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Lingua Café 2024: from Community Resilience to Building Language-Inclusive Worlds

04.04.2024 | Authors: Thalia Rahme and Soledad Magnone

Lee en Español, اللغة العربية and Français

logo LC

Lingua Café (LC) is a virtual space and community (for now) that organises various activities reflecting upon the politics of the intersections between human rights, digital technologies and languages. We explore these topics while foregrounding solutions that facilitate conversations across cultures. We equally value all languages and make special efforts to level up innovative efforts from under-resourced communities that bring about stories of hope. In this blog, we share our latest developments and intentions to expand perspectives through mapping, blogs, podcasts, language exchanges and other collaborations to be materialised with you!

The significance of LC efforts is related to the broad overlooking of non-English languages in digital governance. These represent injustices in the access to knowledge and active participation in the development of tech, policies, research, which end up built in the interest of the economic power of a few states, corporations and cultures of domination. For example, the Facebook Papers evidenced that 9% of its users speak English, yet the tech monopoly dedicates 87% of its spending to this language. At the same time, digital tools increasingly allow us to understand each other with automatic language translations; yet, often these resources surveil and reinforce the exclusion of minority languages, such as indigenous, Asian and Arabic.

Back to the Future: a year of transitions and new beginnings

Since 2023, LC organised online and in-person actions consisting of making key takeaways accessible in Arabic, French, Spanish and English. Starting with peer-to-peer language exchanges, we launched the LC Chats about the virtual Mozilla Festival’s language inclusion constellations; and 7amleh’s online hate speech and censorship monitoring tools around the Palestinian war. We broadened these conversations at the Feira Global Gathering in Portugal, in conversation with international civil society organisations, funders, journalists and social media platforms enquiring: What is a language-inclusive world? How can digital technologies materialise it? What is the role of the digital rights community?

In 2024, we will build an overview of digital rights and language inclusion efforts oriented by cultural rights. This resource will represent a broad panorama, spanning from individuals, groups or organisation, contributing to the field with various perspectives, such as academia, civil society, private or governments. The panorama will be shared in a collaborative spreadsheet openly available for anyone to edit and remix, either to establish collaborations, identify advances and missing links in the field.

Secondly, we will organise podcasts and blog discussions building upon the LC panorama, accessible in short formats and various languages. We acknowledge that LC reproduces traditional power structures by using dominant languages such as English, Spanish and Arabic languages. Thus, we will seek collaborations with minority communities and languages, such as people with disabilities, indigenous and gender diverse. The process will be mindful of low-end technology, open and free resources which can be replicated by a broader community. Blogs and podcasts will share our tactics and lessons learnt in this endeavour.

Finally, we want to harness the power of LC lessons learnt in our past language exchanges. We will share basic activities and recommendations to facilitate online and in-person discussions around these topics. We foster this to encourage a broader community dedicated to these issues. We will openly share basic resources we have used in past activities to facilitate discussions and build a more language inclusive world creating, repurposing and contesting different digital tools. This will create synergies with the LC Overview, complementing actions, shedding light on overlooked experiences, and enticing ideas of innovation from spaces and groups often disregarded.

We want to hear from you!

Reach out for partnerships, funding and collaboration of different actions from with you or your organisations can benefit and continue building Lingua Cafe:

  • Share your actions on language inclusion for the LC Overview.
  • Take part in a podcast or blog conversation.
  • Self-organise a LC activity and imprint your perspective in our LC resources.
  • Sign up to translate any of the LC activities or provide with technical support in this regard.

Email us to jallalla [at] jaaklac [dot] org

About LC

LC grew from the TCU Arts and Music MatterMost Channel with Rima, Erin and Sole. The group exchanged music and podcasts from different countries to hold on during hard times of the COVID-19 pandemic health, economic and digital transformation crises. Later on, we onboarded Shaimaa and Thalia. Until 2023 TCU generously provided with tools such as Wiki, Jitsi and social media, and Vic’s fabulous support. The group is now facilitated by Thalia and Sole, welcoming new contributors!

LC started as monthly peer-to-peer language exchanges, to further learn across cultures and expand community networks. Since last year, organised higher-level discussions with the LC Chats and blogs, pursuing greater visibility, contributions, support and thematic interests. TCU has supported amazingly since our launch, however, LC has been independent in topics and activities. All our work so far has been based in volunteer and international solidarity. You can still find us in one of TCU MatterMost subchannels. LC activities will continue with JAAKLAC’s intentions to expand our scope of both topics and products.

Photo: Conor Luddy Unsplash