Foundation for Endangered Languages
3. Endangered Languages in the News
Maori: The changing tide of Te Reo
Census figures show the number of Maori speakers has fallen in the past five years, despite multimillion-dollar efforts to revital-ise the language. Nikki Macdonald looks at the health of te reo ('the language' in Maori).
CHANGES IN ATTITUDES TOWARD THE MAORI LANGUAGE
Between softball practice and careering around with toy trucks, preschoolers at the country's first kohanga reo in Wainuiomata move easily between languages switching from Maori to English to accommodate the white-faced visitor. Among the youngsters is six-month-old Ranai-Numia Rimoni son of Te Awa Puketapu, 25, who was one of New Zea-land's first kohanga kids. She and her peers are the new generation of Maori- language speakers, taking their own children to Maori language nests and schools, and using Maori at home. But despite enormous government investment in the language about $200 mil-lion a year the number of New Zealanders speaking Maori has fallen from 160,527 in 2001 to 157,110.
The number of Maori speaking their language has risen slightly, from 130,485 to 131,613. But, as a percentage, that figure has fallen from 25.2 per cent to 23.7 per cent. Despite the statistics, Ms Puketapu is not concerned about the future of the language, especially with initiatives such as Maori TV maintaining interest. "I think it is pretty safe. I think we have done the hard yards, we've got it out of a point where it is in danger of going." She acknowledges, however, that kohangaare in decline, with about 10,000 children attending about 500 kohanga last year, down from 14,000 a decade ago. In 2005, 16 per cent of all Maori school pupils (more than 25,000 pupils) studied either in Maori or in a combi-nation of Maori and English.
It is not enough just to go to a Maori language school, Ms Puketapu says. "It also falls back to the parents to get themselves educated. It's up to the communities rather than the Gov-ernment to be setting up programmes where the generation that missed out can go to learn." A Research NZ-Te Puni Kokiri survey last year of attitudes to the Maori language found that both Maori and non-Maori were generally positive about the language and government support for it. Two-thirds of Maori said they often watched Maori TV. But Te Puni Kokiri senior analyst Tom White said some older Maori speakers said they had trouble understanding their children and grandchildren, or the Maori news, as the lan-guage had changed and developed so much. A five-yearly, 74-question Maori competency survey run by Reid Research has just been completed.
Results are not yet available, but Reid field manager Charlie Strivens studied its findings. Only 1 per cent to 2 per cent of Maori were fluent enough to do the survey in Maori, Ms Strivens said. Those aged in their 20s and 30s, and older people who grew up speaking Maori at home, had the best language skills. Many had a reasonable level of understand-ing, but lacked the confidence to speak it, feeling there was not enough situations to safely practise without fear of ridicule, she said. Some respondents were also concerned about a drop-off in proficiency after the ko-hanga reo level. Interviewer and Victoria University student Monique Franks who is taking Maori alongside her law degree says there is an enormous range of skills, from those who speak fluently to those who can manage only a kiaora. "My overall impres-sion is that it is used more than we think."
Fluency is higher in Otaki where the Wananga o Raukawa is based and in the homes of those closely involved with the Maori community, and where the children go to kohanga or kura kaupapa, she said. Ms Franks' university Maori class is about 50-50 Maori and non-Maori. Many overseas stu-dents choose to study both language and cul-ture simply out of interest, she said. Despite the overall reduction in Maori speakers, Te Puni Kokiri policy director Tipene Chrisp hailed the increase in Maori speaking Maori as a victory, after 50 years of steep decline of the language. "That number had been drop-ping dramatically, till about 1996. Now we are seeing a stabilisation."
Analysts would need to look at the age break-down of the statistics, which is not yet avail-able, to get a better picture of why the overall number of Maori speakers had fallen, he said. In 2001, the highest concentration of Maori speakers was in the over-60 age group but some of those people had probably since died. "My suspicion is that the age profile is changing, with more young people speaking Maori." Language revitalisation was a long-term process and major gains were expected to take about 25 years, Mr Chrisp said. Al-ready learning English, Maori and Samoan (from his father), who knows what languages his children will learn in an increasingly mul-ticultural, multilingual New Zealand.
Uganda to teach in local languages
Uganda's National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) is set to train up to 30,000 primary school teachers to teach in their local languages, according to The Monitor newspa-per in Kampala. Instructors will offer training for teachers using nine local languages and English. NCDC head Connie Kateeba told the paper: "It has been observed that a child who is taught in her mother tongue grasps better than one taught in a foreign language." The Guardian Weekly, UK 19.1.2007
CHILE ATTEMPTS TO SAVE DYING LANGUAGES
(October 29, 2006) Chile's Ministry for Edu-cation is developing a program to save the country's indigenous languages from extinc-tion byteaching them to children in indige-nous communities. The program, led by Edu-cation Minister Yasna Provoste Campilla, will aim to provideteaching materials for Mapudungun, Aymara, Quechua, and Rapa Nui. "The idea is to have a sub sector in the area of language and communication that will allow the introduction of indigenous languages into the classroom, in this way ensuring their pres-ervation," said Provoste.
In addition to the teaching program, Chile's Center of Public Surveyswill publish a study in November about Mapudungun, the lan-guage of theMapuche in Chile, estimated to have about 150,000 speakers. While-Mapudungun is more widely spoken than many native American languages, it is notori-ously difficult to teach, as it uses at least four different alphabets.
Chile has nine officially recognized living languages. At present, there is no official data about how many people speak Chile's indige-nous languages, but a census in 2002 revealed that 35 percent of Chile's indigenous people understand their original language, while 17 percent are able to speak it.
While Chile already has two extinct lan-guages, Kakauhua and Kunza, there could soon be an addition to these. The Yámana language from Patagonia is already extinct in Argentina, and since the death of her sister on Saturday, Cristina Calderón is its only re-maining native speaker.
While there is little hope that Yámana will be saved from extinction, efforts are being made to save the southern language of Qawasqar. Linguist Oscar Aguilera has been studying Qawasquar since 1975. "About seven people use it on a day-to-day basis," said Aguilera, "and less than a dozen speak it with any flu-ency." Aguilera has managed to create a con-cise Spanish-Qawasquar dictionary and says he is developing materials for teaching the language to the youngest members of the community with the hope of ensuring its sur-vival.
Language extinction is a problem causing increasing concern worldwide, both from a social and political point of view. A language becomes extinct every 15 days, taking with it its unique cultural and historical background.
"In general, you could say that the great ma-jority of the world's six million languages are being threatened with extinction," said Arturo Hernández, socio-linguist at the Universidad Católica of Temuco.
SOURCES: EL MERCURIO, UNESCO By Cate Setterfield (editor.at.santiagotimes.cl)
UK set to continue excluding Cor-nish from FCNM
Truru, Kernow - Cornwall, Thursday, 28 De-cember 2006 by Davyth Hicks
The UK government appears set to continue to exclude the Cornish from the protection given to other nationalities in the UK and Europe under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for National Minorities.
According to their draft Compliance Report the UK says that it will continue to follow its own criteria for FCNM implementation which follows that set out in the Race Rela-tions Act (RRA). The Act defines what is an ethnic group in the UK, a classification re-quired to be included under the Framework Convention. However, such a definition runs contrary to the spirit of the Convention which was established to bring basic protection for historic national minorities.
In a press release the Celtic League state that : "It implies that a Cornish individual must bring and win a civil court case in order to be included under the Convention, as the Welsh and the Scottish have done in the past. How-ever, in the Compliance Report itself, mention is made of minority ethnic groups (e.g. Chi-nese), who the government indicates receive official support as per the Convention (FCNM), but do not have RRA case law ref-erences either. It suggests that the British Government is unclear about its own criteria." Exclusion from the FCNM also leaves the Cornish open to further abuses, such as the recent cases of schoolchildren being punished for saying that they were Cornish and not English, as well as potentially undermining EU sponsored language projects.
However, the British government have pointed out that it is a draft report and that NGOs and individuals may recommend changes, which "will be considered", up until January 20th. Complaints from NGOs over the proposed Cornish exclusion will also to be sent to the Council of Europe who will then decide what measures to take. (Eurolang 2006) Copies of the UK’s draft report can be obtained from :
Unity in Diversity? European Par-liament rejects Bernat Joan’s Report proposals
Strasbourg, Alsace, Wednesday, 15 November 2006 by Davyth Hicks In what is a setback for all European endan-gered and lesser used languages, the Euro-pean Parliament voted with a large majority against nearly all the substantive measures on Bernat Joan’s Report today (15th November).
The proposals for a EU language plan and legislation for collective language rights, the EU Ombudsman to resolve language disputes, to modify the EU Treaty to allow for a legal base for linguistic diversity, for the funda-mental rights agency to take care of language rights, and continuing support for EBLUL and the Mercator Centres, were all rejected outright. The only proposals to survive were the recommendations that the 2003 Ebner Report be implemented and that EU citizens be able to communicate with the EU in their own national language, regardless of whether it has official status.
Catalan MEP Bernat Joan abstained in the final vote because the Parliament had, by then, rendered the Report toothless. He said: "We cannot support a report where, after the vote in committee and in the plenary, almost all the relevant points have been removed. This includes the recognition of equality amongst all European languages, regardless of their official status, the extension of the man-date of the Agency of Fundamental Rights and of the European Ombudsman to deal with matters of linguistic discrimination, or the guarantee of a fair funding allocation for those agencies responsible for lesser used languages." Bernat Joan pointed out that "today we have been able to see that the true supporters of Europe's linguistic diversity still remain a minority in this parliament, albeit a significant one". The MEP regretted that, "for the major-ity of members, the slogan "unity in diversity" is nothing more than a mere formality taken absolutely out of context". He added, "for this parliament, multilingualism only refers to the official languages of the member states, ne-glecting a much richer and complex reality. Europe is not just a mere conglomeration of states and linguistic diversity is not only re-lated to those languages with strong legal status."
In the previous night’s debate, Bernat Joan spoke up for the Report’s original proposals, and called on the EU to go beyond slogans and words and take clear steps with concrete policies to support existing diversity. The MEP, speaking in English because his Cata-lan mother tongue cannot yet be used, empha-sized that "one of the fundamental values of the EU is the defence of our linguistic diver-sity, and if this is true, we need to see an overhaul of the linguistic policies at EU and state level. Referring to the monolingual mindset of many states he said "The Jacobin-ist model is obsolete, it is far too out-dated for 21st century Europe. We must launch realistic policies to promote genuine European diver-sity".
Referring to one of the primary aims of the report to protect Europe’s endangered lan-guages he said, “Each language is good for humanity and if lost it is lost to all human-ity…it is necessary to devote special care to all the endangered languages with the neces-sary budget to achieve this". He concluded by pointing out that the 2003 Ebner Report is still to be implemented.
The outgoing Commissioner for Multilingual-ism, Jan Figel, welcomed the “inspiring Re-port” which had been written “in the spirit of Unity in Diversity” and highlighted the Com-mission’s recent initiatives to set up networks to promote multilingualism and linguistic diversity and that EU projects were now open to all languages.
Maria Badia i Cutchet (PSOE) said that we need to ensure that “all EU citizens can com-municate with the EU in their mother tongue”, referring to the 10% of EU citizens who cannot at present because they speak a regional, stateless or minority language (RML). A Liberal MEP added that “we need legal protection for all of the EU’s languages, and, if we support Unity in Diversity, we need to support the Report”.
Bairbre de Brun (Sinn Fein- GUE), speaking in Irish then English, strongly supported all of the EFA- Green amendments, and referred to the important work of EBLUL and its projects over the years and their conference in Dublin next week.
In contrast, Mr. Vidal Quadras (Spanish PP - EPP) reacted with scorn, calling the Report “an opportunistic attempt by the rapporteur to come up with nationalist, separatist rhetoric,” and that Mr Joan was “using languages to promote the disintegration of member states”.
An Irish MEP said that “lesser used languages are as important, if not more, than the bigger languages, its important that we carry on sup-porting lesser used languages to show unity in diversity.”
Concluding the debate, Jan Figel described language as “our cultural legacy” and that the Commission, as part of its action for lesser used languages, has been supporting EBLUL and the Mercator Centres.
However, EU support for EBLUL and the Mercator Centres ceases at the end of 2006, while spending overall on RMLs by the EU has seen huge cutbacks with an overall retreat from the previous position of ring-fenced funding for lesser used language projects. Moreover, with all EU project funding only big language projects are able to apply as the thresholds for application are often far too high for small, often impoverished, language communities. In addition, the clause in Bernat Joan’s Re-port calling for the continued support for EBLUL and the Mercators - NGOs dedicated to promoting inclusive linguistic diversity -was rejected. The current situation indicates that EU support for its own European lesser used languages, both financially and politi-cally, it at its lowest.
It comes at a time when several European languages are facing endangerment and in need of help more than ever. Sadly, today’s events in the European Parliament suggest that language activists need not look to the EU anymore for help. Unity in Diversity is an empty slogan - the EU is failing to communi-cate to the 10% of its population who speak a lesser used language despite calls to bring the EU “closer to its citizens”. The mood from the grass roots indicates that a new wave of direct action may be needed to achieve the kind of linguistic equality that continues to be reserved for member state languages. (Euro-lang 2006)
Leanne Hinton wins Lannan award for Cultural Freedom
On 6 November the New York Times carried a full-page ad announcing the 2006 winners of Lannan Awards for Cultural Freedom. One recipient is Leanne Hinton of the University of California at Berkeley, arguably the world's most effective and influential advocate for language preservation and revitalization. Leanne has long worked with California In-dian tribes who are on the point of losing, or have lost, their heritage languages. Her fa-mous Master-Apprentice program has been adopted by communities in which a few eld-ers still speak the tribal language fluently; her regular Breath of Life workshops at Berkeley are an important resource for communities whose languages are no longer spoken but are sufficiently well documented that they can (with hard work and some luck) be revived. Shortly before Ken Hale died, he and Leanne co-edited the influential sourcebook The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Everyone who works with Native American tribes, and with other communities around the world whose heritage languages are endangered or moribund, is greatly in-debted to Leanne for her work and her inspi-ration. And with the most optimistic estimates predicting the death of 50% of the world's 6,000 or so languages by the end of this cen-tury (the most pessimistic estimates range up to a 90% extinction tally by 2100), all lin-guists ought to respect Leanne's work and to congratulate her on her Lannan Award. Posted by Sally Thomason on Language Log
Researching American Indian rhetoric
John A. Berteaux Connections
Prof. Ernest Stromberg stopped by my home last week to share a pot of coffee and discuss his new book American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance. [sic]
An associate professor in the Department of English, Communication and Journalism, Ernie travels to California State University-Monterey Bay from a trim home in Seaside where he lives with his wife, Sherry. He grew up in Arcata.
In Arcata, he advises, "Diversity meant Native American people."
But in other parts of the United States, from Humboldt State University, where he received his bachelor's degree to Eugene, Ore., where he wrote his dissertation about American Indian Literatures, to Harrisburg, Va., where he taught at James Madison University before moving to the Peninsula, Ernie found, "it easy to forget that American Indians continue to exist." Growing up with American Indian kids in school and sleeping over he noted early on that the idea of Indians in the popular media and the life he saw his friends living were quite different. Seamlessly, he ties his child-hood experiences into a central idea in the book. "From first contact," Ernie warns, "for Ameri-can Indians the problem was mental as well as physical... When they got here Europeans had already conceived the individual."
I took him to mean that nonwhite and white were not simply descriptive terms of skin color; rather, from first contact they were used for ocial categorization, social control and social relationships.
America's indigenous population acknowl-edged and used to their advantage the fact that the way they spoke (and looked) stood in for intellect, moral sense and character. They acknowledged that there is a connection be-tween the language we use and stories we tell. I recalled something attributed to French lin-guist Saussure, who asks us to think about what had to be overcome to say "Black is beautiful." This is something that came out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Up until the time that someone said "black is beautiful," black was considered ugly, dirty, and stupid. And then someone said "black is beautiful."
According to Saussure this wasn't just saying something new; rather, it was conceiving the world in a way it had not been imagined be-fore.
"So American Indians recognized in their initial encounter with Europeans that we don't speak language so much as language speaks us?" I chimed in. Ernie nodded in agreement. I asked about the word "survivance" that ap-pears in the title. "It ties in," he says. "The book is about 'rhetorics of survivance.'"
Survival suggests images of someone just hanging on -- on the edge of existence.
"Sur-vivance," he quotes the text, "goes beyond mere survival to acknowledge the dynamic and creative nature of indigenous rhetorics."
He writes, from the early debates about treaty rights and native lands to present day contro-versies about casinos and team mascots America's indigenous populations continue to draw on the art of persuasion.
Nevertheless, Ernie adds, "While rhetorical studies have been enriched by important re-search done in women studies and African American rhetoric the rhetorical practices of America's indigenous people remain signifi-cantly incomplete."
To begin filling that gap in our knowledge, Ernie has produced an edited collection that is worthy of note, unique, readable, and ac-cessible for a non-academic audience.
John Berteaux, an assistant professor of phi-losophy at CSU-Monterey, writes a monthly column. He can be reached at john_berteaux.at.csumb.edu.
© 2006 Monterey County Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
President ponders alphabet change in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is contemplating a switch to the Latin alphabet. With the President Nursultan Nazarbayev himself raising it, observers think it may well become reality. Addressing the Assembly of Peoples of Ka-zakhstan in late October, Nazarbayev said it was time to think of switching. "I think we should return to the question of moving the Kazakh alphabet to Latin," he told delegates representing Kazakhstan’s various ethnic groups. Following Nazarbayev’s comments, a commission was set up to look into alphabet change. It is to investigate the problems Tur-key, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbeki-stan encountered when they switched to Latin and come up with proposals by March of next year.
Professor Kobey Khusayn, director of the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Linguistics, is a member of the commission. "Research is needed – we need to know what is best for us – how to do this, when to do this," he told EurasiaNet, adding that the institute has been given 7.5 million tenge ($60,000 USD) for this.
The idea of changing from Cyrillic is not new; Kazakhstan agreed to make the switch back in the early 1990s, along with the four other former Soviet Turkic republics, following a series of meetings with Turkey. While Azer-baijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were quick to adopt Latin script, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan delayed the switchover, and both still use Cyrillic.
If Kazakhstan changes, it would mark the fourth alphabet used in the country during the past century. In the early 20th century, Arabic was used. In 1929, officials introduced a modified Latin script, as Soviet officials sought to make a break with the country’s Muslim past. After just over a decade in use, however, Latin was supplanted in 1940 by Cyrillic, as the need to have a common alpha-bet for all republics became Soviet policy. Following independence in 1991, alphabet change remained on the backburner for politi-cal and economic reasons.
The re-emergence of the alphabet issue is linked to Kazakhstan’s modernization drive, some observers believe. Reasons for adopting Latin are both practical and ideological, assert supporters of the idea. On the practical side, computer compatibility is often cited, and Nazarbayev invoked this. "Latin script domi-nates in communications," he told the Assem-bly of Peoples.
Layla Yermenbayeva, a Kazakh-language instructor at the Kazakhstan Institute of Man-agement, Economics and Strategic Research, is among those advocating the switch for this reason. She says Cyrillic complicates the use of the Internet for educational purposes. The Nachnem s Ponedelnika newspaper sug-gests that using Latin would facilitate foreign language learning for Kazakhs. However, there could be a reverse effect: Kazakhstan’s Russian speakers might perceive a switch as an obstacle to learning Kazakh. These are the people that the government most needs to learn Kazakh.
Meanwhile, many linguists support a switch to Latin, Professor Khusayn told EurasiaNet. The problem is not linguistic, he says, but "a cultural problem, a political problem, an eco-nomic problem, a problem of education, so politicians, economists, financiers and soci-ologists should be asked the question when and how."
Ideologically, the switch could be interpreted as a move away from the Russian sphere of influence; it is a move likely to appeal to eth-nic Kazakhs as the country seeks to reposition itself in the post-Soviet space. Some commen-tators suggest that it could lead to a rap-prochement of Turkic peoples. It is not clear whether the timing of Nazarbayev’s an-nouncement is linked to the Turkic state sum-mit in Antalya November 17.
The switch would affect the young and old in different ways. The older generation would be at a disadvantage; they are the least likely to know English, or other Western languages, and would likely find it harder to adapt to the new alphabet. The younger generation would presumably have less difficulty in learning the new script. At the same time, they might find themselves cut off, at least temporarily, from their literary and cultural heritage, as the vast majority of literature in Kazakh printed in Cyrillic.
"I don’t think it will be hard for the younger generation, nor for the middle-aged. They have all learned languages and know the Latin alphabet. It will probably be hard for pen-sioners and the inhabitants of rural areas," says Yermenbayeva. Inhabitants of rural areas have limited access to computers and the Internet and therefore have less exposure to the Latin alphabet.
The introduction of the Latin script followed similar patterns in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with the script first intro-duced into schools and then newspapers printed with parallel texts in Cyrillic and Latin. In all three countries, the pace of the introduction proved to be slower than ex-pected.
The huge costs involved in reprinting every-thing from textbooks and official forms to street and shop signs also proved to be a fac-tor hampering the adoption of the new script. However, with Kazakhstan awash with petro-dollars, the cost may not be the most impor-tant factor. Nazarbayev cautioned against haste in deciding the alphabet issue. Indeed, care must be taken if the switch is to be suc-cessful.
The Latinization of the alphabet is one of several reforms currently being contemplated by Nazarbayev. In mid-November, he an-nounced plans to clean up Kazakhstan’s gam-bling industry. Starting January 1, 2007, all casinos in the country will have to move to Lake Kapshagai near Almaty, or to Lake Bu-rabay near Astana, the president said. As with alphabet change, the establishment of ‘"Las Vegas"-style pockets of vice on the steppe can be seen as connected with mod-ernization attempts. Earlier in 2006, Nazar-bayev introduced what has become his pet project: transforming Kazakhstan into one of the world’s 50 most competitive economies.
Editor’s Note: Paul Bartlett is an Almaty-based freelance writer specialising in educa-tion issues. Eurasianet web-site
Native language lives on in woman: Vi Hilbert of the Upper Skagit tribe stubbornly aims to keep Lushootseed alive.
Krista J. Kapralos, Herald Writer
EVERETT - By her own admission, Vi Hil-bert, 88, is stubborn.
She was an only child raised in the Upper Skagit tribe. Her mother loved to perform and her father was a medicine man. When they passed the stories on to Hilbert, he spoke in Lushootseed, the language of Western Wash-ington's Coast Salish tribes. Hilbert was a child in a desperate era for American Indian tribes. Tribal children went to boarding schools where they weren't allowed to speak their native languages. Many children forgot Lushootseed, but not Hilbert.
She stubbornly tucked it away in her mind and in her heart.
Years later, the language emerged from an age of darkness and was brought into the light once again. Hilbert was one of the few people who remembered enough of it to speak it again. At an event sponsored by Everett Community College's Diversity and Equity Center Thurs-day, Hilbert shared her language with about 70 students. The students leaned forward in their seats in an effort to catch every word, and afterward they knelt on the floor in front of Hilbert to thank her.
"She's living history," said Earl Martin, direc-tor of the college's counseling center and a member of the Cree tribe. "The knowledge she passes down orally is just as valuable as anything that's in our library."
Hilbert has dedicated her life to the rebirth of Lushootseed. She worked in the linguistics department at the University of Washington for 15 years. In 1989, she received an honor-ary doctorate from Seattle University and was named a Washington State Living Treasure. Hilbert has worked closely with linguists to develop a written form of Lushootseed and publish dictionaries for the language.
"Given her age, I've wanted to get her here while she's still able to speak," said Christina Castorena, associate dean for diversity for EvCC. "She's a local jewel, and it's an honor to have her here."
Hilbert clutched a dark blanket around her thin shoulders as she sat in a chair on the stage in Baker Hall on the EvCC campus. She demanded that the students speak up if they wanted to ask her a question.
"I'm bossy," she said, smiling slyly.
Hilbert said she's been criticized by some tribal members for sharing Upper Skagit cul-ture. She argues that every culture is impor-tant and should be shared with as many peo-ple as possible. Sharing Lushootseed and ancient Coast Salish stories won't dilute the value of the culture.
"The language will live because it's impor-tant," she said. "The culture will live because it's important."
SAN MANUEL INDIAN RESERVATION - A quiet battle is being waged to save the an-cestral language of the Serrano Indians. The Serrano language was once spoken by indige-nous people throughout the San Bernardino Valley and High Desert. Today, there is only one man whose ability to speak that tongue approaches fluency, said Kaylene Day, a staff linguist for the Serrano Language Revitaliza-tion Project. The ultimate goal of the project - an effort of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' Education Department still in its infancy - is to give tribe members the ability to use the Serrano language in daily conver-sation. "They want their children and future leaders to be versed in the culture so that identity is strong," education director Erin Kahunawaika`ala Wright said. The last person to be fluent in the Serrano language, Dorothy Ramon, died in 2002. With linguist Eric Elli-ott, Ramon compiled Serrano lore into the book "Wayta' Yawa',"the title of which trans-lates to "Always Believe." Ramon's nephew, Ernest Siva, remembers the sounds of Serrano from his childhood. "My mother, she and my older aunt, everyone in the family spoke it," Siva said. Day said Siva is the only person who is almost fluent in Serrano. There are times, Siva said, when he'll use Serrano phrases, though he acknowledged that his aunt's ability to converse in that old language exceeded his own. Siva said Day and others visit him every Thursday to work on the lan-guage project. He also teaches Serrano classes at the Morongo Indian Reservation near Ca-bazon. He is president of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center - a nonprofit created to pre-serve and share knowledge of Southern Cali-fornia's indigenous cultures.
Preserving the Serrano language, Siva said, "has to do with our identity and our culture. The traditions that we had. It's like living on our land. A lot of us move away, but as you notice, we return to our roots."
Historically, the Serrano language was spoken but not written, Day said. Written Serrano was not used until the 1990s, and part of the language project has been to craft a new Serrano alphabet that is different than the one used in Ramon and Elliott's book. Work to create a new alphabet began around Septem-ber 2005, Day said. That effort has produced a 47-letter alphabet that uses many common letters as well as symbols not used in English. For example, the ' symbol is used as a letter that symbolizes the sound of a "glottal stop" - much like the sound between "uh" and "oh" in the English phrase "uh-oh," Day said. A curriculum is being developed to teach the tongue to other members of the tribe. At this point, the San Manuels are not telling the public how actual words would be written in the new alphabet. Wright said tribal members are concerned that to do so could lead to the misappropriation of their culture. Wright, a native Hawaiian, said the tiki kitsch" that is often used as party decorations is an example of how the San Manuels would not want their culture to be represented. Wright considers the kind of island-themed ornamentations that can be purchased at party supply stores to be a bastardization of Polynesian ways. In Day's view, the most successful effort to revive a language was the reintroduction of Hebrew in modern Israel. The Torah and other Hebrew writings provided a wealth of knowledge for 20th-century speakers. The San Manuels do not have that much material to work with, but Day said there are 15 to 20 hours of recorded Serrano to guide the study of an almost-forgotten language. Siva can also draw on notebooks that he compiled while a USC student in the 1960s. As a student, Siva stud-ied music and traveled to Washington, D.C., to research Luiseno Indian music. While at the National Archives, he got sidetracked and found research on Serrano that he transcribed into his own notes. "I realized I could read it," he said. Day was drawn to indigenous lan-guages when she studied linguistic anthropol-ogy while a student at the University of Ari-zona and Northern Arizona University. "I discovered American languages when I was in college. They were so different from anything I'd ever seen," she said. "Language loss .made me sad, how much language diversity we're losing. It's sort of like losing a species."
What's in a name? The word "Serrano" is actually not part of the Serrano language - it's derived from Spanish. The ancestors of to-day's San Manuel Band of Mission Indians lived in the San Bernardino Mountains before Europeans came to California. Spanish set-tlers called tribe members Serranos. The word is similar to "sierra," the Spanish word for mountains. In their own language, the Serranos called themselves Yuhaviatam, which translates to "people of the pines." Source: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians http://www.sbsun.com/ci_4780412
Bolivian Government Support of Indigenous Languages Meets Re-sistance
Monte Reel, Washington Post Foreign Service,Tuesday, January 30, 2007; A10 LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Andrea Mamani stood in front of her students the other day and started the afternoon lesson by pointing to her head.
The 22 students, aspiring public heath-care professionals in white lab coats, responded in ragged unison: "P'iqi."
She pointed to her arm. "Ampara," they an-swered.
Mamani was teaching them Aymara, an in-digenous language spoken mainly in the rural highlands of Bolivia and Peru. The students in her class, most of them urbanites, had scant previous knowledge of the language. But they are pioneers in a training program that Presi-dent Evo Morales -- the country's first indige-nous president -- hopes will become standard for all government employees.
The Bolivian government estimates that 37 percent of the population speaks a native language that predates the arrival of Spanish colonists in the 16th century. Officials hope that language-training programs in public schools and government offices will raise that percentage -- but not just for the sake of scholarship. In the words of an Education Ministry informational pamphlet distributed in La Paz this month, promoting those lan-guages is part of a broad effort "to decolonize the mindset and the Bolivian state." For Morales, the attempt to elevate languages such as Aymara and Quechua is emblematic of his government's indigenous-based social agenda: It is enormously ambitious, plagued by conflict and difficult to implement.
After announcing last year that all govern-ment employees would have to undergo in-digenous language training, Morales's ad-ministration sought to require it of public school children as well, no matter where they lived. The proposal riled many in the parts of Bolivia that have little connection to indigenous communities, areas such as the eastern lowlands, where words spoken in Quechua and Aymara are often heard as threats to a way of life. "Evo wants to make Quechua and Aymara the official languages of Bolivia, instead of Span-ish," said Fernando Suarez, 43, a taxi driver in Santa Cruz, echoing a common fear in a region that seeks greater independence from Morales's government. "That might be fine for the highlands where they actually speak those languages, but not here."
Government officials say they are not trying to replace Spanish. But they argue that pro-moting Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní and other native languages should be a priority for a country where more than half of the people identified themselves as indigenous in the most recent census.
"These languages used to be studied only in rural contexts, but now they are being intro-duced to urban contexts as well, throughout the entire educational system, from primary schools to the universities," said Juan José Quiroz, an Education Ministry official who oversees indigenous language programs.
The government's promotion of that agenda has been, at times, abrasive. Félix Patzi, a former minister of education and culture, last year labeled Bolivians who did not speak an indigenous language "an embarrassment." He sent letters telling school administrators that the government would not recognize their institutions unless they guaranteed indigenous language instruction this academic year. He also proposed replacing Roman Catholic in-struction in public schools with a controver-sial "history of religions" class that would place more focus on traditional indigenous beliefs.
After initially supporting Patzi, Morales backed down on the new religion course. He also has appeared to relax his insistence on the indigenous language requirement; offi-cials said last week that the training would not be obligatory for students this year. Also last week, Morales fired several mem-bers of his cabinet, including Patzi, associated with the controversy over the government's agenda.
Meanwhile, the president's approval rating has slid from nearly 80 percent shortly after he was inaugurated a year ago to about 59 percent, according to a poll in La Razon, a La Paz newspaper. In the past month, street pro-tests have raged and demands for autonomy in various districts have grown louder as a con-stituent assembly, elected to rewrite the con-stitution, remains deadlocked.
"The initial crack in his popularity" was "all about the education proposals," said Jim Shultz, a political analyst in Cochabamba, referring to Morales. "They resonated with this symbolic fear that non-indigenous people have in this country, which questions whether Evo really understands their needs and per-spectives."
Though Morales's tone might be softening for the moment, he has not abandoned indige-nous-friendly reforms. Universities report that enrollment in indigenous language programs is up since he took power, and the Education Ministry continues to open new centers where the languages are taught.
Last year, a student at San Pablo Catholic University in Bolivia wrote his graduate the-sis in Aymara -- a first for the country. His professors conducted their oral questioning of the thesis in Aymara during a public cere-mony on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Education officials say the reemergence of Bolivia's indigenous languages is part of a regional trend. Interest in indigenous commu-nities and traditions has grown in the past 20 years throughout South America.
"In the 1980s, people here didn't want to speak Quechua or Aymara," said Adrián Montalvo, who helps set education policy for native language programs. "Those languages were limited only to the community and fam-ily spheres, and it was considered shameful to speak them elsewhere. But now people speak them much more freely."
Donato Gómez Bacarreza, an expert in An-dean languages and head of the language program at La Paz's San Andrés University, said his instructors have recently begun giv-ing classes, at the government's request, to members of the national Congress. He also said people in the business community, in-cluding local bankers and Japanese auto ex-ecutives, have signed up for Aymara and Quechua classes to better connect to Bolivia's native people. He and other linguists have been struggling for decades to resuscitate the languages, and he said he now sees a clear payoff.
"What we are fighting for is our cultural identity," he said.