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3. Endangered Languages in the News

Talk don’t talk, walk don’t walk By Christopher Hadfield

The Basques like talking – they also like walking. Within the whole Basque community (the 3 counties in France and 4 in Spain) there are around a million speakers. Yet if you were to put together a grandmother from Tudela, a cousin from Saint Etienne de Baigorry and a granddaughter from Bayonne, they would probably find it difficult to communicate. The Basque of Iparralde (French Basque) is heavily accented with French words and several diacritics that don’t appear across the border. Modern Basque, Batua, differs again from older Basque, sometimes referred to as Ika. Basque was forbidden for a generation, which strikes one as surprising as it is the oldest language in the peninsula and probably in Europe. Being unable to chat in one’s mother tongue is frustrating and one right the Basques have been fighting for tooth and nail for decades.

Within the Basque Country every one of the seven counties has an annual cultural get-together (a bit like an Eisteddfod). In Bizkaia it is called Ibilaldia (circuit), in Gipuzkoa it is known as Kilometrak, in Nafarroa, they have chosen Oinez (walkabout) and in Araba it is known as Araba-Euskaraz, Euskara is the word meaning “Basque language”. For the three French counties they call it Herri Urrats, which means (village stroll). In all the cases it is as it translates: a walk of some sort. People come from all over the Basque Country to visit the village on one designated day – usually a Sunday, to walk and talk in Basque. After having paid a non-compulsory admission at the entrance of any price you deem fit for the event, you walk around a carefully planned circuit of the village or town while enjoying typical Basque traditions. You can watch a trikitrixa dance with accordions while eating txistorra; you may buy a bottle of sagardoa and watch aitzolari chopping tree trunks; or sample local gazta while watching pelota.

Each county holds the event once a year, so if you are a Basqueophile you could take in all five in the year. The village, or rather school, presents a project to the Ikastola Federation, (ikastola means school) and once accepted can start planning the event – usually a couple of years in advance. The sole aim of these gatherings is to raise funds for the Basque school in the area. The idea for these Basque days came about from Basques in the USA who witnessed sponsored events in order to raise money for charities like cancer research. It was intro-duced into the Basque Country and has been extremely successful ever since. It is like winning the lottery for the school. The school gets its income from selling merchandise like clothing, accessories, drinks and food consumed on the day. But there are also pledges from as far away as Basques living in the States. An example of the charity of these events was seen in 2003 when the village of Lumbier in the east of Navarre forfeited the event because of heavy rains – they still went on to raise thousands through pledges and solidarity donations. In 2007 (in October) the town of Viana in the deep south of Navarre, where only the children speak Basque, is going to hold the event. Vi-ana is on Saint James’ Way and is also famous for being the tomb-keeper of Cesare Borgia. It is closer to the capital of La Rioja than to its own capital but is a bastion of Basque language and a place at the extreme end of the Basque Country. It is not safely surrounded by other Basque-speaking villages nor do the children speak much Basque when they go home, but the school prevails. With the choos-ing of the Oinez in 2007, the school in Viana will be able to build an extra building to house larger classrooms and cater for the needs of children from newly born up to three years old. If you are interested in visiting the event perhaps these expressions and words may help you ease into the day and enjoy it more {x} is pronounced like {sh} in sheep and {tx} as in {ch} of church.

Kaixo – hello
Egun on – good morning
Nola duzu izena? – what’s your name?
Zer edan nahi duzu? – what do you want to drink?
Zenbat? – how much?
Bat, bi, hiru, lau, bost – one, two, three, four, five
Bai / ez – yes / no
Garagardoa – beer
Sagardoa eta txistorra – cider and sausage
Ogia eta Gazta – bread and cheese
Beltza, mesedez – red wine, please
Eskerrik asko – thank you
Ez horregatik – not at all
Agur – goodbye

Below is the manifesto for the Viana event but you can visit these websites for more information: www., www.


What is the Nafarroa Oinez?
The Nafarroa Oinez is a celebration of all the ikastolas (Basque lan-guage schools) in Navarre. The aim of this is to gather funds in order to provide economic needs and an infrastructure for the ikastolas in Navarre. Apart from the Nafarroa Oinez day, throughout the year different cultural and sporting activities take place; all of which are part of the celebration.
The activities are varied: handicrafts, rock concerts, rural sports, chil-dren’s festivities, cycling tours and art exhibitions.
Furthermore, throughout the year many different products are on sale like clothing, accessories and books.
On the actual day of the Nafarroa Oinez the visitors make a tour on foot of the vicinity which the ikastola serves.

1. OINEZ 2007

The Nafarroa Oinez 92 was an historic Oinez because of the social and cultural repercussions; because of the message that was transmit-ted; because of the song and because of the condition in which the ikastola was found at that time. It was an Oinez with a special wel-come and it was a milestone at the time.

There was a “before” and “after” for the ikastola. We went from giv-ing classes in a pigsty (literally) to a well-equipped building.

There was also a “before” and “after” for the town of Viana. Basque culture was introduced into the town; the Oinez was made known and the people enjoyed themselves during the festival. We are also trying to make this Oinez a special one. One which will recognize the legality of the ikastola; a powerful and attractive Oinez for the whole of the Basque Country. We would also like to improve on the number of visitors who attended the last Oinez. If everything turns out well, the Nafarroa Oinez 2007 will be the cor-nerstone in consolidating the final project for the ikastola in Viana.


From the beginnings of Erentzun (Viana) ikastola the number of pu-pils has grown little by little surpassing our expectancies. Moreover, responding to the needs of society in 1996, we began the course for ages 0-3. As a result of the success that this course has had, it has also created fresh needs that were not foreseen at the beginning: more classrooms, larger classrooms, a covered playground and a play area for infants.

In brief, our current building is too small, and the main goal of the Nafarroa Oinez 2007 is the construction of a new building annexed to the current one. Throughout the history of our ikastola, discipline, cooperation and effort have been important elements for arriving where we are now. From this moment onwards, furthermore, we will need an adequate infrastructure in order to guarantee quality education in Basque (let’s not forget where we are) and so that what we have to offer is appeal-ing to as a many families as possible.


The logo and slogan of the Nafarroa Oinez 2007 comes from a contest we held within the Ikastola Association (parents, ex-pupils etc). One of the fathers won the contest.

In the logo we can see a key and a keyhole next to the slogan Giltza daukagu, which means “we have the key”.

Apart from this, we have included in the poster a silhouette of Viana to express the link that we have with our town because we want to include the people of Viana in our celebration and project it across the whole of the Basque Country.

The poster is rounded off with our mascot Giltzi who will animate all the activities performed during the year of the Oinez.

You may ask yourselves, to what do we have the key? This slogan can have various meanings, but what we want to express is that we have the key:

  • to Euskara in our region
  • so that our children can learn Basque
  • for a quality education in Basque
  • to spread Basque “la lingua Navarrorum” to all the Navar-rese

    Across cultures, English is the word

    Herald Tribune: April 9, 2007

    SINGAPORE: Riding the crest of globalization and technology, Eng-lish dominates the world as no language ever has, and some linguists are now saying it may never be dethroned as the king of languages.

    Others see pitfalls, but the factors they cite only underscore the grip English has on the world: cataclysms like nuclear war or climate change or the eventual perfection of a translation machine that would make a common language unnecessary.

    Some insist that linguistic evolution will continue to take its course over the centuries and that English could eventually die as a common language as Latin did, or Phoenician or Sanskrit or Sogdian before it.

    "If you stay in the mind-set of 15th-century Europe, the future of Latin is extremely bright," said Nicholas Ostler, the author of a language history called "Empires of the Word" who is writing a history of Latin. "If you stay in the mind-set of the 20th-century world, the future of English is extremely bright."

    That skepticism seems to be a minority view. Experts on the English language like David Crystal, author of "English as a Global Lan-guage," say the world has changed so drastically that history is no longer a guide.

    "This is the first time we actually have a language spoken genuinely globally by every country in the world," he said. "There are no prece-dents to help us see what will happen." John McWhorter, a linguist at the Manhattan Institute, a research group in New York, and the author of a history of language called "The Power of Babel," was more unequivocal.

    "English is dominant in a way that no language has ever been before," he said. "It is vastly unclear to me what actual mechanism could up-root English given conditions as they are." As a new millennium begins, scholars say that about one-fourth of the world's population can communicate to some degree in English.

    It is the common language in almost every endeavor, from science to air traffic control to the global jihad, where it is apparently the means of communication between speakers of Arabic and other languages.

    It has consolidated its dominance as the language of the Internet, where 80 percent of the world's electronically stored information is in English, according to David Graddol, a linguist and researcher.

    There may be more native speakers of Chinese, Spanish or Hindi, but it is English they speak when they talk across cultures, and English they teach their children to help them become citizens of an increas-ingly intertwined world.

    At telephone call centers around the world, the emblem of a global-ized workplace, the language spoken is, naturally, English. On the radio, pop music carries the sounds of English to almost every corner of the earth.

    "English has become the second language of everybody," said Mark Warschauer, a professor of education and informatics at the University of California, Irvine. "It's gotten to the point where almost in any part of the world to be educated means to know English."

    In some places, he said, English has invaded the workplace along with the global economy. Some Swedish companies, for example, use English within the workplace, even though they are in Sweden, because so much of their business is done, through the Internet and other communications, with the outside world.

    As English continues to spread, the linguists say, it is fragmenting, as Latin did, into a family of dialects - and perhaps eventually fully fledged languages - known as Englishes. New vernaculars have emerged in such places as Singapore, Nigeria and the Caribbean, although widespread literacy and mass communi-cation may be slowing the natural process of diversification.

    The pidgin of Papua New Guinea already has its own literature and translations of Shakespeare. One enterprising scholar has translated "Don Quixote" into Spanglish, the hybrid of English and Spanish that is spoken along the borders of Mexico and the United States.

    But unlike Latin and other former common languages, most scholars say English seems to be too widespread and too deeply entrenched to die out. Instead, it is likely to survive in some simplified international form - sometimes called Globish or World Standard Spoken English - side by side with its offspring.

    "You have too many words in English," said Jean-Paul Nerrière, a retired vice president of IBM USA, who is French. He has proposed his own version of Globish that would have just 15,000 simple words for use by nonnative speakers.

    "We are a majority," Nerrière said, "so our way of speaking English should be the official way of speaking English."

    As a simplified form of global English emerges, the diverging forms spoken in Britain and America could become no more than local dia-lects - two more Englishes alongside the Singlish spoken in Singapore or the Taglish spoken in the Philippines. A native speaker of English might need to become bilingual in his own language to converse with other speakers of global English. "We may well be approaching a critical moment in human linguistic history," Crystal wrote. "It is possible that a global language will emerge only once."

    After that, Crystal said, it would be very hard to dislodge. "The last quarter of the 20th century will be seen as a critical time in the emer-gence of this global language," he said. English and globalization have spread hand in hand through the world, Warschauer said. "Having a global language has assisted globaliza-tion, and globalization has consolidated the global language," he said. That process started with the dominance of two successive English-speaking empires, British and American, and continues today with the new virtual empire of the Internet. Although Chinese and other languages are rapidly increasing their share of Internet traffic, English is likely to remain the common lan-guage, experts say.

    "Estonian has an amazing Web presence," McWhorter said. But when Estonians speak on the Internet with people outside their small coun-try, they will continue to use English. In a phenomenon never seen before, Crystal said, English is spoken in some form by three times as many nonnative speakers as native speakers.

    The teaching of English has become a multibillion-dollar industry, and according to Graddol, nearly one-third of the world's population will soon be studying English. By the most common estimates, 400 million people speak English as a first language, another 300 million to 500 million as a fluent second language, and perhaps 750 million as a foreign language.

    The largest English-speaking nation in the world, the United States, has only about 20 percent of the world's English speakers. In Asia alone, an estimated 350 million people speak English, about the same as the combined English-speaking populations of Britain, the United States and Canada.

    Thus the English language no longer "belongs" to its native speakers but to the world, just as organized soccer, say, is an international sport that is no longer associated with its origins in Britain.

    Two years ago for the first time, a nonnative English speaker, Jun Liu of China, was elected president of the global education association Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, known as Tesol.

    Even if English were somehow to collapse as the language of its birthplace, England, Crystal said, it would continue its worldwide dominance unperturbed.

    A recent study found that the Queen's English - the language as spoken by the queen of England - has evolved over the past 50 years, becoming slightly less plummy and slightly more proletarian. But the future evolution of the language, scholars say, is more likely to belong to the broken-English speakers of far-off lands.

    "The people who were once colonized by the language are now rap-idly remaking it, domesticating it, becoming more and more relaxed about the way they use it," wrote the Indian author Salman Rushdie in an essay in 1991.

    But in the end, Ostler said, all of this could become moot. The ad-vance of technology that helped push English into its commanding position could pull it down again.

    Though it still sounds like science fiction, it seems likely that some time, many decades from now, a machine will be perfected that can produce Urdu when it hears someone speaking German.

    "With progress, the problem of machine translation and automatic interpreting is going to be solved," Ostler said, "and the need for a common language is going to be technically replaced."

    Modern Day Livonians

    By learning the language of their ancestors, they are fighting for their culture’s survival

    By Heather Becker

    he small group meets in downtown Riga, Latvia once a week for their lessons in Livonian. Held in a dark wood and marble-filled building of the Ministry of Social Integration, the group gathers as the business day comes to an end. The offices slowly empty and the sounds of Livonian soon fill the space.

    Linda Zonne, a bright 19-year-old with long chocolate-brown hair and serene eyes has attended Livonian lessons for over three years. Zonne’s grandmother was Livonian, and she studies the language, closer to Estonian than Latvian, so she can learn about her heritage.

    “I want to understand who we are and I want to learn the language as much as possible,” shares Zonne. “I want to introduce society to Livonian things like folklore. For us it’s enough, but we want to share it with others who don’t know.”

    Zonne is just one of the thirty students who attend the weekly classes, divided into beginner and advanced groups, provided free-of-charge by the Ministry.

    Combining young and old, Livonian and non-Livonian, the language course finds all involved eager to take part in the preservation of the Livonian culture, which with only six native speakers left, is in danger of becoming extinct.

    For over 5,000 years the Livonian language has sounded through modern day Latvia. Today, however, there are only about 182 regis-tered Livonians and a small handful of native speakers left.

    “I am afraid that the Livonian language will eventually die out, but I also trust that we will keep it alive,” says Alma Kaurite, a 17-year-old student attending classes for six months. “I think that lately more and more people are interested about their roots and their ancestor’s cul-ture.”

    The growing trend of re-connecting with your roots, however, has been criticized among both Livonian and non-Livonian society.

    According to Valts Ernštreits, a poet and founder of the Livonian Cul-tural Center, this new-found motivation to learn Livonian is mostly superficial as it has become trendy and original.

    “There is a difference between doing something seriously and just finding your roots. Saying I’m Livonian and doing nothing further; that is what’s happening now and it’s a very serious problem,” Ernštreits explains. “People don’t want to go deep, they just want to be different and have a special identity.”

    It is said that 1/3 of Latvians have Livonian ancestry and speaking with most of these Livonian students, identifying with their ancestral roots is the most important reason for learning the language.

    Livonians also identify as being Latvian and recognize that their modern cultures are not very different. Yet, upholding the mother tongue of their grandfathers and celebrating with traditional dress, folklore and crafts continues to be the motivation in keeping the Livonian culture alive.

    “I identify with the Livonian music and language. I feel them as mine; made by my ancestors,” Zonne relates. “I eventually hope to teach my children both Livonian and Latvian together.” People often tell Zonne she doesn’t look Latvian and that she looks Livonian. This is another reason why she chooses to study the lan-guage, so that she is aware of her past looking back at her in the mir-ror.

    Saving Languages is a Worthy Cause

    By Gary Heath

    Abridged from the Taipei Times, Sunday 4 March 2007

    In recent years, a great deal of attention and money has been focused on protecting Taiwan’s endangered fauna, such as the Formosan Black Bear, and Black-faced Spoonbills and the Formosan Land-locked Salmon. What is less noticed – but of great importance – is the fact that all of the nation’s indigenous languages are also endangered, some of them critically so and a big effort of preventive linguistics is now required to help save them.

    The problem of dying languages is only superficially understood and deserves more attention. Aside from the ongoing ecological crisis, the world is going through a cultural crisis, which is resulting in the rapid loss of languages. The fatc that about half of the world’s 6,000 known languages are likely to disappear in the next hundred years is cause for alarm. Some special-ists claim that one language is destined to die every two weeks or so.

    When I raise the issue with friends, the typical reaction is a shrug and an apathetic comment along the lines of: “Oh, you mean those small dialects spoken by Indians in the Amazon?” But language death is not something that happens in a faraway coun-try – it happens all around us and has already happened to several of the nation’s indigenous languages. It will now be incredibly difficult, though not impossible, to revive the Ketagalan, Taokas, Papora, Ba-buza, Hoanya, Siraya, Tavorlong and Makato languages, even if these indigenous groups manage to maintain a modicum of ethnic identity without speaking their former mother tongue.

    It would be fair to ask if we should care about this phenomenon in the first place. After all, all things come to an end. But languages, like the air we breathe, are somewhat taken for granted. They are what makes us human and they contain within them our cultural history and col-lective knowledge and wisdom.

    When a language dies, it truly is a catastrophe.

    Imagine for a moment that you are the last speaker of English in the world. You have no one to talk to in English and when you die all of English culture and all of the knowledge associated with this language dies with you. It’s as if you and the language never existed.

    One misconception that needs to be addresses is the neo-colonial be-lief that indigenous people – and by association their languages – are somehow primitive, or simple and inherently their languages are out-moded and not worth saving. This attitude ignores the complexity and subtlety of all languages and the fact that all languages hold within them special bits of knowledge not accessible to those who don’t speak them.

    Languages are adapted to their environments and Taiwanese lan-guages are no exception. These languages are complex and represent a whole unique perspective on the world.

    Who knows when we may need to tap into that unique perspective for our own survival as a species?

    Languages die out for all kinds of reasons, and it has to be acknowl-edged that in practical terms we are not going to be able to prevent the extinction of many of them. However, the case of Taiwan is most encouraging since its Aborigines have attained formal recognition and funding through the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP).

    The council recently adopted a plan to promote indigenous language learning among 12 officially Aboriginal tribes. This will involve the teaching of about 43 dialects in schools across the nation.

    The challenges involved in the implementation of this program cannoit be underestimated, however, and proper planning, along with long-term commitment, will be required to make preventive linguistics work. At the end of the day, the whole community will need to be involved in language preservation, something that a bureaucratic quick-fix cannot achieve. In addition to providing teaching materials, the council has to put small field teams together. These teams will need to include special-ists on socio-political organization and action, as well as l;inguists and teachers. They will also have to develop the process needed to help promote indigenous language learning in specific socio-geographical areas, a process that must include economic development.

    The need for a concerted community effort is crucial for the preserva-tion of endangered languages. That is why any non-solicited effort at the local level has to be especially welcomed and supported. It is deeply regrettable that the council has been reluctant to expand offi-cial recognition to the Ping Pu plains Aborigines, more or less writing these groups off. With the scarce resources available, the council’s attitude is understandable, but wrong.

    The Aborigines of Taiwan need to know that their efforts to preserve their languages are worthy, and central and local governments need to be persuaded to allocate resources to aid these local language preser-vation efforts instead of wasting money on the construction of unnec-essary airports, roads and museums

    New Internationalist magazine publicises Hawaiian language rights

    The April 2007 issue (number 399) of New Internationalist magazine publishes an interview with Haunai-Kay Trask, a campaigner for in-digenous language and human rights in Hawai’i. The interview is edited and transcribed from a converdsa6tion with Chris Richards broadcast on the newly-launched Radio New Internationalist, a weekly radio programme “linking up progressive people from every corner of the globe”. If you wish to down-load these programmes, they can be found at www. newint . org/radio – and Chris Richards can be contacted at chrisr at

    The Editor

    Anyone here speak Cromarty fisher?

    By Matt Kennard, The Guardian (UK) 26.2.2007

    Obscure fishing dialects aren’t renowned for their ability to set the heart racing, but news that a centuries-old brand of Anglo-Scottish pidgin is only two people from extinction has induced mild panic among traditionalists. The Cromarty fisher dialect is being kept alive by two Scottish brothers, Bobby and Gordon Hogg, 87 and 80, who live in the Highland town. Am Bailie, an online archive, plans to re-cord them to preserve this language for posterity. “Dialects come and go, but they are extremely important,” says Jamie Gaukroger, content organiser for Am Bailie. “It would be doing a disservice to the whole culture by not recording it.”

    Cromarty is a small port on the tip of the Black Isle, just north of Inverness. The Cromarty website describes the town as a “jewel of vernacular architecture” and the “capital of the highlands”. Its patois is assumed to have developed in the 17th century from a fusion of the local fishermen’s tongue and that of visiting English soldiers. “The language has died now,” says Bobby. “It was associated with fishing, and as the industry has died out, so has the language. Me and my brother are not the only ones who know the language – we’re just the only ones who speak it all the time.”

    According to Gaukroger, Cromarty fisher is one of many Highland dialects that will soon disappear. “About five have come to our atten-tion – all in the Black Isle area – and once we have got this one done, we will actively look to record the others.”

    Cromarty fisher sounds like a bizarre mixture of twee Shaklsperean English and thick Geordie. Archaic words like “thou”, “thee” and “thine” are combined with a virtuoso use of the letter “h”: “ear” be-comes “hear” and “herring” becomes “erring”. The uninitiated listener is left in a daze as to which century they are in.

    “I’ve spoken the language all my life, so of course it’s a good thing it will be preserved,” says Bobby. “I’m surprised by the interest because I think this is a problem all over the country.” He pauses and sighs wearily. “In the past couple of years, though, they’ve started speaking like Invernessians round here!”

    New research shows strong support for Sardinian language

    Cagliari, Friday, 11 May 2007 by Andrea Oppo, from Eurolang web-site

    New research launched this week entitled "The Common Sardinian Language: A Socio-linguistic Study" shows strong support for the language and that Sardinian is faring better in rural areas.

    The research, commissioned by the Sardinian government, was con-ducted by the Universities of Cagliari and Sassari.

    68,4% of Sardinians state that they "know and speak at least one of the variants of Sardinian". In municipalities with less than 4,000 peo-ple this percentage rises to 85,5%, while in municipalities with more than 100,000 people it decreases to 57,9%.

    31,9% of Sardinians are against the use of Sardinian in public offices, whereas the majority, 57,7% , are "completely or partially favourable to the introduction of a unified written form of Sardinian for publish-ing official documents of the Sardinian Regional Government."

    29% of those interviewed state that, while they could not speak Sar-dinian, they could understand it. Only 2,7% said that they could not speak or understand it at all.

    In urban areas the percentages are particularly significant. In Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, the 59,3% affirm that they know and speak Sardinian, and 36,7% say that they can only understand it. In Nuoro 66,7% speak Sardinian, and 62,7% in Olbia.

    Finally, 89,9% of Sardinians "strongly agree" with the sentence: "The local language must be protected as it is a part of our identity." Fur-thermore, 78,6% of Sardinians agree with the teaching of Sardinian in public primary and secondary schools, and 81,9% agree that the teach-ing of languages at school should include Italian, a foreign language, and Sardinian.

    In the debate held after the launch the Regional President, Mr Renato Soru, said: "It's time we taught Sardinian in public schools. And it's time that teachers of Sardinian got official credits for their work just as English or Italian teachers get." He added: "I don't understand why politics should protect only old walls and archaeological sites and not care about a living thing like a spoken language. In fact, a language tells us much more than a few old stones - it speaks about a whole people and is much more important.”

    In the run up to the study’s launch, there were some disagreements among scholars on the reliability of the research, the main criticism being that the research overestimated the real knowledge that people have of Sardinian. Referring to the critics, Mr Soru said, “this is exactly what matters to me as a politician, if people pretend to know Sardinian better than they effectively do, this means they are inter-ested in it, they recognise its value and they probably regret not know-ing it.” (Eurolang 2007)

    Virtual school project to tackle lack of Sámi language teaching Gent, Wednesday, 02 May 2007 by Katriina Kilpi, from Eurolang web-site The Finnish Sámi Parliament and the Educational Centre of the Sámi Area have put out a survey on the number of interested children and youth living outside the Sámi homeland who wish to learn Sámi as a first or second language. The teaching of the Sámi language outside of the Sámi homeland started in the autumn of 2006. Now, the Virtual School Project is trying to reach more children by internet in primary and secondary schools in areas where a Sámi speaking teacher is not available.

    A group of a minimum of three students is needed to be able to begin virtual Sámi teaching. According to the Sámi parliament, the project is cost effective as the schools will only have to cover the costs of main-taining the virtual connection, the license payments of the required softwares, and monitoring the teaching.

    Over the past few years the Sámi parliament has repeatedly called for the government to take action to protect the Sámi language learning rights of students living outside of the Sámi homeland. Small groups have already been formed in Tampere, the Oulu area, Rovaniemi and Sodankylä, where there have been teachers available for Sámi teach-ing. Besides a lack of teachers, Sámi teaching outside the homeland is made even more difficult as there are no laws protecting this right, municipalities lack funding, and there exists no common curriculum for Sámi education.

    The Sámi parliament considers the prevailing situation unconstitu-tional as over 50% of all of Finland’s Sámi children and youth is left without Sámi language teaching because they live outside the home-land. In fact, the prevailing legislation equates Sámi children with immigrant children when it comes to receiving education in one’s first language.

    To tackle the most pressing issues of Sámi education, a Sámi Parlia-ment approved proposal on Educational Policy was presented to the Finnish Ministry of Education in December 2006. The proposal, enti-tled "Development of educational policy status and the education of the Sámi", calls for the Finnish Ministry of Education to immediately appoint a working group to explore the educational policy status of the Sámi, as well as to look at the most pressing issues over Sámi educa-tion.

    The proposal called for a long term development plan for Sámi educa-tion. Other issues presented in the report ranged from the need for special and additional training for Sámi teachers, for a unified curricu-lum for the whole Finnish Sámiland, for comprehensive assessment of Sámi education to gain data on the effectiveness of methods used and the success of Sámi children, and more resources to produce edu-cational materials and resources for Sámi schools.

    Finally, the report underlines the importance of shifting the influence and decision-making power to the Sámi parliament for the education of its own people. The Sámi parliament also proposed an annual assembly with the Ministry of Education, for which purpose the Sámi parliament would draft a report about the status and the need for development of Sámi education.

    Eurolang talked to Ulla Aikio-Puoskari, a researcher from Giellagas institute at the University of Oulu and the educational secretary of the Sámi parliament in Finland. She said that “the paper is a compilation of proposals compiled over the last electoral year of the Sámi parlia-ment as well as some new material. It is one of the biggest and most important Education Policy proposals and statements of this electoral term (2004-2007)” She added that she thinks that the paper is “good and thorough and summarizes the situation of Sámi education at the moment”. Eurolang, however, has not been able to get a comment on the paper from the Ministry of Education.

    Meanwhile, parents outside the Sámi homeland have in recent years become more active in their demand for Sámi language daycare and Sámi language teaching. In the last few months some daycare centres in Helsinki have begun a North Sámi language nest. The Sámi lan-guage daycare is a result of the efforts of Sámi children’s parents, led by Maija Lukkari, a mother of two Sámi children. However, the fight for a Sámi language daycare took so many years in Helsinki that at least five Sámi children and their families moved elsewhere. Nonethe-less, the Sámi language daycare begun its operations in March with seven children from Vantaa and Helsinki cities. Lukkari is convinced that this will just be the beginning. The goal is to have Sámi as a main language in daycare centres and for the children to be able to continue speaking it all the way through school. (Eurolang 2007)

    Wales watching

    By Diane Hofkins, abridged from the Guardian Education supple-ment, 1 May 2007 The child-made banners in the hall leave no doubt about what country Radnor primary is in. The largest is studded with photos of Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Shirley Bassey and more celebs. past and present. In the classroom, year 5 and 6 children answer the register with “prynhawn da” (good afternoon) and the teacher praises achievement with “da iawn!” (well done). Like Jones, or Owen Glendower, the Welsh tongue is part of the children’s national heritage, and they iden-tify with it. “People want to learn their language,” says 11-year-old Laura, Notices around the Cardiff school are in English and Welsh, and crib sheets remind teachers to use Welsh phrases such as “bobol bach!” (literally, it means “little people”) instead of English ones such as “goodness gracious!”

    Across the Severn, Lord Dearing’s report, published in March, has strengthened the government’s commitment to the teaching of foreign languages in English primary schools. The education secretary, Alan Johnson, accepted the recommendation that modern languages should become part of the statutory curriculum from age seven by 2010. The report comments on children’s enjoyment of language learning and notes that the groundwork has already been laid – some 70% of prima-ries already teach a foreign language in some form or have plans to do so. Competitive edge

    In most European counties, children start learning foreign languages at seven, and as Dearing’s interim report in December notes, children’s enjoyment is not the only issue. “The British Council warned earlier this year; ‘monoglot English graduates face a bleak economic future, as qualified youngsters from other countries are probing to have a competitive edge over their British counterparts in global companies and organisations.’” But when it comes to looking for a country where a second language is universally taught to English speakers in primary schools, there’s an example right here in the UK.

    Welsh as a first or second language became compulsory from age five with the introduction of the national curriculum in 1989, so Wales has more than 15 years’ experience of systematic language teaching to national standards. And the desire to develop a truly bilingual country is still at the heart of education policy.

    The experiment started somewhat chaotically as, despite intensive and expensive training programmes, and a rolling programme that started with children in years 1 and 7, there was an inevitable shortage of teachers of Welsh.

    A decade later, standards of Welsh in English-medium primaries re-mained dodgy, but now the subject is holding its own. In its 2006 annual report, the Welsh schools inspectorate, Estyn, found that around two-thirds of primaries developed children’s bilingual skills well. Experts agree it is important to “embed” language into daily activities, through games, songs and incidental use, such as answering the regis-ter and giving praise and simple instructions. Nigel Pearson, primary languages adviser for CILT, the national centre for languages, says children can do simple addition in French or Spanish, and familiar stories such as Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood can be told or acted out in other languages. The Internet and interactive whiteboards make it possible to talk about foreign food in class and see it before your eyes directly from the country in question.

    Partly in the light of the notoriously overcrowded primary timetable, Dearing advocates cross-curricular teaching, and Pearson agrees that dedicated lesson time is not necessary in primary schools. Through “creative embedding”, it can enhance rather than detract from subjects such as humanities or RE. A few minutes spare at the end of the day can be used to sing a song or do a few mental maths. exercises in a foreign language.

    John Bald, primary languages consultant to the Hackney learning Trust in east London, believes it is feasible to give every child a base-line in a language by 2010, even without a prescribed curriculum. This will, he says, make their acquisition of language in secondary school smoother, as the earliest stages of a language are the hardest to learn. “It means children won’t have a cliff to climb in year 7.”

    Bald wants to see children reach a level where they can write a few sentences about their friends and families.

    In Wales, the set-up is more formal. At Radnor primary, infants have a dedicated hour a week of Welsh, and juniors just over an hour; but the level of attainment by year 6 seems in line with Bald’s wish.

    Back in class, Welsh coordinator Sarah Pritchard has got a multicul-tural group playing with the pel Cymreig (Welsh ball). Whoever catches it has to say a sentence about the person next to them, based on simple sentences Pritchard has put on the whiteboard. “Mae Said,” says Said’s neighbour. “Mae yn hoffi… how do you say cricket? Mae yn hoffi criced.” (This is Said. He likes cricket.)

    Laura, Lawrence, Ffion and Anika all fpound learning Welsh fun. “You get to see what other people speak,” says Ffion, 10. “It makes you feel talented,” adds Anika, also 10. Eleven-year-old Lawrence points out that when he goes to north Wales, where everyone speaks Welsh, he can speak a bit, too. They all enjoy learning through games, and agree that the younger you start, the better.

    Teaching is topic-based, with vocabulary and sentence structure in-creasing in complexity. The emphasis is on oracy, but a Welsh text is studied every half-term. For children who have English as a second language, it can be difficult at first, but because of their ear for lan-guages, they pick up Welsh quickly. “You can see the delight on their faces,” says Pritchard.

    Pioneering work

    Bald argues that the factor that will make similar success in England possible is ICT. The pioneering work of Glynis Rumley, whose Pilote software was the first to bring the voices of children from a French primary into the Anglophone classroom, has made it much easier for non-specialist primary teachers to teach a language. “The role of explanation in language learning is crucial,” he says. “I explain that French people like their language to flow, and that putting words such as je and ai together makes it sound jerky. Children practice forming “j’ai”, using software, and then move on to writing sentences on the whiteboard. Support from secondary schools is also easing the introduction of primary languages in England, with increasing numbers of modern foreign language teacher doing outreach work. This is important, be-cause if the government hopes that enthusiasm built in the primary years will boost the take-up of languages at GCSE, they will have to get the transition right – as Dearing acknowledges.

    Welsh local authorities such as Cardiff are now developing ways to improve links between primaries and secondaries in Welsh language teaching, because pupils’ enthusiasm for the subject wanes when they are teenagers, hitting its lowest ebb at GCSE level – at key stage 4, only 19 out of 45 lessons visited by Estyn in 2006 gained the top two ratings. Much of this has to do with a shortage of qualified Welsh-language teachers in non-Welsh-speaking areas. And although the Radnor pri-mary children say they are looking forward to studying a third lan-guage in high school, take-up of foreign languages at GCSE in Wales is much lower than in England: 30%, compared with 51%.

    At present, there are no plans to mandate another language in Welsh primary schools. But things are not standing still – Welsh is now mov-ing into the early years in English-medium schools in Wales, with the ultimate goal that all foundation classes will be completely bilingual.

    Sinn Féin seeks Irish development plan

    Fri, May 18, 2007

    Sinn Féin has called for the establishment of a new 10-year develop-ment plan to preserve and advance the Irish language. Outlining the party's Irish language policy in Dublin today, Bairbre de Brún MEP said Sinn Féin was also seeking a monitoring programme for the Gael-tacht and a mechanism to officially recognise "Breac-Ghaeltachtaí" - areas where both Irish and English are widely spoken. She said the party was pushing for increased use of Irish in the Oireachtas and the retention of the language as a core subject at post primary level. In its manifesto, the party proposes the teaching of a second subject, like PE or drama, through the medium of Irish at primary and secondary school level.

    The party also wants funding for Irish language pre-schooling and the adoption of an Irish language stream in English language pre-schools. "Every child in Ireland at secondary level should have the right to be schooled through the medium of Irish," the manifesto contended. The party said the State should tackle resistance within government de-partments to changes brought about by the status accorded to Irish as an official language of the EU. Sinn Féin also wants funding to be made available to provide access to language classes for all, including Irish language classes for foreign-nationals living in Ireland - for whom classes in English are already provided for.

    © 2007

    Native American Caucus Supports Funding for the Esther Martinez Act and Johnson O'Malley Program

    On April 27, 2007, the Native American Caucus, co-chaired byRepre-sentatives Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Rick Renzi (R-AZ), sent letters requesting funding for the Esther Martinez Native American Lan-guages Act and the Johnson O'Malley program to the House Commit-tee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,

    Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and to the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, respectively.

    National Indian Education Association
    110 Maryland Avenue, N.E.
    Suite 104
    Washington, D.C. 20002
    P: (202) 544-7290 / F: (202) 544-7293

    ‘The Interpreter’: Dan Everett and the Pirahã The New Yorker in its issue of 16 April 2007 carried an extensive arti-cle by John Colapinto, ‘Reporter at Large’ on the work of our member Dan Everett among the Pirahã of (a tributary of) the Amazon in Bra-zil, which has also been well publicised elsewhere, and the implica-tions their language has for Chomskyan theory of language. The arti-cle is accompanied by stunning photographs. Another version of the article was subsequently published in El Mundo in Spain under the title ‘El increíble lenguaje des los pirahas’.

    – The Editor

    Anger at Aborigine school plan

    Barbara McMahon in Sydney (The Guardian, UK, 26 May 2007)

    An Australian government plan to force Aboriginal children to learn English ignited fierce debate yesterday, with some activists calling the plan racist.

    The initiative was put forward by Australia’s indigenous affairs minis-ter, Mal Brough, who said the compulsory teaching of English would help Aboriginal children living in remote and deprived communities to escape poverty and inequality.

    He revealed that the government was considering a plan to require Aboriginal parents to ensure that their children attend school or risk losing welfare payments. Referring to children living in some of Aus-tralia’s most remote communities, he added: “Most of the children don’t speak any semblance of English. So what chance have they got?”

    Tauto Sansbury of the Aboriginal Justice Advocacy committee said the idea was insulting and would reinforce old-fashioned stereotypes.

    Another activist, Sam Watson, said the government seemed to be “inventing new ways of showing Aboriginal people cultural disre-spect.”

    The federal opposition education spokesman, Step[hen Smith, said he agreed in principle with the government’s push for indigenous chil-dren to be compelled to learn English. Indigenous MP Linda Burney said that speaking English would help lift indigenous children out of poverty, but added: “It’s a bit rich com-ing from a government that took away funding for bilingual pro-grammes in the Northern Territory.”

    Australia’s 460,000 Aborigines make up 2% of the population and are the country’s most disadvantaged group.

    No words to describe one cost of immigration

    By Maggie Marwah

    TORONTO – For all its rewards, immigration exacts a steep price – one paid by families in guilt, frustration and seemingly endless regret. Government officials may tout immigration as economic and demographic salvation. Others welcome people from other lands for the richness and depth they add to our society. But beyond the bu-reaucratic number-crunching and the pretty costumes at multicultural festivals, many immigrant families – like my own – live a profoundly sad reality:

    We can no longer communicate across generations. We sons and daughters of non-English-speaking immigrants – perhaps we were immigrants ourselves, arriving as children – foolishly, naively, defiantly but readily, gave up the language of our parents. Not all. But many of us.

    This price we paid – the tradeoff we made for a better life – is no more fully felt than during a visit to our ailing parents' home. There are few words the child can say that the parent can understand, few words the parent can offer that the child can understand. We no longer speak a common language – and no longer share all that allows us. Even in these, their dying years, we know that much will remain forever unsaid and unshared. That the children of immigrants almost universally embrace the language of their adopted country is no surprise. What is perhaps surprising is how quickly linguistic assimilation can occur. Research indicates that by the second genera-tion of non-anglophone immigrants, between 10 and 40 per cent speak only English. How large the number de-pends on the culture and whether there are frequent vis-its back to the homeland.

    A 2006 report by the Migration Policy Institute puts the language loss among second-generation Chinese immi-grants in the United States at just over 25 per cent. By the third-generation – the grandchildren – the loss is al-most total: 91 per cent speak English only. Anecdotally and intuitively, I cannot see how Canada's Chinese im-migrants can avoid a similar fate. Ask an immigrant fa-ther why he uprooted his family, why he left a good job or a prosperous business and all that was familiar, some-times giving up a profession, to come to Canada, to start all over, to build a new life, almost from scratch – never, ever, assume it was easy. Ask him why, and often he will answer: for the children.

    Perhaps more than anything, my father wanted us to have the educational opportunities this country offered us, and from that education succeed in a safe land with few limits. He knew, as many immigrant parents do, that prosperity would not necessarily come to his generation. His would be marked by back-breaking labour to keep us fed, clothed, sheltered and in school. No, the prosperity would belong to the next generation. My parents wanted our success in an English-speaking world and knew that meant speaking English. They would learn early on the high price of giving us this opportunity. At the kitchen table, its plastic tablecloth still damp from the after-dinner wiping, they would struggle to help us with our homework. Soon enough, as we grew, they struggled to understand what we joked about or argued over with our cousins at family gatherings.

    They understood the cost, but that didn't mean they ac-cepted it or weren't hurt by our rejection of their lan-guage. They would push back by speaking only Chinese to us, often embarrassing us in front of our friends. They would make a case for the value of speaking a second language – only the second language many of us chose was French. Once, my parents floated the idea of sending us to Chinese-language classes, but money was scarce and defiance high. No way were we going to give up care-free Saturdays to travel to Chinatown to sit in a class-room yet another day of the week. The idea quickly died. And so it is that the language that I was born into, and spoke easily in my early childhood, I would increasingly lose the further I moved into English Canadian culture – and in my life. The most damage occurred in my teen years, when I sought desperately and uselessly not to be different from my friends and classmates.

    But, proof that there is life beyond adolescence, I emerged in my early 20s with regret that I had given up so much of a language I had once even dreamed in. And I was doing so at the very time that my already aging parents were losing much of the English they had learned. My Chinese vocabulary was arrested in childhood, by then already limited to chore details and bedtime routines. My regret took me back to university to study Cantonese, one of the two main dialects of China. The problem was that I knew just enough to be frustrated. I was being taught standard Cantonese, but I grew up speaking, listening and understanding a dialect of Cantonese – in essence, a dialect of a dialect. The differences were subtle but numerous enough to confound me – and my parents when I tried it on them. I gave up after one semester.

    This is how it came to be that several weeks ago, I faced what for many families would have been a straightfor-ward question – but wasn't for us. Because I'd been ex-posed to mumps, I needed to find out whether I had had it as a child. I could not recall, and my older siblings could not agree. We knew our mother would remember, but none of us knew the Chinese word for mumps. We had to bring in an interpreter. I recognize the tremendous sadness in that situation, and more so during this visit to my parents' quiet home. I sit in regret that I have never shared the adult conversations of women with my mother. Even today, as I see how the cancer is finishing its work, I cannot speak to her of her life or my life, of my hopes and my dreams for my children. I do not know the words that she would understand. I do not tell her I love her, because in English the words mean nothing to her. In Chinese, they mean little to me.

    This is the high price of immigration not quantified by officialdom. The silence of the room, and the silence across time and generations.

    Maggie Marwah is a freelance writer and communications consultant living in Halifax.