Monday, February 23, 2009

“The Linguists” to air this week on PBS (Week of Feb. 23)

By Michael Conner, AATIA

Scientists estimate that of 7,000 languages in the world, half will be gone by the end of this century. On average, one language disappears every two weeks.

“The Linguists” follows David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, scientists racing to document languages on the verge of extinction. Their journey takes them deep into the heart of the cultures, knowledge and communities at stake.

In Siberia, Harrison and Anderson seek to record the Chulym language, which hasn’t been heard by outsiders for more than 30 years. The linguists encounter remnants of the racist Soviet regime that may have silenced Chulym for good.

In India, tribal children attend boarding schools, where they learn Hindi and English, a trade, and the pointlessness of their native tongues. Similar boarding schools for tribal children existed in the US through most of the 20th century. Harrison and Anderson travel to the children’s villages, where economic unrest has stirred a violent Maoist insurgency. The linguists witness the fear and poverty that have driven youth from their native communities.

In Bolivia, the Kallawaya language has survived for centuries with fewer than 100 speakers. The linguists trek high into the Andes to unlock its secret.

The Linguists preview (trailer)

This PBS show apparently airs in Lawrence this Thursday, Feb. 26 at 9:00 PM. Check your local PBS listings for exact date and time in your area.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Here we go again

This time it's Oklahoma

I just received this via the Siouan List. Such a bill is a slap in the face to those of us who commit ourselves to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages in the United States and around the world. It shows racism is still rampant in our country. Native Americans were forcibly moved to Oklahoma (formerly known as Indian Territory) by the thousands (remember the Trail of Tears) and now, on top of that, they're being told their languages are not good enough to be considered equal to English, the European colonial language that has been shoved down their throats (while literally having their mouths washed out with soap or being beaten for speaking their native languages) for centuries.

Here is the email that was forwarded:

Senator Sykes (R-24, Newcastle), SJR30 English Only bill will be heard before the Senate General Government Committee on Monday, February 16th at 10:00 a.m. This bill provides for a constitutional amendment declaring the English language to be the official language of the State of Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Nation opposes this legislation. Oklahoma tribes have come together to fight against the English Only legislation. Other professional groups in health, education, business and clergy have joined efforts to stand against this proposed legislation.

Oklahoma has been blessed with more than 35 Indian nations, each of which has a unique culture. Part of that culture comes from the richness of native languages, which have been spoken here for centuries before Oklahoma became a State. Part of Oklahoma's identity to the world is our rich tribal heritage and we should use our diversity to promote our state. The English Only initiative symbolizes injustice and discrimination. Why have an official language to show such narrow-mindedness?

It sends the wrong message to our youth, telling them that their native language isn't seen as valuable. Academic studies have shown that children who are fluent in more than one language perform better on standardized tests than children who speak only English. We should look to encourage language diversity among Oklahoma's citizens.
I wish Native Oklahomans and anyone who values multiple languages and cultures success in blocking passage of this bill.