Google is on a quest to save the world's endangered languages
Every two weeks, a language disappears.
By MANUEL RUEDA
Knowledge is for everyone, people.
I saw this today:
you’re not entitled to any knowledge of any of those languages
And this is a pretty common opinion on tumblr. Now I know that I’m just a white girl so I have no right to say anything at all about any of these issues ever, but I’m just going to go ahead anyway; don’t have a go at me for it, I’m a nice person really.
I try to avoid offending people where possible. I go quite far out of my way to do this. I wish that there were more linguists from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, especially from groups that speak lesser-known and endangered languages, but at least from non-Indo-European ones, maybe.
And if there are such linguists and there’s some global conspiracy to not publish their work because of some discrimination, then obviously I would be against that.
But assuming that there aren’t many of such linguists, and whole societal groups (regional, national, cultural, whatever) have no indigenous expert in linguistics, the only two options are a) we don’t study the language of those groups, or b) someone from outside the group studies the language. I would personally be in favour of documenting the language, with a native speaker as first option but a non-native speaker as second choice and better than none, but like I say, I have no experience of being a minority person (apart from maybe being female but that’s hardly the same) so I’m willing to let this one slide.
But here is my problem with opinions like the one above: knowledge is not something you can control. You can keep things to yourself, if you prefer not to broadcast your secrets to the world, and that’s your prerogative. But if something is available as ‘knowledge’, it’s public and no one can say who does or doesn’t have a right to it. You can tell me not to be a dick, and you can ask me not to do what offends you. But please don’t tell me what I am or aren’t allowed to know.
Gaelic College launches new mentorship program
© Pòist Cheap Breatainn
ST. ANNS — Students from across Nova Scotia will explore their Gaelic identity and be trained to serve as champions in the sustainability of Gaelic culture as part of a 10-month immersion program that begins this summer at the Gaelic College.
Called Young Heroes, the program was developed in partnership with Nova Scotia Gaelic Affairs to immerse youth ages 10-15 in Gaelic language and culture.
Rodney MacDonald, CEO of the Gaelic College, said the first-of-its-kind program in Nova Scotia is geared toward developing more fluent Gaelic speakers.
“The thing about this immersion program is that it’s here on-site but also out in different communities and so they will do things within the community,” MacDonald said.
“They will be mentored by native Gaelic speakers and others so they are getting a tremendous opportunity between the month of September and June.”
Monthly sessions for the program will include a combination of three-day immersion workshops at the Gaelic College campus and community sessions where students will stay in local communities and have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities.
Learning during these sessions will be based on the Gàidhlig aig Baile immersion style and support from community mentors will come between the sessions.
Students will also participate in monthly immersion sessions led by Emily MacDonald, Gaelic director at the Gaelic College, and Goiridh Dòmhnullach.
“We’re very excited about the Na Gaisgich Òga program, and we’re looking forward to what the coming months will bring,” said Emily MacDonald.
“This is really a unique opportunity for young Gaelic learners to immerse themselves in the language and culture of Nova Scotia Gaels and develop lasting relationships with their communities.”
Applications for the program are being accepted until June 10 and information can be found on the Gaelic College website — www.gaeliccollege.edu.
Rodney MacDonald said participants can come from across the province but only one student per household will be accepted.
While only a pilot program now, he hopes it can expand in the future past the initial 10 participants to 40-50 down the road.
“It is great to see this many young people with an interest in Gaelic. What I think is great about it as well is that they recognize and realize that there are a lot of other people that have that interest, not only older people but younger people.”
He said that interest among the younger generation is even evident with those involved today as instructors who are in their 20s and early 30s.
“Most of the people involved today are not what people’s perception is of the senior citizen involved in Gaelic, which is often the case of the native speaker. There is a whole new generation.”
About 220 students were introduced to the new program on May 10 when the Gaelic College campus hosted its second annual student day.
The day also included classes in maragan making and storytelling with Gaelic instructors from around the province.
“This ties into Gaelic Awareness Month,” said Rodney MacDonald. “It is also a yearly event that we have here at the college encouraging young people who are taking Gaelic in many of these schools to learn more about the culture, learn more about the language and to learn more about the college itself.”
Emily MacDonald also visited about 50 students in Antigonish County as part of the day, he noted.
New York, a graveyard for languages
By Dr Mark Turin, BBC, 15 December 2012
Home to around 800 different languages, New York is a delight for linguists, but also provides a rich hunting ground for those trying to document languages threatened with extinction.
To hear the many languages of New York, just board the subway.
The number 7 line, which leads from Flushing in Queens to Times Square in the heart of Manhattan takes you on a journey which would thrill the heart of a linguistic anthropologist.
Each stop along the line takes you into a different linguistic universe—Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali.
And it is not just the language spoken on the streets that changes.
Street signs and business names are also transformed, even those advertising the services of major multinational banks or hotel chains.
In the subway, the information signs warning passengers to avoid the electrified rails are written in seven different languages.
But as I have discovered, New York is not just a city where many languages live, it is also a place where languages go to die, the final destination for the last speakers of some of the planet’s most critically endangered speech forms.
Of the world’s around 6,500 languages, UNESCO believe that up to half are critically endangered and may pass out of use before the end of this century.
Immediately we think of remote Himalayan valleys or the highlands of Papua New Guinea, bucolic rural villages where little known languages are still spoken by handfuls of speakers.
But languages can die on the 26th floor of skyscrapers too.
A recent Census Bureau report notes that in the United States, the number of people speaking a language other than English at home increased by 140% over the last 30 years, with at least 303 languages recorded in this category.
Originally home to the indigenous Lenape people, then settled by the Dutch, conquered by the English and populated by waves of migrants from every country ever since, the five boroughs that make up the Big Apple—The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island—are home to every major world language, but also countless vanishing voices, many of which have just a few remaining speakers.
No longer do aspiring field linguists have to trek halfway across the world to collect data on Zaghawa or Livonian, they can just take the Number 7 train a few stops where they will find speakers of some of the 800 languages that experts believe are spoken in New York.
I did just that, getting out at Jackson Heights, to visit a young family I knew well from Nepal.
They live in a massive apartment block, which, judging by the names on the letterboxes, housed speakers of at least 40 languages.
Every household in their home village in Nepal, high in a mountains a few miles from the Tibetan border, has a son or daughter working in New York.
And they have recreated the sense of a Himalayan village in this new land—they all live within a few blocks of each other and meet regularly for children’s birthdays or to play cards, chatting away in their endangered language, a form of speech known simply as village language.
And not only that—head of the family Wangdi has also picked up Chinese and Spanish from working in New York’s sandwich bars and restaurants.
His son Sonam, now only one year old, already hears three languages at home. He will probably grow up speaking four. The only common language spoken in the apartment block? “English.”
Recognising what a unique opportunity New York provided, two linguists and a performance poet—Daniel Kaufman, Juliette Blevins and Bob Holman—set up the Endangered Language Alliance, an urban initiative for endangered language research and conservation.
“This is the city with the highest linguistic density in the world and that is mostly because the city draws large numbers of immigrants in almost equal parts from all over the globe—that is unique to New York,” says Kaufman.
Several languages have been uttered for the very last time in New York, he says.
“There are these communities that are completely gone in their homeland. One of them, the Gottscheers, is a community of Germanic people who were living in Slovenia, and they were isolated from the rest of the Germanic populations.
“They were surrounded by Slavic speakers for several hundreds of years so they really have their own variety [of language] which is now unintelligible to other German speakers.”
The last speakers of this language have ended up in Queens, he says, and this has happened to many other communities.
Garifuna is an Arawakan language from Honduras and Belize, but also spoken by a diaspora in the United States.
Staff at the Endangered Language Alliance have been working with two Garifuna speakers, Loreida Guity and Alex Colon, to document not only their language but also aspects of their culture through traditional song, before these are lost without record.
But why do languages die?
Communities can be wiped out through wars, disease or natural disasters, and take their languages with them when they go.
More commonly, though, people transition out of one mother tongue into another, either by choice or under duress, a process that linguists refer to as language shift.
Being one of the last speakers of a language is a lonely place to be—you may have no one to talk to, no way to write it down and all kinds of cultural and historical knowledge that does not translate easily into English, Spanish or another more dominant language.
Languages ebb and flow, some triumph for a while only to fade away.
At the end of 19th Century, the lower east side of Manhattan was a celebrated centre of European Jewish culture, a world of Yiddish theatre, newspapers, restaurants and bookshops.
But in the 20th century, Yiddish took a battering as the Jewish community left the lower east side and moved out to the suburbs. The American-born children of Jewish immigrants understood, but rarely spoke, Yiddish.
With no readership, newspapers closed and books were discarded.
And then, just as it was most threatened, Yiddish bounced back, thanks to an unusual combination of technology, faith and the efforts of Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center.
He established the centre to help salvage Yiddish language publications, 11,000 of which have now been digitised and are freely available online.
Yiddish also found support from an unexpected quarter—while secular Jews were increasingly giving up the language in favour of English, religious Jewish communities across New York continued to speak it, using Yiddish as their everyday vernacular allowing Hebrew to be reserved for religious study.
“There are many people nowadays who take Yiddish very seriously and raise their kids in Yiddish as well,” says Lansky.
Even Yiddish radio, once ubiquitous in New York, has made a comeback thanks to technology, with a once-a-week show produced by staff at a Jewish newspaper.
New York is a city that never sleeps and a city that never stops talking—a churning metropolis in which businesses, buildings and people are buffered by the changing winds of commerce and culture.
It is the perfect vantage point to listen to how the world’s languages rise and fall on the tides of human affairs. I wonder in how many languages can you say ‘Big Apple’?
Job opportunity for Gaelic speakers in SteòrnabhaghNeach-fàilteachais làn-ùine (37 uairean a thìde) – Oifis Steòrnabhaigh
£14,500-£16,500 gach bliadhna (a rèir eòlas-obrach) + peinnsean
Tha MG ALBA a’ sireadh neach-fàilteachais, le comasan sgrìobhaidh agus labhairt aig ìre fileantais sa Ghàidhlig, airson na h-oifis aca ann an Steòrnabhagh. Bidh uallach air an neach a bhith a’ coimhead às dèidh dhaoine a’ tadhail air an oifis ann an dòigh phroifeiseanta agus eifeachdach. Feumaidh eòlas a bhith aig an neach air Microsoft Word agus Excel oir bidh taic rianachd aca ri thoirt seachad.
Ma tha ùidh agaibh san obair, gheibhear dealbh-obrach agus fios mu ciamar a chuireas sibh a-steach airson na h-obrach aig firstname.lastname@example.org
Feumaidh tagraidhean a bhith a-staigh ro Dhihaoine 31 Cèitean 2013.