Foundation for Endangered Languages

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2. Development of the Foundation

Some Publicity

A couple of recent turn-ups for the FEL book.

Talk with Melvyn Bragg - B.A. Inflight Entertainment

I was interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on 16 December 1999, together with Jane Freeland: perhaps to be seen as the general and specific faces of action agaisnt language endangerment. (Jane jane.freeland(at) is an academic at School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth, and works in literacy programmes in Nicaragua.) Despite his famous and unremitting attention to English and its history in recent series on BBC Radio 4, Lord Bragg was evidently just as enthusiastic about smaller languages and their cultural goods.

The interview went out on BA Inflight Entertainment in February this year.

"My U'wa's a bit rusty"

I was approached a couple of months ago by FHM, a somewhat raunchy men's magazine, who were interested in a piece on endangered languages. They were particularly keen to have some real phrases with cultural authenticity.

Well, it has now come out. On page 48 of the March 2000 issue, you will find:

"My U'wa's a bit rusty"
Why learn French when you can perfect a language that nobody speaks any more?



With more than 6,500 living languages to choose from, it is tragic that most young students choose to tackle French - just so they can waffle in the same annoying way as 220 million other Gallic speakers. It's surely far more impressive to have a crack at a dying language spoken by virtually no-one...

It goes on to give thumbnail sketches and a single phrase from four countries and four languages. (I just give the translation here.)

Australia - Dyirbal: Would you like to eat a piece of kangaroo?
Britain - Cornish: A man without his tongue shall have lost his land.
Nepal - Belhare: And then the lama lifted up his intestines and abdomen and took them out and cleaned them all thoroughly.
Colombia - U'wa: We're dying.

The coverage was quite sympathetic, and the contact details for the Foundation correct.

It produced one further lead. BBC Scotland lined me up to appear on the Fred MacAulay show between 9 and 10 am on 2 Feb. 2000, when I was to teach him some further choice phrases from little known peoples around the world: as it happened, just a few sweet nothings in Warlpiri

And for the Future...

Further major moves are afoot. We are now in advanced discussions with BBC TV producers about a series about the threat to small languages and what some individuals, in different lands, in different ways, are doing about it. More news in the next Ogmios, I hope.