Saturday, June 18, 2005

Revitalization of small languages

"I ka ‘ölelo nö ke ola, i ka ‘ölelo nö ka make." In the language there is life, and in the language there is death. Hawaiians have a proud history of taking advantage of a wide range of media, from song to dance to print, to preserve and the life of their language and culture. Now they are using the computer to provide one more powerful voice for language use and revitalization, and their example can be of potential benefit to other indigenous communities throughout the world." Read more in an article by Mark Warschauer and Keona Donaghy, University of Hawaii, 1997

This is parallel to what now happens in so many places around the world, such as Greenland, a country still closely connected with Denmark ecomonically and culturally, but now struggling to revitalize their own language. Some days ago I heard in the daily Greenland news broadcast (in Danish), that the streets are now renamed as they used to carry traditional Danish names. There is also an ongoing discussion whether Danish or English should be considered as the future first foreign language in the schools. In Denmark people have a tendency to ignore that we used to have colonies in the past, and often romantizing the almost paternal care taking for the Inuit people in Kalaalit Nunaat (which we still know as Greenland). No doubt that there were also rich resources to exploit, as well as todays' very strategic position on the US military world map. Can a more direct access to active usage of their own language embedded in their cultural heritage help the indigenous population to feel pride in their roots and seek to develop local strategies for survival as a people? I think that knowing your own language in an uptodate version must be powerful in achieving this.

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