This week in languages: March 23, 2018

by on March 23, 2018



To save their native languages, lawmakers in Alaska have declared that Alaska is facing a linguistic emergency. A resolution has been passed for the commitment of resources to save “Alaska’s 20 indigenous languages”. The resolution is a response to the danger of extinction these languages face if current rates of language loss are not brought under control.

British Columbia has the distinction of being the Canadian province with the greatest diversity of indigenous tongues—34 unique languages, to be exact. And recently, the BC government pledged US$50 million to ensure the survival of these First Nation languages!

Hailing French as a “language of freedom”, French president Emmanuel Macron has launched a campaign to promote the use of the French language worldwide. Macron wants French to be more widely spoken than English in the (post-Brexit) European Union, and for the language to become the most dominant language in Africa. Leading French-language writers and intellectuals from Africa, however, see the move as “a cover for continued meddling in former colonies”.

Commentaries and Features

Are we living in the most multilingual age yet? Bryan Lufkin explores what living in a world with increasing levels of international migration (read: increasingly culturally diverse environments), higher technological connectivity, and personalised educational apps and games can mean for language learning. Read his piece for BBC here.

Skyler Kuczaboski, a freshman at Dartmouth College, translated her Language Revitalisation course instructor’s children’s book into Ojibwe. Her professor, Hilaria Cruz, had previously developed a children’s book in her own native language of Chatino. The team at Dartmouth plans to make digital templates available so that the books can be created in any language. Read this article to find out more about the project and Kuczaboski’s journey!

“Language, land, spirituality and culture are all connected. They must be studied and practised together to know what it means to be Cree or ‘Nehiyaw,’ “says teacher Andrea Custer. Custer is a teacher at Sturgeon Lake Central School, and part of the Cree community there. Read CBC News’ feature on the way Canada’s new Indigenous Languages act and funding will affect Sturgeon Lake’s Cree Community.

Ever wondered what country names like “Kazakhstan” or “Mexico” actually mean? And did you know that “Thailand” (and not “America”) means “Land of the Free”? Find out more with this beautifully illustrated map showing the literal translation of country names.

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