Positive Impacts of Sustainable Tourism Preservation of Historical Languages and Practices
Serena Lonardi, Umberto Martini, and John S. Hull
Sustainable tourism has taken a considerable role in the literature, ever since the UN Conference on Environment and Development of Rio de Janeiro was held in 1992 and the ‘Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry’ was discussed and approved in 1997. It is a widely accepted fact nowadays that, when responsibly managed, tourism can positively affect not only the economy of a country but also its society and culture (Archer, Cooper &c Ruhanen, 2005). Sustainable activities, including tourism, aim at preserving natural and cultural environments for future generations (UNESCO, 2003; Soini & Birkeland, 2014). This is even more urgent for practices that will disappear if not practiced daily, such as intangible heritage in general and endangered languages in particular (Kim, Whitford & Arcodia, 2019; Maffi, 2007).
This chapter analyzes the role of tourism in preserving and revitalizing the cultural identity of minority groups and especially their traditional languages. Previous research has proved that minority languages, being the representation of a unique culture (Krauss, 1992), are an asset and a differentiating factor for the destination (Kelly-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2014; Whitney-Squire, 2016). Tourists’ genuine interest in the cultural heritage of a group then promotes a sense of pride in their cultural background, triggering a sense of identity and a desire to learn more, thus creating a virtuous circle of culture and language preservation (Greathouse-Amador, 2005; Whitney-Squire, 2016).
This chapter analyzes whether and under which circumstances tourism can contribute to the process of revitalization of endangered minority languages and traditional practices. To achieve a better understanding of the phenomenon studied, three case studies are compared from two Indigenous groups from British Columbia, Canada (Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band) and one from the Cim- brian people in Giazza, Italy. All cases are tourism destinations, where residents are members of a minority community and speak partially in an endangered language. The considerable differences between the cases, explained more in detail in a later section of this chapter, allow for a significant and fruitful comparison.
The chapter is structured as follows: the following section summarizes the literature review and presents the conceptual framework. Then, the methodology is explained, together with the selected case studies. Finally, the results are presented and discussed.
2. Literature Review and Conceptual Framework 2.1 Minority Languages and Tourism
According to UNESCO (2003), a language becomes endangered when fewer and fewer people speak it and do not pass it on to future generations. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley, 2010) identified 2,464 endangered languages out of 6,000 spoken today in the world. Various factors have been identified as causes of language loss. Generally, people stop speaking a language when another language is seen as more prestigious, even though it is not prestige alone that brings about a language shift. The benefits of speaking a language are often due to the economic factors associated with their use (Mufwene, 2002). Not surprisingly, this often results in minority languages—that is, those languages spoken by a minority of a population—being threatened (Capotorti, 1977). Because each language stands for a unique worldview and is the vehicle for collective memories and values, losing it could then lead to terrible consequences for a people and their cultural identity (Fishman, 1991).
It follows that language revitalization is important and urgent (Fishman, 1991). It can obviously be achieved through different methods and theories. Of course, linguists need to take a primary role in this (Fishman, 1991; Krauss, 1992). However, tourism can be seen as a tool to preserve and revitalize endangered languages. Previous research focused on endangered Indigenous languages in North America argues that tourism can be an efficient tool to preserve and revitalize minority languages, because tourists now look for authentic and meaningful experiences regarding the local culture of the place they are visiting (Kim, Ritchie & McCormick, 2012; Whitney-Squire, 2016). They see their holiday as an opportunity to learn something and experience a different culture and lifestyle, and therefore the cultural heritage of a population, including its traditional language, can become a pull factor for tourism (Ritchie, Cooper Sc Carr, 2003; Ugolini Sc Costa, 2009).
Considering this framework, the role played by the tourism planning processes is undoubtedly relevant, as regards, in particular, the capacity to build a common strategy among economic actors, institutions, and residents, with the aim to add value to local tourist offerings through the preservation, use and “commodification” of the local language (see
Heller, 2003). Tourist offerings must be created and managed in a way that allows local language—intended as one of the main vehicles for the collective memory and values of a population—to be turned into authentic tourism experiences, while protecting intrinsic cultural value and cultural identity (Kelly-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2014; Whitney-Squire,
This means that destination managers and local institutions must develop a strategy focused on authenticity and experientiality, involving different categories of local actors and businesses in a common project of territorial value creation, in a sort of “cultural heritage marketing” process (Kolar & Zabkar, 2010; Qilou, Zhang, Zhang & Ma, 2015). This authenticity must be perceived by guests as an innovative and differentiating component of the tourist products of the territory and not as a form of “living pasts” or as a sort of virtual representation of a virtual (but false) reality (see Zhu, 2012; Knudsen, Rickly Sc Vidon, 2016).
The introduction of traditional languages and culture in tourism has raised concerns and doubts related to the authenticity of the cultures represented in tourism (MacCannell, 1973; Duchene Sc Heller, 2012). Cohen (1988), however, argued that commodification may actually contribute to maintenance and revitalization of the local culture and identity by generating interest and value, not only for tourists but also for Indigenous communities themselves. If responsibly and sustainably managed, it thus may help to preserve traditions, which would otherwise slowly disappear, including the traditional languages. This means the community needs to be involved in the decision-making process and in the creation of contents (Whitney-Squire, 2016).
Previous studies that analyzed the relationship between minority languages and tourism considered languages as artifacts displayed in museums, like the National Museum of the Finnish Sami (Kelly-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2016) and the Afrikaans Language Museum (Burden 2007), and the labeling of souvenirs (Pietikainen, Kellv-Holmes & Peer, 2011). Other research analyzed the linguistic landscape, that is, visibility of the language in public spaces, and selected the local airport (Heinrich, 2010), brochures, and social media (Whitney-Squire, 2016) or signs indicating touristic routes (Moriarty, 2014). Finally, some authors looked at the linguistic soundscape, that is, the use of the language in tours and to greet guests (Kellv-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2014; Whitney-Squire, 2016).
The great interest of tourists in knowing more about traditional languages eventually promoted a sense of pride in being Indigenous, thus motivating preservation and revitalization of the language (Greathouse- Amador, 2005; Whitney-Squire, 2016). For instance, in Haida Gwaii (British Columbia), tourism planners developed a series of projects that included the Haida language, such as paying staff to learn the language; encouraging tour guides to use it, such as in greeting visitors; and working with elders to develop tour content. There were evening language talks with visitors, and efforts were made to increase language content in interpretive and promotional materials and in social media. This approach to integrate traditional language was very successful since tourists really appreciated this unique value. Moreover, the use of the traditional language in tourism led to increasing awareness of people’s origins, making them proud of that, so that, in turn, they were encouraged to learn more (Whitney-Squire, 2016).
2.2 Theoretical Framework
The literature review summarized here shows how language and tourism experiences are intrinsically interrelated. On one hand, minority languages contribute to the attractiveness of the destination and, therefore, represent a competitive advantage (Kelly-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2014; Moriarty, 2014; Pietikainen et al. 2011; Whitney-Squire, 2016). On the other hand, including those languages in tourism experiences often leads to enhanced pride among community members and, therefore, to the desire to learn more about their cultural heritage and traditional language (Greathouse-Amador, 2005; Whitney-Squire, 2016). Tourism creates a virtuous circle of language and cultural preservation, thus reinforcing the distinctive value of the destination.
3. Case Description and Methodology
The following paragraphs present the case studies analyzed: Indigenous people in British Columbia, with a focus on the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band, and the Cimbrian people in Giazza, Italy.
The authors were first involved in an empirical research project at Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada), where they considered the two Indigenous communities that are briefly presented in the following paragraphs. Because some significant results were made, they decided to consider another case in Italy, to analyze whether completely different socio-cultural backgrounds would produce similar outcomes concerning the relationship between tourism and language and culture preservation.
3.1 Indigenous People in British Columbia
The most accepted definition of Indigenous people is the one approved by The United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (Cobo, 1986):
Those [people] which, having a historical continuity with preinvasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now
prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.
In Canada, Indigenous peoples consist of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis and comprise 2.84% of the population, or approximately 1.6 million people (Statistics Canada, 2016). British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province, where Indigenous people represent 5.93% of the population (Statistics Canada, 2016). European settlers first arrived at the end of the 18th century, resulting in Indigenous peoples having to face massive changes that would significantly transform their lifestyles. To begin, diseases spread for the first time among Indigenous communities, devastating the populations and thus contributing to weakening and undermining their culture (Mason, 2014). But they also had to face other massive lifestyle transformations. Most importantly, their lands were confiscated, and Indigenous people were forced to permanently live on reserves, where they had to work hard and were not allowed to speak their language or engage in their traditional practices, while the government pursued policies of assimilation and repression (Mason, 2014).
Another example of assimilation can be found in the education system. When the education of Indigenous children came under colonial control, they were abruptly removed from their families and obliged to live in residential schools (Young, 2015). There, children experienced terrible emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. They were taught that their rituals were evil, their relatives savage, and their languages primitive, which made them feel ashamed of their own cultures and origins. The children were obliged to speak only French or English, and their native languages were outlawed. As a consequence, they rejected their culture, and many even forgot their mother tongues, which eventually led to cultural genocide and an almost irreparable language loss (Partridge, 2011). In fact, in most of the cases, even people who could remember their ancestral language would not pass it on to their children, to prevent them from having the same terrible experience (Crawford, 1995).
Stereotypes of American Indian people have been an important part of the cultural imaginary in Europe since Columbus discovered the New World (Fleming, 2006). Indigenous peoples have been described both as “noble savage” (Stirrup, 2013, p. 6) and uncivilized cannibals. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Western people learned about American Indian people through the literature, through traveling performances, and later on, through the cinema (Stirrup, 2013). Not surprisingly, the fascination of Europeans for the Indigenous peoples of North America, together with the fact that tourists have always been looking for something completely different from their everyday experiences, has naturally led to the origins of Indigenous tourism (Butler &c Hinch, 2007). Indigenous tourism has been defined as “all tourism businesses majority owned, operated and/or controlled by [Indigenous] peoples that can demonstrate a connection and responsibility to the local Aboriginal community and traditional territory where the operation resides” (Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada, 2016, p. 4).
British Columbia is well known for its stunning and diverse natural environment, which allows visitors to practice a wide variety of outdoor sports, such as hiking, canoeing, skiing, and snowshoeing. However, British Columbia is becoming more and more popular also for its millennial Indigenous cultural heritage (Province of British Columbia, 2011).
In 2016-2017, more than 400 companies related to Indigenous tourism were operating in British Columbia, mostly working in retail (34%), outdoor (19%), and accommodation (12%) (Indigenous Tourism BC,
2018). They generated approximately $705 million in gross domestic output and created 7,400 jobs. The greatest portion of travelers participating in Indigenous tourism experiences are domestic, that is, Canadian residents, whereas the remaining visitors come from China, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Indigenous Tourism BC, 2018).
A single and striking example worth mentioning here is the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, where Indigenous groups were involved in the development and organization of the event. In particular, the four First Nations groups on whose traditional lands the Olympics were hosted were recognized as official partners and played an important role in the opening ceremony. Even though some Indigenous people took a position against the Olympics, for others, the Olympics were regarded as a perfect opportunity to show their culture to the world and have an important role in key decisions (BBC news, 2010). In fact, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games raised both national and international interest for Indigenous tourism experiences. As a result, customer demand has been growing since then (The Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia, 2015).
The two Indigenous groups of British Columbia considered in this study are the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band. The Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band is a First Nations band located in the central interior of British Columbia. Their main reserve is in Chase, near the Little Shuswap Lake. Their traditional language is the Secwepemctsin language, which is categorized as severely endangered by UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley, 2010), that is, estimated speakers left number approximately 1,100 and on average they are 50 years old. In 1992, the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band opened the Quaaout Lodge, a tourism resort situated on the shores of the lake. Since that time, other companies were founded by the band aimed at improving the local economy, as well as on developing tourism in the town, like the conference center (2001), Talking Rock Golf (2007), Le7ke Day Spa (2011), Little Shuswap Lake Gas and Lakehead Helicopters (www.lslib.com).
The Okanagan Indian Band is located in the southern interior of British Columbia and north-central Washington (US) (okib.ca). The traditional language spoken by this community is the Nsyilxcan language, commonly referred to as the Okanagan language, categorized as critically endangered by UNESCO (Moseley, 2010). According to their estimates, the language is spoken by approximately 300 persons, with an average age of 59. The region has been a tourism destination for approximately one century, because of its dry, sunny climate in the summer. Since 2002, the band has owned and operated the Nk’Mip Tourism Resort and Winery, located on their reserve, which has led to economic development of the band, as well as the opportunity to showcase their heritage and history (okib.ca).
3.2 Cimbrian People in Giazza
The Cimbrian language is spoken by immigrants from southern Bavaria who moved to the mountains of northeastern Italy from the 11th to the 13th centuries (Bidese, 2020). The lords in the area called for the immigrants to chop the wood in the forests, in part because they were good carpenters (www.cimbri.it). The original area where people had Cimbrian ethnicity included the so-called Tredici Comuni (Thirteen Communities, northeast of Verona), Sette Comuni (Seven Communities, northwest of Vicenza), and the southeastern Trentino. Because the three areas were isolated from the city, they retained their traditional language, an Upper German variety derived from Southern Bavarian, called the Cimbrian language. Currently, this language is spoken only in three districts: Lusern in Trentino, by elders in Giazza near Verona, and in Mezzaselva di Roana near Vicenza (Stringher, 2012). As a consequence, according to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley, 2010), the Cimbrian language is considered endangered, that is, children do not learn it as their mother tongue anymore, even though parents may speak it to them. Nonetheless, a clarification here is needed, as there is a significant difference among the three communities just mentioned. Nowadays, the community with the highest number of speakers is Lusern, as, according to the latest census, in 2011, speakers numbered 238 out of 279 people living there, including children (Servizio Statistica della Pro- vincia Autonoma di Trento, 2014). The situation is much more serious in Giazza, the area taken into consideration for the current study, where, in 2001, only 19 people (older than 65 years) out of a population of 131 could speak the Cimbrian language and another 24 (older than 45 years) could understand it. The young people could neither speak it nor understand it (Stringher, 2012).
During the 20th century, the fascist regime in Italy imposed the Ital- ianization of the country so that the Cimbrian language was outlawed. Children were beaten on their hands (or worse) by teachers if they were caught speaking that Upper-German variety. After World War II, the economic miracle and the emancipation of the people living in Giazza resulted in a sudden endangerment of the language, because Cimbrian people were derided as being backward and ignorant. These are the two main reasons that have led to a rapid decline in use of the Cimbrian language in the past century (Stringher, 2012).
As already mentioned, the three linguistic enclaves are nestled at the foot of the Alps, making them a perfect destination for mountain lovers. For instance, the Lessinia area, the Alpine region near Verona, where Giazza is situated, is visited by hikers and people who practice mountain sports, as well as by winter lovers, even though in limited numbers (Ugo- lini Sc Costa, 2009). Giazza is the starting point for many hikes: from there hikers can reach not only the Foresta Demaniale di Giazza but also the Valle del Fraselle, as well as the more challenging Gruppo del Carega (2,259 m.a.s.l.) (www.giazza.it). However, because there are no hotels in the town (the only hotel closed some years ago) (www.giazza.it), visitors are still day-trippers; this could represent a problem for sustainability of the destination, as well as for promotion of the Cimbrian culture, that needs people to have the time to stop and visit the museum in town or take a cultural tour.
Even though it has been proved that the Cimbrian culture represents a potential for the development of a cultural product that could satisfy the needs of tourists (Ugolini Sc Costa, 2009), this little town still lacks a tourism offering specifically focused on it, even though visitors can find something related to the Cimbrian culture. The Curatorium Cimbricum Veronense, for instance, is a museum that offers an extensive explanation about the history of the area and the peculiarities of the Cimbrian culture. It even includes some in-depth explanations of the Cimbrian language. There are also events connected with the Cimbrian culture, such as the popular Festa del Fuoco (Waur Ljetzan in the traditional language, which can be translated into “fire feast”), held every year on the summer solstice. It is a pagan feast that celebrates the fire, water, and trees. Finally, in Bosco Chiesanuova, another Cimbrian municipality, not far from Giazza, the Film Festival della Lessinia is held at the end of the summer, which often presents films or other projects connected with the Cimbrian culture (www.giazza.it).
This study was conducted on the basis of qualitative methodologies, that are extensively used in tourism research, especially when analyzing cultural and anthropological aspects of a population (Jennings, 2004; Richards & Munster, 2010). In particular, interviews have the main benefit of providing a holistic and detailed understanding of the phenomenon being studied (Jennings, 2004).
In total, 20 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted. Twelve persons were interviewed from the two local bands in British Columbia in the fall of 2017: both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working at the Quaaout Lodge (n = 6) and Nk’Mip Resort (n = 6). In Giazza, eight persons, representing key players in the tourism industry and of Cimbrian-speaking heritage were interviewed in May 2018.
An important difference among the three cases is that in British Columbia, individuals representing and working for the two main Indian bands within a large tourism region were analyzed, while in Giazza the authors took the whole destination as an example. Giazza is a very small town, with a little more than 100 inhabitants (www.giazza.it), while, as regarding British Columbia, the focus was on two successful, Indigenous- owned and run companies in the Thompson-Okanagan tourism region, where community members were interviewed. The decision to include both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the sample followed the need to be as representative as possible of local residents working at the companies selected. In Giazza, interviewees included key players in the tourism field and in the documentation and study of the Cimbrian culture, together with restaurant owners.
The data collection was carried out by the first author. Key informant interviews were selected from the case studies for participation in the research. Interviews lasted up to an hour and were conducted in English in British Columbia and in Italian in Italy. Interviews were recorded with permission and transcribed for analysis using MaxQDA. Key emergent themes were identified and compared. Questions regarding language use in tourism and tourists’ reactions were similar, although questions regarding language vitality and endangerment differed slightly between the cases in British Columbia and Italy because of marked differences in the history of the three case studies.
This section provides a summary of the general themes from transcription of the interviews. Themes discussed include how traditional language has influenced issues of discrimination and language preservation, tourism experiences, the sense of pride in and restoration of culture and community, and authenticity of the tourism product.
4.1 Discrimination and Language Preservation
As already mentioned, both Indigenous people in British Columbia and Cimbrian people in Giazza experienced such serious physical abuses and discrimination that they voluntarily stopped speaking their languages and passing them on to future generations. This was evident from interviews in the case studies.
Second, both interviewees in British Columbia and in Giazza very much agreed that language preservation is fundamental and urgent because they realize that their traditional languages are threatened. Most of them also associated the loss of their language with threatening their cultural heritage, since traditional languages are strongly tied to the traditional culture. They convey a particular meaning that could not be expressed otherwise. Respondents also commented that traditional languages stand for a distinctive cultural heritage, which represents an asset and a source of competitive advantage for the destination:
I think we have something to offer that other wineries don’t. When you come to visit our winery, it’s not just another winery. . .. You’re actually seeing some of our culture ... we have a canoe with our sculptures, you get to see pictures and things like that. We integrate a bit of our culture into our winery.
(Interviewee 3, winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars)
Especially on the reserves they want to hear the stories, they want to hear the words, they want to touch things that happened in the past to feel connected.
(Interviewee 1, marketing manager, Desert Cultural Centre, Nk’Mip Resort)
“The words” are of particular importance in tourism experiences:
It takes you back and ties to that time a little bit more than just saying ‘it’s a coyote, it’s a deer. . . . It’s not just a winter home, it’s a kekuli. It’s a sek’lep [coyote].
(Manager, Quaoout Lodge)
As illustrated in the previous quotations, traditional languages in British Columbia are used during the tours, especially to explain words tied to the culture and lifestyle of a place. The words for traditional dwellings, plants, or animals are often shared with tourists, and every staff member is also encouraged to use some simple words in the language (such as “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”). However, in British Columbia, languages are also used to brand companies or products. The companies analyzed here adopted Indigenous names. Ouaaout means “when the sun rays first touch the ground,” and Nk’Mip means, “bottom land.” Nk’Mip Cellars also uses Indigenous words related to the culture of the Okanagan people to brand their two premium wines. Tourists appreciated the use of traditional words and were happy to learn their pronunciation and meaning.
Cimbrian people also use their language in tourism, but in much more restricted domains. Interviewees recognize the value of using traditional words in tourist products. Visitors can, for instance, read bilingual signs in the town and in the path leading to the carbonaraf but it is rarely used in cultural tours, and sometimes for the branding of products.
4.2 Value of Language in Tourist Experiences
As we have already stated and proved in the course of this chapter, tourists are looking for unique experiences, and the distinctiveness of a culture thus represents an added value for the destination, which means it is easily marketable.
As interviewees point out, the Quaaout Lodge and the Nk’Mip Resort are not just “boxes, places to stay overnight” (manager, Quaaout Lodge) but are opportunities to live unforgettable and unique experiences, related to the place, its history and the history of its people. The Quaaout Lodge, for instance, was the promoter of a project connected with the construction of a canoe using traditional tools and accompanied by dances and religious practices. The ceremonies held during this project were attended by many visitors, and the videos uploaded on social media pages had thousands of views. This holds true for Giazza as well: the town and its surroundings are also not just any Alpine destination but can provide unique cultural experiences. Giazza has also become well known because of its rich history, not just because of its stunning landscape.
Because culture has a real differentiating value, people can actually make a living from their heritage. Findings from the case studies identified that working as a tour guide personally encouraged Indigenous people to go back and learn more about their culture and language. This happens not only on a personal level but also involves the whole company with activities such as encouraging the staff to attend language courses during paid staff time.
4.3 Sense of Pride in and Restoration of Culture and Community
The interest shown by tourists has led to a strengthened sense of pride among Indigenous peoples in their cultural heritage and a desire to do their best to preserve it, justified also by the economic benefits that are the result of culture and language preservation. The Indigenous people interviewed in British Columbia admitted that their jobs in the tourism industry actually were an incentive to learn more about their culture and languages, which eventually became part of a healing journey away from depression and drug and alcohol addiction.
Tourism also allowed the restoration of some ancient practices. At the Quaaout Lodge, for instance, a sweat lodge has been built and is regularly used, even though not all tourists can attend the highly spiritual purification ceremony. It is by invitation only. Other ceremonies are even more restricted, and only elders of the community can attend them.
In Giazza, the Waur Ljetzan traditional ceremony is becoming a popular event, with participants from outside the region. The tradition of coal production through the carbonara, typical of the Cimbrian people, has also been kept alive, in part thanks to the interests and appreciation shown by tourists:
It’s an added value. No one cooks with the coal he produces by himself. I’m proud of that.
- (Restaurant owner of the osteria in Giazza)
- 4.4 Authenticity of the Tourism Product
All of this, however, eventually leads to questions related to the authenticity of the culture displayed. In the beginning, there were many negative reactions to tourism, especially among Indigenous elders. They previously thought that tourism was a fake representation of the culture because it is sold to tourists. Indigenous people interviewed, to the contrary, believe sustainable tourism is part of their healing process, since, when the community is involved in the development, management, and promotion of tourist products, it also is able to pay attention to how the culture is displayed. They believe tourists nowadays are not interested in something fake. The problem is, however, that they often do not know what is authentic. For example, visitors in the Shuswap area expect to see totem poles, teepees, and all the headdresses and face paintings they saw in the movies. But this is not an authentic aspect of the Secwepemc heritage. Even in Giazza and its surroundings, where now the Cimbrian culture is getting “fashionable,” the word cimbro in Italian is used to brand many food products. Whereas Cimbrian people have a long tradition of cheese production (now sold as formaggio cimbro), they did not traditionally produce beer or bake strudels or pizzas:
Visitors can now find ‘aperitivo cimbro, pizza cimbra’ but these did
not exist [formerly].
(Museum director, Giazza)
On the other hand, tourism could be exactly the perfect platform to educate tourists about the differences among Indigenous people. And that is, again, one of the main reasons why Indigenous interviewees desired to learn about their past, their culture, and their language.
When specifically regarding the language, however, the issues of (in) authenticity take a slightly different path, maybe because learning a language requires real effort. Some people interviewed felt uncomfortable using words in the Indigenous or Cimbrian language, and some of them cannot even pronounce them. A restaurant owner in Giazza, even though he has Cimbrian origins and has lived in the town his whole life, said,
“I can't promote the Cimbrian culture and language if I don't speak it myself.”
Non-Indigenous interviewees also had thoughts about it:
All I have ever known is English. So ... I can’t say ‘my grandmother used to speak this, my grandfather used to speak that and this is how important it is.
(Manager, Quaoout Lodge)
Therefore, language is not used as a marketing gimmick or a folkloris- tic element but as a consequence of a personal pride enhanced by tourists’ genuine interest.
Overall, some skeptical remarks were made as well. A critique coming from all three cases is the fact that for now language is relegated to museums or closed spaces, whereas it should be more within the landscape—for example, signs along the paths and hiking trails, as well as interpretation signs, should be bilingual, so that visitors immediately realize there is more than one language spoken there. Finally, some interviewees doubted that using a couple of words in connection with tourism could lead to proper language revitalization since language needs to be used daily for it to become more prominent.
What is certain for everyone interviewed, however, is that sustainable tourism helps bring awareness to language endangerment both inside and outside the community. Tourists in British Columbia leave with a better understanding of the differences between Indigenous people in North America and their numerous traditional languages, whereas in Giazza they get to know the Cimbrian culture and realize the language is still spoken nowadays. However, Indigenous interviewees argued that there is a need to educate people who live nearby, more than visitors. In Giazza, results show that a greater regional awareness and understanding of Cimbrian culture is important. People in the area need to realize the value of the Cimbrian culture, especially for the sustainability of the tourism industry in the region.
Aligned with the literature, results showed that tourism is a vital tool for language preservation, especially if sustainably and responsibly managed. First, it plays an important role in developing an awareness of language endangerment, both inside and outside the community, which is seen as a step toward language preservation (Fishman, 1991). Second, it encourages people to stop being ashamed of their origins but rather to feel proud instead and learn more, so that the culture and the language do not fall into oblivion (Greathouse-Amador, 2005; Whitney-Squire, 2016). Language and cultural preservation are, therefore, not only the consequences of an enhanced pride and cultural renaissance but also of an economic benefit derived from it. The better preserved a culture is, the more distinctive it is and the more it represents an added value.
The results illustrate that there is a marked difference among the three cases analyzed, mainly because they have different histories and are now dealing with a different current situation. Indigenous people in British Columbia are aware that their culture represents a value and are proud to show it and to use and share traditional words in their unique languages with tourists (Whitney-Squire, 2016). However, people in Giazza are not at this point yet. They recognize that their culture is so distinct as to represent an asset, but, apart from some successful traditional feasts and practices, they still have not integrated their culture and language as extensively.
Both Indigenous people in British Columbia and Cimbrian people in Giazza experienced serious psychological and physical traumas because of their culture and language, even though to a different extent (Barten, 2015). This could have led to increased awareness and the rise of an Indigenous Renaissance. Moreover, Indigenous people of North America have long been portrayed in movies, and this has led to a rise of interests by non-Indigenous people and therefore eventually to the development of Indigenous tourism as a distinct field. There are now many tourists interested in learning more about Indigenous history, their heritage and their languages (Stirrup, 2013).
On the other hand, Cimbrian people still represent a minority of whom few people are aware. However, this does not mean tourists are not interested in their culture and language since results showed that Cimbrian culture is appreciated by tourists when authentically managed and displayed. In fact, Cimbrian people, even though they seem more reluctant, have an opportunity to develop tourism connected with the traditional aspects of their local culture, through food, traditional practices (e.g. the carbonara), and the Cimbrian language.
This chapter has shown that minority languages represent an asset for a tourism destination since they meet tourists’ interest for unique and authentic cultural experiences. In the three case studies, languages were in fact not used as folkloristic elements to please tourists but as a consequence of personal pride enhanced by tourists’ interest (Greathouse- Amador, 2005).
Tourism, if sustainably managed and promoted, has therefore positive impacts on the culture of a minority community (Soini & Birke- land, 2014; Kim et al., 2019). First, because tourists showed a real and authentic interest in these case study communities, the tourism field has the interest and funds to work for cultural preservation and achieve authentic culture revitalization (Whitney-Squire, 2016; Kelly-Holmes & Pietikainen, 2014).
Even though there are some doubts about a proper revitalization achieved through the use of just a couple of words in traditional languages in connection with tourism, the industry definitely helps bring awareness both inside and outside the community. On one hand, tourists leave with a better understanding of traditional languages and their degree of endangerment. On the other hand, these same members of the community often feel motivated to learn more after they realize how much their culture and language are valued, which will, in turn, reinforce the authenticity of the experience.
It is hoped this chapter is a stepping-stone in the analysis of language preservation through tourism, especially among minority groups in British Columbia and Italy. Further research is therefore needed, not only regarding in-depth analysis of other communities in British Columbia and Italy but also to conduct a broader quantitative analysis of tourists’ perception of and interest in minority language use in tourism experiences.
1. Charcoal pile, a traditional way to produce coal. The tradition has been revitalized by the restaurant owner of the osteria in the main town square.
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