WHY  F.I.L.A.L. ?

Why an international fund to preserve Alsatian?

The Liberty Island Declaration
To promote Alsatian, the mother language of “Lady Liberty”

In April 2002, the program “Friejohr fer unsri Sproch” (A spring for our language) was launched in Alsace to revive the Alsatian language which is now spoken by fewer than 5% of Alsatian children under the age of 10. According to the latest census, 548,000 people still speak the language, out of a total population of 1,700,000. This program aims at mobilizing the energies of citizens, associations and organizations to promote and expand the use of our language. Since its inception, the initiative is generating more than 300 exhibitions and other events in Alsace.

From Castroville (Texas) to Liberty Island (New York) with Adrien Zeller

April 8, 2002, during the ending ceremony of an Alsatian international gathering – grand opening of an Alsatian House – in Castroville, The Little Alsace of Texas, Father Larry Stuebben, priest of the Texan-Alsatian community, called on the representatives from Alsace to preserve the Alsatian language, as the strongest tie between Alsatians through the world. A delegation of eight New York Alsatians took part to this event. After this event, Justin Jungman, President of the Alsatian Club of Texas, Guy Holzhaus, Former mayor pro-tem of the Little Alsace of Texas, Thierry Kranzer, representing the New York Alsatians, and Adrien Zeller, President of The Region Alsace discussed the opportunity of bringing together the Alsatians residing abroad through the issue of Alsatian language.

October 19, 2002 : Liberty IslandDeclaration

 Taking the opportunity of the presence of President Adrien Zeller and François Brunagel, President of the International Union of 
Alsatians in the world (UIA), L’Union Alsacienne, under the initiative of Thierry Kranzer, organized a gathering on Liberty Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to sign the Liberty Island Declaration under which several Alsatian organizations – New York, Ohio, Texas, Québec – pledged to support the establishment in the United States of a Fund for the Preservation of the Alsatian Language, and to promote its subject in their respective Alsatian communities to preserve Alsatian, the mother language of the Statue of Liberty, born in Colmar.

Raise funds to provide facilities for Immersive Kindergarten

The creation of an American Fund to further this objective has been proposed as the most effective contribution by Alsatians living abroad (particularly in the USA). Its major goal will be to raise funds to provide facilities for the first Alsatian-language immersive Kindergarten which would offer access to a bilingual education to children who would otherwise be denied such an opportunity. Every year, lack of facilities means that hundreds of children are denied access to bilingual education.

L’Union Alsacienne / Language Fund

The first fund raising event was organised with the support of Alsatian Chef Pierre Schaedelin in 2002, following the signature of the Liberty Island Declaration. A Gastronomic Dinner, with Adrien Zeller, President of the Region Alsace, and Francois Brunagel, President of L’Union Internationale des Alsaciens (UIA), as well as Françoise Cestac (born Haeffelin), President of the United Nations Association Culturelle Francophone (ACF) and Clement MBOM, president of the French Teacher Association of the USA took place at Le Cirque prestigious restaurant.  Members have also been invited make a contribution by writing a check payable to “L’Union Alsacienne/Language Fund”.  Honorary president Sonia Schmitt was first to act!

Unite the Alsatians through the world to support our Mother Language

It has been suggested to invite the 25 Alsatians organizations through the world to make a contribution to this Fund aiming at preserving our common mother language, the mother language of the Statue of Liberty. Today, Alsace is France’s only region with a minority language not providing total-immersion Kindergarten instruction in its own language. Yet Alsatian, a language with two distinct variants, “Alemannic” and “Frankish”, is spoken in six countries: in Germany (Baden Wurttemberg and Bavaria); in Switzerland (where it is spoken throughout the Confederation’s Alemannic area); in Austria (Vorarlberg); in Liechtenstein; in Italy (South Tyrol); and in France (north of Strasbourg), whose Frankish variant is close to the national language of Luxembourg.

However, according to many recent statements by regional elected officials, France’s national education system is failing to deliver what is expected of it on the issue of promoting bilingual education in the country.

In 2002, Education Minister Jack Lang signed into law a decree, mandating the development by the French Republic of 40 new bilingual Kindergartens each year. In September 2002 only five such establishments were opened instead of the promised 40 (20 of them planned for North Alsace and 20 for Upper Alsace). Responding to angry protests from Alsatian officials, the local representative of the Education Ministry said a few years ago “bilingual education is not binding in Alsace.” We feel that the best way of circumventing this supine demonstration of official cowardice will be the creation of facilities to which parents may send their children.

Preserve the Mother Language of the Statue of Liberty

We also believe that the most effective response from us, Alsatians of America and Sons of the Statue of Liberty, will be a struggle to preserve what we recognize to be the most enduring component of our identity: our mother tongue, our language, the language of Lady Liberty.

The cost of a mobile classroom is around $40,000. That sum would provide access for 20 or 30 children to what makes our Alsatian spirit what it is. The anchor holding us fast in the troubled seas of globalization, the landmark that keeps us strong in the jungle of New York’s diversity. Of course we can be Alsatian without speaking Alsatian, just as one can be French without speaking French. But in our heart of hearts we know that the Alsatian language is the bearer of our cultural DNA.

A paragraph that recurs in many legal documents designed to promote linguistic diversity in France illustrates the difficulties faced by efforts to revive bilingualism and the Alsatian language:

“To be sure, the war against France’s minority languages no longer takes the form of visible repression or humiliating punishment: nonetheless, it continues to be waged. Although assuming subtler forms than in the past, the campaign to track down, run to earth and finally to strangle Breton, Occitanian, Basque, Corsican and other languages is still in full swing, as their exclusion from the curricula of the vast majority of schools makes clear”.

Redaction and translation of the Declaration

It is interesting to mention that an impressive network of Alsatians in the world has been useful to write and translate the Declaration. The Declaration has been written by two American-Alsatians, Christian Klein and Jeremy Legatt. Christian Klein is the son of Jacques Paul Klein, an American general born in Selestat in 1939, who still speaks Alsatian. Christian is today a very successful lawyer in Washington. Also working on the text, Jeremy Legatt a United Nations editor, who is also known as being the official translator in English of the “Memoires of Valery Giscard D’Estaing”.

Regarding the translation from the Declaration into the six official languages of the UN, we benefited several contributions. The Chinese translation has been done by a United Nations Chinese interpreter, who studied and lived in Strasbourg before joining the UN. The Arabic was done by a Jordanian diplomat and friend of Alsace. The Russian translation was done by an interpreter from Tambov, the most Alsatian city of Russia.

June 22, 2010: A First Step

On June 22, 2010, the Language Fund made its first impact. Benoit Meister, Vice-president of L’Union Alsacienne brought a check of $7200 to the Alsatian bilingual school of ABCM Bindernheim-Muttersholtz, which gathers 52 children from both sides of the Rhine (see article in French). The donation will be used to help open new facilities in Muttersholtz.

Heimetsproch (Selestat) has associated itself with this initiative by opening an LANGUAGE FUND account for people who want to pledge in Euros, in Europe.

December 30, 2011: Creation of the International Fund for the Alsatian Language (IFAL)

The by-laws of the of FILAL have been adopted during the General Assembly  of the International Union of Alsatians(UIA) with the presence of Alsatians from 20 countries. In October 2011, in the context of the 125th birthday Those by-laws were deposited at the Administrativ Tribunal of Colmar (Birthplace of Miss Liberty), and the FUND was officially born 30 December 2011.

2013: Launch of the Internet Site of FILAL

USA & ALSACEusa-us.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0
International Fund for the Alsatian Language

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