World’s first language festival begins in Bremen

World's first language festival begins in Bremen
The world’s first ever “festival of languages” opens in Bremen this Thursday, with events across the city, from the university to the local parliament.

Marking the festival visually will be a “pyramid of language,” to be constructed in the square in front of the university. Wood from Fir trees has been divided into exactly 6,500 cubes – the same number as there are languages in the world.

Each of these cubes will have a language inscribed on it before being placed in the University square as part of a 6-metre high pyramid.

“The idea behind the pyramid of languages is to give the spectators something more concrete and tangible to watch, which helps to convey the enormous linguistic wealth of our world,” Professor Thomas Stolz of the University of Bremen, one of the organizers of the festival, told The Local.

A colleague, Hans Krings, is the chief builder of the pyramid, and worked on the plans with town officials. They had to overcome several risks to the construction, including the possibility of gale force winds that might knock one of the blocks or 13,000 screws out of place.

Construction of the pyramid will start on September 21, and last a full week, as part of the Festival of Languages. The 21 day festival offers visitors a chance to take part in more than 100 language-focused events across the town, including taster courses for some languages and theatre, music and art exhibitions. Organisers are expecting visitors to come from across the globe.

“One of the most important aims of the festival is to make people aware of the omnipresence and importance of language for human life,” explained Stolz.

But it is also hoped that the festival will draw attention to languages under threat, and celebrate their cultural importance too.

“We want to encourage young people to learn and study languages, but also to consider the linguistic diversity of our world a cultural asset,” Stolz continued.

In his own research as a Linguistics Professor at the University of Bremen Stolz himself confronted the uncertain future facing some of the world’s least-spoken languages. He studied, for example, the Chamorro language of Guam, finding it to be one of many languages seriously under threat worldwide.

“We want to show that all languages are equal, no matter how large, politically or economically potent their speech-communities are,” he added.

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