Katti Frederiksen is head of The Language Secretariat of Greenland, working as an administrator for international relations, with the production of dictionaries, nordic affairs, and information and public relations.
Can you explain why Greenlandic is considered endangered?
The Greenlandic language is not endangered. That said, we should not just sit back and relax. Greenlandic society is going through significant development, and so are the languages. Danish is taught from 1st grade, and suddenly English is gradually replacing the Danish vocabulary among the children.
How does the current social structure influence the Greenlandic language?
Danish is considered to be the key to schools and universities. Since the Danish language is used in educational institutions, there is no advantage of speaking Greenlandic. In theory, you would be able to prosper with only Danish in Greenland. If we are too inattentive, we risk the loss of domains. I find that sad and worrying.
To what extent do you believe that Danish and English influence people’s willingness to use Greenlandic?
It is essential to learn and master the Greenlandic language from an early age, right from the nursery, to the kindergarten, primary school, educational institutions, and workplaces. To form an overview of the Greenlandic language and strengthen the language, we must focus on summarizing a coherent language planning.
How can the education system ensure the Greenlandic language, and where do you see its strengths and weaknesses?
A great focus should be on the attitudes at the educational institutions. However, it can be challenging while many Danish-speaking teachers and administrators cannot see the importance of using the mother tongue. Besides, the educational institutions have the opportunity to take part in developing of the Greenlandic subject terminology within their academic fields. Hereby, discussion and communication in class, be established on a common vocabulary.
What can the individual do to secure and support Greenlandic?
You can use and speak the language. That said, it is a task that the individual cannot lift, but a conscious social action in which many forces ‘play together’ and create a synergy.
How do you see Greenlandic’s development in the years to come, and what language initiatives do you expect to see?
I would like to see more aids developed for the subject Greenlandic. For example, this could be the development of language technology tools, so Greenlandic can keep up with the digital world. It could also be the development of Greenlandic language games, where you can learn Greenlandic through ‘play.’ It is important to emphasize that initiative must come from the public area and private actions.
Do you have any recommendations if one wants to know more about Greenlandic and its current status?
To support private initiatives, one can, for example, make language prices or similar. Besides, you can read more about Oqaasileriffik’s work on our website or contact us.