How to save/learn a dying language

The BBC says that two languages die every month. (Language Death by David Crystal) With this estimate it is no wonder why people all around the world are racing to save dying languages. These people are trained Anthropologists, language enthusiasts, or native people who want to revive their heritage. All of them are faced with the same question, “How do I learn a dying language?”

These people need to find a place that is convenient to learn, because not everyone can go and live with the few people who speak this language and learn it from them. In some places schools have been erected to teach native languages.

These schools have in many cases brought life back to the languages they are teaching. In a series of articles by   P. Kerim Friedman, called Learning an Endangered Language. Kermin discusses his endeavors on learning a dying language in Taiwan. He went to a college to learn an indigenous language called Amis.

What Kermin found at this school was that the people who were teaching him the language were teaching him it as if it were already dead. That is their approach to Amis was the only way he would use the language is translating text and not in any conversational use. This did not sit well with him and it does not with me either.

He goes on in post 9 to tell us about how two, what I like to think of as professional language revivers, came to his school where he was learning Amis and brought their knowledge of the how they learned, along with an entire community, their native language of Maori.

They made a language program for families. it revolved around the home. They also created group events so that the children would have fun memories in Maori. They also made a map where the people participating in the program could find places outside of the home that spoke Maori.

The approach that the professionals spoke of at the school where Kermin was attending is in my opinion the way to revive a fading language. The way that Kermin was learning in the schools seemed like a feeble attempt to push off for another ten years or so the inevitable end to a language and the dying of a part of a culture. With the Maori approach through interactions and relationships built around a language puts hope back into the language. It gives it life and importance to the community again.

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