This week in languages: June 10, 2016

by on June 10, 2016



The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, has disclosed that he hopes Jamaica will make Spanish its official second language. The disclosure came during his report to Parliament about bilateral talks with Cuban President Raul Castro at the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States.

A new crowdsourced book entitled ‘100 Days of Cree‘ includes translations of everything from Jonny Cash lyrics to terms having to do with Facebook and social media. Neal McLeod, who spear-headed the project, hopes that it will lead to wider recognition for and inspire more people to learn Cree—the most widely-spoken indigenous language in Canada.

Commentaries and Features

The outstanding Hawaiian revival in the late 20th century was a major topic of discussion this week, given that Hawaiian is one of the few languages to have ever been successfully revived. Slate profiled the immersion schools that led and continue to lead the revitalisation effort, while Alaska Public Media looked at the similarities between the situations in Hawaii and Southeast Alaska, and what Tlingit speakers and activists can learn from Hawaiian’s successful example.

Fancy creating a new social dialect because your workplace is too noisy—a reality for sawmill workers in British Columbia and Oregon, first documented in the late 20th century. Sawmill sign language, an ‘alternate sign language’, was documented and studied in the 1970s by linguists Martin Meissner and Stuart Philpott, who hypothesised that “as automation in factories increased, the use of sign language would decrease”. In a piece for Atlas Obscura, Sarah Laskow traces the origins, utility, and decline of the signed sociolect.

A day in the life of an someone who speaks English as a second language: Vietnamese immigrant to the US, Ocean Vuong recalls the first time he wrote a poem in the fourth grade and says it like it is for one who immigrated into English for The New Yorker.

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