7 Things to Know About Native American Languages

The month of November is Native American Heritage Month. A recent editorial by Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, suggests that “the vast majority of Americans have a limited — and often mistaken — understanding of Native American history.”

That so? Native American languages can offer deep insights into our nation’s history. Here’s seven things to know about Native American languages.

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33 European languages in danger of extinction

LONDON — 33 languages across Europe are close to dying out, according to a new list of at-risk dialects.

Four languages spoken in British territories are among the endangered lingos featured in a report from language expert, which uses data from the UNESCO Languages in Danger project.

Christopher Moseley at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies identified 13 critically endangered languages and a further 20 that are severely endangered, with Livonian, from the Latvian region of Dundaga, deemed most at risk.

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Ojibwe-language classes teach a sense of cultural pride

An endangered language spoken mostly by an elderly population can now be heard from the mouths of kindergartners in a room at Lowell Elementary School.

There are 12 students in the new Ojibwe immersion class, taught by Gordon Maajiigwaneyaash Jourdain, who previously taught at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Enweyang Ojibwe Language Nest. The program was approved by the Duluth School Board last spring partly as a way to improve the district’s Native American four-year graduation rate, which was 32.5 percent in 2013.

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LOL if you must, but the internet is actually making English better

The internet is positively amazeballs. But the unedited, character-limited way we communicate on the web and mobile is often blamed for ruining the purity of language, English or otherwise. What hope is there for future literary greats when wacky internet terms like “adorbs” and “LOL” make it into the most revered dictionaries? Is the internet destroying the foundations of language?
The answer is no. To see why, just watch English 3.0, a new documentary by the London-based filmmaker Joe Gilbert. The film poses the question to linguists and authors, and they are unanimous in saying that, if anything, the internet is making English more expressive than ever.

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Four British languages in danger of becoming extinct

Tourists looking for sun and sea but keen for something extra from their holiday break can now help save an ancient language.
Four languages spoken on British territories feature on an new “endangered” list, with the numbers of people using them seriously dwindling. There are particular fears for the future of Jersey French and Guernsey French, which are marked as “severely endangered” on a list of 33 under-threat languages.
The at-risk list was compiled by the language expert Christopher Moseley at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies and is based on data from the Unesco Languages in Danger project which was launched in 1993.

A new report, which highlights the threatened languages, believes “linguistic tourism” can help save them by stimulating greater interest in learning them and helping them survive, if not thrive. Naren Shaam, the chief executive of GoEuro, said the travel planning company wanted to promote a new “linguistic-based” ethical tourism “allowing people to choose to directly benefit regions in which centuries-old languages are on the cusp of extinction”.

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Smartphone apps used to save endangered Indigenous languages

By Felicity JamesOctober 29, 2014, 10:55 am

Indigenous elders in the Northern Territory are trying to save their endangered language using a smart phone app and crowdsourcing software.

Fewer than 100 people speak Marrithiyel, which is part of the Tyikim language group and spoken in regions southwest of Darwin.

Dr Linda Ford’s mother – a Marrithiyel speaker – died in 2007 and asked her to maintain the Tyikim languages.

“That’s one of the languages that we were taught from the day we were born, probably before we were born, because they would’ve been singing to us in their tummies,” the Charles Darwin University research fellow said.

“One of the things that my mother had instructed my brothers and sisters was to make sure that our languages and culture were maintained at the level that she handed them on, before she passed away.

“Not just for the Tyikim people, but for all people, particularly the Australian people, so they know that there are other languages and cultures that exist in this country.”

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Navajo woman undertakes project to document Native American languages and histories

Katherine Locke

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Karen Begay wants to preserve Native American languages from becoming extinct by recording and documenting tribal and family history from tribes across the United States told by elders in their own languages.

She envisions turning her work into an archive titled Native American Oral History that can be passed on to future generations. A big part of the project is capturing the time when the elders grew up, a time that does not exist now.

“We’re letting the people talk in their own languages,” Begay said. “Talk about their history, their family history, their tribe and their culture.”

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