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And Still the Languages Kept On Dying

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Richard Littlebear discusses language endangerment and attempts at revitalization and maintenance:

‘Probably because of [a] tradition of failure, we latch onto anything that looks as though it will preserve our languages. As a result, we now have a litany of what we have viewed as the one item that will save our languages. This one item is usually replaced by another.

For instance, some of us said, ‘Let’s get our languages into written form’ and we did and still our Native American languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s make dictionaries for our languages’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s get linguists trained in our own languages’ and we did, and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s train our own people who speak our languages to become linguists’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s apply for a federal bilingual education grant’ and we did and got a grant and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s let the schools teach the languages’ and we did, and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s develop culturally-relevant materials’ and we did and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s use language masters to teach our language’ and we did, and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s video-tape our elders speaking and doing cultural activities’ and we did and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s put our native language speakers on CD-ROM’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

…In this litany, we have viewed each item as the one that will save our languages-and they haven’t.’

Source: Baker, Colin, 2006. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

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Categories: Bilingualism Quotes

Bilingualism Quote of the Week: Language Loss and Suppression

Shackle a people, strip them bare, cover their mouths:

they are still free.

Deprive them of work, their passports, food and sleep:

they are still rich.

A people are poor and enslaved when they are robbed of the language inherited from their parents:

it is lost forever.

Source:

Ignazio Buttitta (1972), as cited in Baker, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (2006)

Additional Quotes on Bilingualism

Categories: Bilingualism Quotes