Posts Tagged ‘language maintenance’

Soillse researcher seeks Gaelic speakers

26 April 2013

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (wiki) is a university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees using Scottish Gaelic (gla) as the language of instruction. Located on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was founded in 1971 and hosts Soillse, a research network for the maintenance and revitalization of Gaelic.

As a Soillse researcher, Cassie Smith-Christmas is tracing the path of the language as it developed during the 1940s and 50s, when migration occurred due to evacuation and boarding-out. She is seeking people who can speak with her about the language aspects of that period. To find out more about her project and for her contact information, see “Global Gaelic explored through evacuee experiences.”

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Speaking in a mother tongue speaks to the heart

26 May 2012

There are about 400 languages in Nigeria, including the official language (English) and the national languages Hausa (hau), Igbo (ibo) and Yoruba (yor), each with at least 20 million speakers.

Yet even such widely spoken tongues face pressure. Take Beatrice Ejiogu, whose first language is English because her Igbo parents adopted English and sent her to South Africa for schooling. She has returned to Nigeria for university but cannot communicate with her grandparents. As reported in “Using language as instrument of national identity,” her situation is common among the youth of today in Nigeria.

According to Ukegbu Kazi, a secondary school principal, parents should always speak to their children in their native tongues to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage.

The importance of doing so is summarized in a quote in the article from former South African President Nelson Mandela, who evidently once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Revitalizing the languages of Okinawa

23 May 2012

The Ethnologue lists 15 languages in Japan. Ainu (ain) is spoken in the north by an estimated 15 people, Japanese is the national language, and Korean is spoken by an estimated 670,000 people (1988). Japanese Sign Language (jsl) is also spoken by about 315,000 people.

The other 11 languages are in the Ryukyuan family, located in Okinawa, a 1,000-kilometer-long archipelago of hundreds of islands extending from southern Kyushu to Taiwan.

The Ryukyuan languages are related to Japanese, but the connection is distant. Nevertheless, for social reasons, Japanese people (including Okinawans themselves) often refer to Ryukyuan languages as mere dialects of Japanese.

Enter Byron Fija, a half-Okinawan, half-American. Proud of his ability to speak Okinawan (ryu), also known as Central Okinawan or Uchinaaguchi, he teaches the language in an effort to maintain and revitalize it.

Read more in “Okinawans push to preserve unique language.” Also, “Okinawans Try to Preserve Dying Language” has part of that article with English subtitles/subtitles (after the opener), plus a video and more links.

The other languages listed in the Ethnologue with estimated populations are:

Wikipedia does not have articles on all of these languages. See the article Amami language for languages without a link.

Yiddish in Winnipeg

22 May 2012

The Ethnologue claims 5,400 first-language speakers of Western Yiddish (yih) and 1.7 million of Eastern Yiddish (ydd), though estimates vary as reported by Wikipedia.

As also reported in Wikipedia, Yiddish is a fusion of German, Hebrew and Slavic languages with borrowings from other languages. The name Yiddish itself means “Jewish.” Yiddish has made many contributions to English, and Wikipedia has a list of such words.

Today, the Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture starts in Winnipeg, Canada. In addition to the three shows in this year’s festival, Winnipeg has a weekly Yiddish radio program on CKJS hosted by Rochelle Zucker and a women’s Yiddish reading group.

This blog post was inspired by “Yiddish is alive and well in Winnipeg” which has a lot more information about Yiddish and Yiddish in Winnipeg.