National Post article on preserving endangered Native Canadian languages (Lunaape, etc.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pre-european distribution of the Haida language.

This is from January but I hadn't noticed it until now, quite a detailed article on the efforts being made to preserve native languages that are in danger of extinction. Languages like Cree and Inuktitut are doing fairly well for themselves but once a population reaches only a few dozen (almost all very elderly) like a lot of these there's usually not much time left until the language dies out, unfortunately.

The easiest way to keep a language from completely dying out is through the creation of small, often-seen examples of the language, which means street signs, place names, and songs, among others. This alone won't do it of course but is a way of keeping the language in view of the people living in an area. From the article:
Europeans gave this language the name Delaware (or Munsee Delaware), but its advocates today are taking back the name Lunaape (or Lenape). Its once-large territory has been reduced to a rump at Munsee-Delaware Nation -- also known as Moraviantown -- a reserve near London, Ont., with a population of about 200. During the 20th century, teaching Lunaape to children fell out of favour. Today it survives in the gossip of a handful of elders and on stop signs that read "ngihlaal."
There are many more places where people can be exposed to the language than stop signs: think no smoking signs...

(that's Latin)

...stay off the grass signs, no entry signs, all of them. Keep English on them as well so that people know what the sign says and are more easily able to remember. Songs can be incorporated into daily television or radio broadcasts, like with the anthem that plays first thing in the morning and at the end of broadcasting at night.

Another good example can be seen with employees in government buildings: in Canada they greet people in two languages as soon as you walk in, reminding you that you're in a bilingual country even in a city like Vancouver way out on the west side, and native reserves can do the same thing. Small things like this can increase the exposure of the language in daily life and at least give it a fighting chance.

In that spirit, let's all learn the Lunaape word for beet (obtained from the article and from here). Here it is:



JimDesu said...

There are still a few native Lenape speakers in the U.S. too(Kansas), but not many.

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