LINGUA FRANCA: Find, Make, Speak
The term ‘lingua franca’ is an interesting one. It may sound like Latin, the famous language of the Romans, but it’s not. In fact, it signifies the exact opposite of a dead language, being a term used to describe the vivid mixture of Italian, French, Greek, Arabic, Spanish and other languages that allowed people in the Mediterranean to communicate about trade, culture and everyday life in Medieval times. These days it signifies the ability of different people from different backgrounds with different experiences to come together and enrich their lives thanks to mutual understanding.
It may seem a long way from the shores of the Mediterranean to the city of Daugavpils at the other end of Europe, but with Latvian, Latgalian, Russian, Polish, Belarusian, English and other languages likely to be heard in the streets of Latvia’s second-largest city, the appeal and practicality of a cultural ‘lingua franca’ is clear.
In Daugavpils and Latgale, linguistic and cultural diversity has been a fact of daily life for centuries. It has created a colorful, interesting and distinct cultural life. But difference can also breed conflict, and that, sometimes, has also been a fact of life. However, culture has a remarkable ability to bridge those differences, just as a ‘lingua franca’ bridges linguistic barriers. Standing in front of a Mark Rothko painting or sitting in a concert hall and hearing a Tchaikovsky symphony, cultural, political and ethnic differences melt away.
Daugavpils, with the support of the whole of Latgale region, wants to become a European Capital of Culture in 2027 to show Europe how culture and art can become the basis of a common language in a diverse society: a true cultural ‘lingua franca’. As a European Capital of Culture, Daugavpils invites speakers of all languages to co-create and collaborate, so that different letters, syllables, words, symbols, sentences and even separate disciplines can intertwine and develop together. Art and science can dance together, nature and sustainable living can sing together, differences of opinion can find expression on a single canvas. That, after all is the essence of any ‘lingua franca’: the mixing-together of disparate elements that you would expect to create chaos but somehow, by the magic of human interaction, creates coherence and understanding.
Find, Make, Speak. We see these three as the three stages of development for Daugavpils and Latgale in developing our common cultural language.
Notice differences and appreciate them, but also notice the risks of misunderstanding. Talk openly and honestly about the need to find solutions.
Create discussion points, meeting places, encourage participants to use new "alphabets", unknown "grammar" and play with meanings in interdisciplinary projects. Create new words and new stories that lead to an understanding of the possibility of a shared, human and environmentally friendly reality in which there is mutual trust and respect.
Culture does not exist without expression. Culture, as the basis of a common language, becomes a daily practice, a daily necessity of human cooperation and creativity. It forms an ongoing conversation that joins one's own and others' values and therefore breeds respect and consideration for all.
Daugavpils, together to the city of Rēzekne and the whole Latgale region, will continue to speak and develop this LINGUA FRANCA. – Daugavpils invites you to speak a cultural Lingua franca, too!