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Posts Tagged ‘gaelic’

I have blogged several times about vanishing languages and the people who seek to preserve them.

Now it seems that community radio is getting into the act, with programs that are becoming a piece of the cultural-survival puzzle. This is happening worldwide, including in the United States.

“The swift and sure loss of indigenous language in the U.S. was hardly an accident,” writes Alexis Hauk at the Atlantic. “From the latter part of the 19th century to the latter part of the 20th, the Bureau of Indian Affairs systematically sent generations of Native American kids into boarding schools that were more focused on punishment and assimilation than on education. In a piece for NPR in 2008, Charla Bear reported on the terrible conditions that persisted at these schools for a century—how kids were given Anglo names, bathed in kerosene, and forced to shave their heads.

“In recent years, the government has taken steps to reverse some of the damage. In 1990, the Native American Languages Act was passed, recognizing the right of indigenous populations to speak their own language.”

Lobbying by Loris Taylor, the CEO and president of Native Public Media, “helped lead to the creation in 2009 of the [Federal Communications Commission]’s ‘Tribal Priority’ for broadcasting,” writes Hauk, “and then, a year later, to the establishment of the FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy, which promotes technology and communication access on tribal lands.”

Mark Camp, deputy executive director at Cultural Survival, says that “Congress’s passage of the Community Radio Act in 2011 means that community radio stations could soon—in Camp’s words—’mushroom,’ which offers a lot of potential for Native American media on reservations, where there is usually little infrastructure and in many cases no electricity (certainly no wifi). In these areas, a low-power FM station that’s plugged into the grid in the center of town allows people with battery-powered, handheld radios to listen in to what’s happening all around them.” Read more.

Update: Asakiyume adds this link from “The Take Away.”

Arizona’s KUYI 88.1 broadcasts in Hopi to approximately 9,000 people. Photograph: KUYI

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/culture_test/kuyi%20615%20radio.jpg

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To paraphrase a character in the Brian Friel play “Translations,” if you impose a language on people, one day you may find that their speech “no longer fits the contours of the land.” Language is critical to identity. People can always learn the language of the power group later, once they have learned how to learn.

That is the rationale behind a new effort in Haiti.

“When Michel DeGraff was a young boy in Haiti, his older brother brought home a notice from school reminding students and parents of certain classroom rules. At the top of the list was ‘no weapons.’ And right below it, DeGraff still remembers: ‘No Creole.’ Students were supposed to use French, and French only. …

“DeGraff is now an associate professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he is using his influence to try to destroy the barrier that essentially fences off most of Haiti’s children from a real education.” Read the Boston Globe report here.

The dominance of a few languages was one of the concerns behind creating Esperanto as a bridge. With a bridge language, Esperantists hoped, less common languages would not die. It hasn’t turned out that way.

“There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, and if statistics hold, two weeks from now, there will be one less. That’s the rate at which languages disappear. And each time a language disappears, a part of history — a subtle way of thinking — vanishes too.

“A new documentary called The Linguists, [which aired August 4] on PBS, follows ethnographers David Harrison and Greg Anderson as they race to document endangered languages in some of the most remote corners of the world.

“From the plains of Siberia to the mountains of Bolivia to the tribal lands of India, Harrison and Anderson have hopscotched the globe, but they sat down for a moment with NPR’s Scott Simon to discuss their race to capture the world’s endangered languages.

“Harrison, a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College, specializes in sounds and words; Anderson, who directs Oregon’s Living Tongues Institute, is the verb expert. Together, they speak 25 languages.” Read more here.

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