The Fate of Languages A study of the health of world languages and the preservation of heritage languages. Image source: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/language/
Contents Introduction of the themes Definitions Chosen text Context of chosen text Ideas – language death Analysis of elements and affects Language genocide (linguicide) te Reo Maori Personal experience Conclusion
Definitions Sociolinguists One whom studies language in relation to its social context. Linguistic genocide (linguicide); When one language is ‘killed’ by the domination of another. Categories of language health; a) Endangered – still learned by children but likely to cease within the next century. b) Moribund – no longer learned by children, (Michael E. Krauss estimates that between 15 and 30% of world languages fall into this category) c) Safe – learned by children and likely to continue for foreseeable future.
Chosen text Rizk, J. (2000). Keeping one’s language: Looking back with regret. In, J.B. Web & B.L. Miller (Eds.), Teaching Heritage Language Learners: Voices from the Classroom (pp. 66-68). Yonkers, NY: ACTFL. Image source: http://camelsnose.files.wordpress.com/2011/01arabicalphabet_picture_chart.jpg
Context of chosen text ‘I can communicate my love for my grandmother but, since I cannot converse freely with her, I feel cheated of fully knowing her’ (Rizk 66). Explores the disadvantages of not learning a ‘heritage language’ as a child. Heeding the appalling ‘advice’ of an American elementary school teacher to speak English, rather than native tongue at home. Jacqueline’s personal inability to communicate with extended family through not being taught Arabic. The significance of language for cultural preservation.
Ideas – language death (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000:57)
Language genocide (linguicide) Linguistic genocide denotes the intentional eradication of heritage and indigenous languages by dominant social groups. Language is part of ‘who’ we are; when a language is ‘killed’, an intrinsic part of culture is also lost. In many indigenous languages there are no ‘other’ language equivalents of ideas and phrases. For example, the te Reo Maori word ‘Mana’ cannot be translated comprehensively in any other language.
Recognised as an official language in NZ; thought to be understood by around 4% of the population.
te Reo can perhaps be considered on the brink of the ‘endangered’ category in terms of it’s health as a language.
Whilst the Maori culture is maintained through other mediums.
Personal experience Palmerston North Girls’ High School offers four languages to students; te Reo Maori, French, German and Japanese. Whilst the latter three focused solely on language learning, te Reo Maori classes often involved a wealth of cultural experiences.
Conclusion Language death is avoidable and can be combated through language documentation and language revitalisation. The onus lies with both parents and governments to ensure the survival of at risk languages. Celebration of heritage languages is also necessary for the maintenance of cultural identity as Jacqueline Rizk confirms.