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The fight to bring dying languages back from the brink.

Rare languages and dialects provide a fascinating insight into the culture, history and even the sense of humour of a group of people.

Keeping them alive is not only a worthwhile and rewarding endeavour but also essential if we want to remain connected to our rich, unique and varied past. 

The snowy video above (he’s in Sweden) shows Anass speaking the dialect, Darija. Darija is also known as Moroccan Arabic; it is the spoken common dialect of Morocco.  In this video Anass explains how Darija is spoken and pronounced; his ultimate objective being to encourage others to learn more about his dialect. In this article, we look at the important fight people around the world are currently engaged in: keeping dialects alive.

 

 “Fatla genes?”

 

What does it mean? What language is it? Would it make it easier if I told you an appropriate answer might be…

 

“Brav, gromerci!”

 

Well, the answer is Cornish. And the above means 'How are you? Fine, thanks!". Cornish is a dialect from Cornwall in the UK and it has been recognised as an endangered dialect by UNESCO, along with another 3,000 other languages and dialects from around the world; such as the ones below. Any idea where these are spoken? Or at least the continent on which they're spoken? You'll find the answers at the end of the article.

 

Aymara Kalmyk
Balti Limburgian
Basque Nafusi
Breton Nawat
Choctaw North Frisian
Cornish Venetian
Irish Welsh

  

We all know how important individuality and identity is, so why are we letting these important ties be cut? It’s estimated that around 3,000 languages and dialects were at risk at the turn of the century – that’s around half of all world languages. Fortunately, a non-profit organisation, ‘Wikitongues’, is fighting hard to halt this extinction in its tracks.

 

Wikitongues, based in Brooklyn, New York, is working hard to build the ‘first public archive of every language in the world’ with the aim of empowering ‘community activists’, thus allowing people to share their languages with a wider net and enabling more effective language preservation. Wikitongues is committed to creating new technology to make their mission, easier for everyone to access; as an example of this, they created a ‘Poly’. Poly is a tool which aims to ‘streamline the process of creating and sharing dictionaries between any two languages’. 

 

Wikitongues has worked with over 1,000 volunteers around the world to produce video oral histories in over 400 languages, the concept is that these videos will provide the beginnings of the preservation of all languages, not just endangered ones. The more we understand of our worldwide languages and dialects the more we’ll want to protect them. The videos are infectiously positive and passionate, even if you have no connection to the language or dialect at all! They are a fascinating insight into the people, culture, sounds and sights of a language. If you haven't already, take the time to watch the video above and then check out Wikitongues' website - you never know you may be able to help keep a language alive, or at the very least, you'll learn something new.

 

In promoting the revival and growth of lesser-known and spoken languages and dialects, is Wikitongues telling the world to stop learning English and other lingua francas? The answer is no – they believe that learning any language is empowering and it shouldn’t necessarily follow that the rise of one language will lead to the decline of another; it’s just about promotion and equal representation...just like folk musicians would fight to keep their genre alive, in a world of pop and rock music! Lingua francas are essential, but all other languages are just as important to those who speak them.

 

Here at PLS, we teach over 50 languages, so if you’re feeling inspired and would like to start learning a language today – get in touch.

 

Answers:

Aymara Bolivia, Chile, Peru 
Kalmyk Russian Republic of Kalmykia
Balti  Pakistan, Inda
Limburgian Netherlands, Belgium, Germany
Basque Pyranees region of Spain and France
Nafusi Libya, Tunisia
Breton France
Narwat El Salvador
Choctaw  USA
North Frisian  Germany
Cornish UK
Venetian Italy, Brazil, Croatia
Irish Ireland
Welsh Wales, Argentina

 

References:

https://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/cornish.php

https://wikitongues.org/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/languages-endangered-where-to-find/

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/endangered-languages/faq-on-endangered-languages/

http://www.cornishdictionary.org.uk/?locale=en#gromerci&sln=kw

 

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