The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding – VIMIUC, work on topics which concern languages as an asset in humankind’s heritage and as an important factor for intercultural understanding, and the learning and use of languages as something which enriches its speakers and their societies.
This focus on languages can be addressed on many different levels:
Global: Linguistic diversity, endangered languages and minority languages, language in contact in multilingual societies.
The Centre is cooperating with linguists and initiatives dedicated to catalogue and strengthen linguistic diversity, such as ELCat, and ISO, and LinguaPax and UNESCO. The Centre is forming a network of collaboration on enhanced language maps which show the language landscape in all its diversity in different domains of language use.
Regional: Languages in the West Nordic region (Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Norway).
The centre is working, in collaboration with the West Nordic Network, on an exhibition on the West Nordic Language Landscape, which includes the respective national languages and their dialects, minority and indigenous languages, Danish as the (former) colonial language, immigrant and visitor’s languages, and English as a global lingua franca, especially in the digital domains.
National: Languages in Iceland.
Despite what usual language maps tell, Iceland is not only home to the Icelandic language, which is the most conservative direct continuation of the Old Norse / Old Icelandic which arrived with the early settlers in the 9th century. Other languages in Iceland are:
- The Icelandic Sign Language (Íslenskt táknmál), the second native language of Iceland
- The languages of immigrants – there are around 100 languages spoken in Icelandic homes, most of them are a first language, often together with Icelandic), of children growing up in Iceland.
- The major languages taught at Icelandic schools and universities, and those to and from which literature is translated – in particular Danish (the language of the former regional colonial power and still the language learned by most Icelanders, giving access to the Scandinavian languages), but also other Germanic languages, as well as Romanic and even Slavic, Asian and classical languages.
- The languages that are spoken by millions of visitors coming to Iceland each year.
On individual occasions, the Centre works together with institutions which care for each of these (groups of) languages, such as the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Móðurmál, the Association on Bilingualism, THOT, the Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters, The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute (to which the Centre belongs), and others. The Centre intends to deepen these collaborations wherever possible.
The contact between languages happens most prominently in those individuals who speak more than one language. They can have acquired more than one language growing up, which is the regular case in many regions of the world, and also happens more and more frequently among immigrants and expats, especially in the case of couples with different mother tongues. Others learn languages later on, for instance in school or when living in another country. In any case, these individuals, and those who are learning languages, are the bridges between cultures and of key importance to further peace and intercultural understanding.
The Centre promotes the interest in and learning of other languages by events, such as the CaféLingua events, and many lectures and cultural events hosted in Veröld in cooperation with the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute.
Translation, terminology, dictionaries
Perhaps no other activity contributes so much to building bridges between cultures and increase the understanding of one for another as does the translation, in particular of literary texts, but also of more technical and formal documents, which requires international cooperation on terminological networks to ensure the correct interpretation.
In this context, the Centre, in cooperation with the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Terminological Society of Iceland, The National and University Library of Iceland, the Translation Centre at the University of Iceland, and the Translation Service of the Foreign Ministry of Iceland, hosts the Eugen Wüster / Infoterm dictionary collection, donated by Infoterm. This may well be the world’s largest collection of specialized dictionaries.
Appointments to visit and consult the collection can be made on demand.