreation that constructively engage Maronite children and youth in cultural activities which explicitly or implicitly immerse them in CMA; (3) to raise awareness among Maronite youth and children, in particular, and Cypriot stakeholders working with children and youth, in general, as to the benefits of protecting and reviving CMA; (4) to transfer experiences and best practices from a Sami NGO involved with revitalising the Sami language in Norway to the Maronite community and beyond.
The project outputs are: (1) a “Language Nest”, that is a childcare facility that will combine play with language learning for pre-school age children; (2) a theatre class which will deliver rehearsals and performances of plays in CMA; (3) a music class, which will deliver music nights and the production of a CD of songs in CMA, including new compositions; (4) a comprehensive multimedia Greek to CMA dictionary and phrasebook to be distributed to all Cypriot Maronite families; (5) a workshop on minority language protection and revitalization, drawing on experience with Sami children and youth.
The expected impacts of this project are the targeted improvement of childcare service for the children of displaced Maronites, the creation of equal opportunities for children with special linguistic needs, and the empowerment of young Maronites to protect and promote their cultural heritage. In addition, the revival of CMA will have an impact on the overall social health and welfare of Maronite children and youth as well as the broader community, enhancing the cultural richness of Cyprus, not only bicommunally but multicommunally.
Following the events of 1974, the vast majority of Cypriot Maronites were forced to relocate from their traditional villages in the northern part of Cyprus to the urban areas of the south, primarily Nicosia. This dislocation, coupled with the placement of Maronite children into a variety of Greek medium schools, has played a major role in the gradual loss of Maronite culture and language, to the point were today fewer than 900 mostly elderly speakers of Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA) remain, and with another 600 retaining good to basic understanding. CMA has been classified as an endangered language by UNESCO and the Council of Europe and was recognized by the Republic of Cyprus as a Minority Language in November 2008. Efforts are currently underway to develop a structural policy for the protection and revival of CMA; however there remains a lack of communal facilities, relevant experience and coordinated and well-targeted action. Promises from the Cypriot government of funds to construct a Maronite school and cultural centres were slow in coming, with St. Maronas Primary School opening only in the Fall of 2004. Childcare facilities and youth centres specifically targeting Maronite young people are still essentially non-existent.
These circumstances have resulted in the vast majority of young Maronites speaking only Greek. The loss of their mother tongue has, in turn, meant a reduction in the intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge, and with this, the disappearance of a wealth of information about Maronite history, culture, stories, songs and traditional practices. For young people, the loss of language also means a loss of a part of their identity, and uncertainty in terms of belongingness. For most young people, language is an integral, positive and vital part of self- and cultural-identities. As such, there are a number of socio-cultural as well as personal benefits in fully maintaining and developing minority languages and bilingualism. When circumstances lead a family, group of people, or even a nation to lose a language, the net results often include a breakdown of socialization practices within families and communities. The consequences of such breakdown affect the local group in different ways, such as the progressive devaluing of its cultural heritage and lower self-esteem but also society in general through increases in social problems, like social marginalization, maladjustment and structural discrimination. Through improved childcare services and opportunities for young Maronites to participate in cultural life, the SANNA project seeks to foster a healthier community that is empowered to promote its cultural heritage through active and equal participation in civil society. Moreover, the SANNA project will contribute towards the emerging but as yet incomplete language revitalization effort by addressing the linguistic and cultural needs of the children and youth of a historical but small minority (approximately 6000 people), who currently face strong pressures of assimilation.
Overall, the SANNA project has a twofold aim: (a) to provide childcare services and youth empowerment for the Maronite community of Cyprus and (b) through the process to protect and revive its seriously endangered language, known to its speakers as sanna and officially as Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA). In pursuit of these aims, the project proposes to establish and run a multipurpose cultural-language centre for Cypriot Maronite children and youth (the “Bait el Sanna”, hereafter the “House of Sanna”) that will host a language nest pre-school playgroup, theatre and music activities for children and youth, and a language teaching materials development group, that will produce a multimedia Greek to CMA dictionary. In addition, the SANNA project will organize a practitioners’ workshop for educators, activists and youth leaders focused on best practice with respect to protecting and reviving endangered languages through children’s play and cultural activities.
The SANNA project has four objectives:
(1) It will establish a multipurpose, cultural-language centre (the House of Sanna) that will host a playgroup for Maronite children and sponsor cultural activities for children and youth of different ages. Specifically it will convert the Kormakitis Club Cultural Centre located near Paphos Gate, old Nicosia (opposite the Maronite Cathedral and next to the Kormakitis Club cafeteria), into a functional centre for children and youth. This House of Sanna is planned as a cost-effective and efficient centre as it will be used for various activities and programs (that is, the CMA language nest childcare program, CMA theatre and music groups, and a language materials development group). The activities will target both pre-school age children as well as Maronite youth who attend primary and secondary Greek and English medium schools. This conversion will improve childcare and youth support provision for a major minority community in Cyprus. Currently there is no such provision despite Council of Europe recommendations and the intentions in principle of the Cyprus government for one to be established. The creation of such a Centre will greatly encourage the participation of young Maronites in social and cultural affairs, enabling them to protect and promote their distinctive ethno-cultural identity, itself a healthy sign of Cypriot cultural wealth. Furthermore, such a centre will be a means of supporting meaningful multiculturalism, whereby the minority culture is given equal opportunity to transmit and disseminate its culture, in line with the objectives of this Call. Such a centre will also support underprivileged children in the sense that the overwhelming majority of Maronite children are descendants of refugees or of enclaved people currently living in the Turkish-occupied villages in the north - and so equal opportunity for these children will be improved.
(2) Following from the first objective, the SANNA project will provide healthy opportunities for recreation and entertainment that constructively engage Maronite children and youth in cultural activities that explicitly or implicitly immerse them in CMA. Specifically the House of Sanna will conduct a number of play and cultural activities that will help revive CMA. Examples of these activities include the establishment of CMA medium pre-school playgroups, a CMA theatre group, CMA music activities, and the development of a CMA multimedia dictionary and phrasebook. These are of particular importance as today’s Maronite children and youth are mostly children of refugees and have grown away from the cradle of their language (following the 1974 war and division of the island which forced almost all Maronites to relocate to the south and away from their socio-cultural habitat). Their special linguistic needs can best be met by creating CMA immersion programs and environments, a practice that has been seen to be effective in a number of communities around the world. This is necessary as the current situation is such that these children are no longer being socialized into the language in their homes and have extremely limited opportunities to hear and practice the language outside of the home. CMA is currently only available as an after school extracurricular option in the primary school of St Maronas in Anthoupoli (the only Maronite school in Cyprus) and is not at all available at the secondary level, a provision that has been rightly described by the Council of Europe as inadequate. The playgroup and cultural activities planned in the SANNA project are therefore paramount for the protection and revival of CMA and for making it a socially meaningful practice for children and youth. In so doing, the SANNA project will help to meet the special linguistic needs of Maronite children and empower youth to learn about, practice, promote and protect their cultural heritage.
(3) The SANNA project will raise cultural awareness among Maronite youth and children, as well as among Cypriot stakeholders more generally, as to the benefits of protecting and reviving CMA. To that end, a comprehensive multimedia CMA dictionary and phrasebook is planned, that will be geared towards a younger generation of CMA speakers, taking into account their unique learning styles, preferences and needs. Furthermore, the CMA Music and Theatre Groups that will be part of the SANNA project will constitute novel attempts to keep the children and youth culturally engaged and entertained while indirectly immersing them in CMA, often a more effective and sustainable way of protecting and reviving endangered languages. The pre-school “language nest” will equally combine fun and play with learning CMA and create awareness of its existence at the earliest ages. Language awareness is a very important aspect for the SANNA project and indeed for the protection and revival of any endangered language, and to that end the existence of the House of Sanna will function as a focal point for creating minority language awareness. This is particularly important as most Cypriots do not know that such a language exists and feel strange or even shocked when they hear CMA put to use by their colleagues or neighbors. The existence of the House of Sanna and the dissemination of the outcomes of the project will help Maronites regain pride in a language that many (especially the younger generation) feel embarrassed to use in public, given that it singles them out as ‘Arabs’, ‘non-Europeans’, ‘peasants’ or halahoulides (barbaric or incomprehensible speakers). The House of Sanna and its activities will provide a forum for Maronite youth to discuss identity, cultural continuity, peer pressure, and belongingness. In line with the EEA fund objectives, the Sanna Project will enhance multicommunal understanding and respect as to the existence of other cultures in Cyprus (beyond the Greek and Turkish cultures) and contribute to combating racism in young ages and beyond.
(4) The SANNA project aims to transfer know-how from groups with experience in language revival, specifically the Sami community of Norway and its success in revitalising the Sami language, to the Maronite community, which has just begun to seriously address language renewal. The project will organise a workshop in which Sami experts and activists working on language revival among Sami children and youth will share their experiences and advise educators and activists currently working with Maronite children and youth and the prospective staff of the House of Sanna. The workshop will provide an overview of the Sami situation with a focus on Várdobáiki (a Sami multipurpose centre with similar objectives to those of the House of Sanna) and discuss the psychology of language revival, with reference to working with Sami children and youth. It will also examine issues such as campaigns for language consciousness within and across the community and the creation of minority language presence through the use of games, place names and minority cultural dissemination. The SANNA project will therefore also develop useful contacts between the Sami and the Cypriot Maronite communities and enhance bilateral relations between the Cypriot and Norwegian civil societies, again in line with the core objectives of this Call.