This week in languages: June 24, 2016

by on June 24, 2016



Following the announcement in March that the University of the Free State would make English the primary language of instruction starting next year, the Bloemfontein High Court on Tuesday heard a plea for Afrikaans instruction to continue to be offered. “This matter is about the supremacy of the [South African] Constitution”, said a representative of the AfriForum, a civil-rights organisation that supports minority groups and promotes the protection of Afrikaner culture.

In New Zealand, an online web series “Rere Te Whiu” has gained the support of national broadcastersMaori Television and the Maori Radio Network. The web series—that talks listeners through the appropriate use of Maori idioms ‘kīwaha’ and colloquial phrases—has gained strong support among the Maori community and collaboration with radio stations and broadcasters is in the works. Access the pilot “Rere Te Whiu” episode on Youtube and Facebook!

Commentaries and Features

In a retrospective piece for Guernica, Rachel Hall reflects on the journey of her grandmother tongue, Ladino: “Si los anios calleron, los dedos quedaron. If the rings fall off, at least the fingers remain. This is the proverb I’ve chosen as an epigram for my collection of short stories, which is a meditation on all that is lost or abandoned during war and immigration, but also what remains and is passed on, including hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties. The proverb seems also to be a statement about Ladino itself—if we’ve largely lost the language, many of its attitudes and beliefs, biases and assumptions remain.”

New York City, one of the most linguistically-diverse places on the planet, is home to speakers of many languages that have been classified as endangered. These include Hawaiian, Judeo-Kashani, and multiple Himalayan languages, according to findings from the New York-based Endangered Language Alliance.

哈困那麻它它,what a wonderful day! ‘The Lion King’, a popular musical first presented on Broadway, is now available in Mandarin! “Since its Broadway debut in 1997, “The Lion King” has been translated into eight languages, including Japanese, Portuguese and Mandarin. In each translation, producers have sought to adapt the script to the local culture while maintaining the spirit of the original.” This particular one in Shanghai includes regional dialects, Chinese pop songs, and a new Monkey Master character based on the likes of Sun Wu Kong (孙悟空), the monkey king of Chinese folk tales.

A vote for Brexit may lead to a steep decline in foreign language studies, a Guardian commentary fears as the contentious vote looms. The polyglot influences of the European continent may recede in the face of strong British nativist pride in monoglottism, and a Leave vote would certainly jeapordise funding and other EU infrastructure that facilitates language learning.

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