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6. Overheard on the Web

Ted Burton on Our Predicament

In response to a comment on Nat-Lang: I do not know if you are taking steps to learn your language- but as an adult, if you are not then it is you who are responsible for what you do not know.

Kowaunckamish, netop. I greet you and beg your permission to speak, friend.

Be gentle with our sister Marcia, noqua. For some languages, there is no one left to teach.

Nteatammowonck That is my thought or opinion.
Nummautanume I have spoken enough.
Taubot neannawayean I thank you.


Quechua in Trouble?

Sabine Dedenbach-Salazar wrote on 27 April 1996:
As you may know last week we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of teaching and research of the Quechua language at the University of Bonn. There were several invited speakers and the celebration was well attended. At the end a colleague from Peru who teaches Quechua at the University of Munich spoke to us saying that he had just come back from Peru and that there he had heard that Parliament had just passed a law that 'forbids' the Quechua language, and that the President, A. Fujimori, is about to sign the law. Of course we are wondering what form exactly such a law has and would therefore be grateful if you could circulate this message, and maybe some better informed colleague could give us additional information about this rather incredible step of the Peruvian government.

But then, on 30 Apr 1996, she reassured us:
With respect to what we were told at our Quechua anniversary meeting in Bonn about the plan to forbid the Quechua language in Peru I have just had a reliable message from a colleague in Cuzco who says that the following happened: Some people in Cuzco presented a project for a law that would have made the teaching of Quechua obligatory in the whole of Peru. This project was not supported by Parliament. On the other hand, this year a programme for training teachers in intercultural bilingual education has been initiated on the national level. - So, things have turned out not as bad as one might have feared.

Maori Broadcasting

On 29 April this appeared on Nat-Lang (shortened from a longer message):.

Date: Mon, 29 Apr 1996 13:46:22 GMT+1300
Subject: indigenous people and broadcasting

From: Leonie Pihama le.pihama(at)

Kia ora,

I am involved with a group of Maori researchers looking at the use of indigenous languages in broadcasting, in particular in film and television. Our interest is due to the commencement of the first Maori Television Pilot project on May 1. The channel is being operated collaboratively by a group of Maori production houses and is focusing on the promotion of Te Reo Maori mo ona tikanga (Maori language and culture). We have been approached by Te Mangai Paho (Maori Broadcasting Funding Agency) to provide monitoring of the pilot project. This is a huge task and one that requires depth discussion on the position of Maori people in broadcasting in Aotearoa and the relationship of the developments in Maori television to the development of broadcasting for indigenous peoples across the world.

We would appreciate any references or feedback related to indigenous peoples broadcasting and in particular the place of broadcasting in the maintenance, protection and development of indigenous languages and culture.

Naaku noa

Leonie Pihama
Education Department
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019,

Free Computer Program Helps with Learning Louisiana French

BOUTTE, LOUISIANA, U.S.A. -- Francais De Louisiane is a new computer program to teach students about Louisiana French, and how it differs from international French. This fun program is available free to the general public.

The program uses multimedia sound, text and graphics to introduce specific Louisiana French terms to the student, and then allows the student to compare and contrast the terms with international French. A built-in testing modules quizzes the student, and than reports a percentage of correct answers at the end. While not a complete tutorial in French, the program can supplement French training by reinforcing concepts in international and Louisiana French.

The project, developed using an authoring tool known as "The Digital Chisel," is designed to run on a Macintosh computer with a minimum of 4mb of RAM and a hard disk. 8mb or more is recommended.

The project was developed by Gary Dauphin, with text from Patrick Gelhay and David Marcantel. Earlene Broussard provided the voices used during word pronunciations. Computer equipment needed to create the project was loaned by Apple Computer, Inc.

Users can obtained the software free by using the Internet. The software can be downloaded using FTP software at the following sites:

On the Internet -- Search for the word "LaFrench"
The FTP site is at:
Login as anonymous with your email address as your password.
Or, FTP to : download the file LaFrench.

Other Cajun / Louisiana programs, including "Our Acadiana Heritage" and "Mr. Hex in Louisiana" are available free at the FTP site: Login as anonymous with your email address as your password. Look in the Directory called Public.
[Archived as /info-mac/edu/la-french.hqx; 1795K]

How to Teach Irish in a Hedge School

The list "Teachers of Celtic Languages" has recently been discussing teaching ideas. This lively contribution by Ron Crow <71155.3260(at)>seemed worthy of note.

A Chairde, duirt sibh...
I am headmaster--for my sins--of a hedge school. Yep. I have unruly charges who meet on Tuesday nights demanding Irish. We meet at St. Patrick's Church in downtown Columbus, Ohio. When my helper, an mœinteoir —g, Father Hayes, is in town, we meet in the ornate rectory dining room. Otherwise, we meet in the AOH hall next to the Church.

Some of the students have studied Irish for a while on their own while others have taken a formal class from me at some time in the past. A few are getting very good, and of course show up to cause disruption with scurrilous commentary of all sorts in Irish. I am most often the focus of their ire, but, well, that is tradition.

Every Tuesday, it seems now, a new person--a stranger--shows up. Word has gotten around.

Oh, some drop out, and only a handful are there without fail each week. But the scoil gairid is designed with that in mind. The way we proceed, you don't have to make it every week. When been averaging 8 or so, but that number varies thruout the night.

It is outrageous fun, all the same. About 7:30pm I give out some simple but ridiculous written story about a puca or s’oga’, (maybe a cartoon from some Irish publication) or the latest happening at the AOH bar. Students practice reading it, translating it, making ribald comments, etc.

Sometimes I'll let one of my more advanced students 'lecture' on some aspect of the spelling or pronunciation, or even the Irish culture, if the spirit moves them. My voice will give out about 11PM if I have to do all the talking. And all this chaos to the background cacophony about 'being' Irish. That is sort of the point, after all, to acquiring Irish: so that you can improve your 'being Irish.' We are creating an Irish 'house of being', as some disreputable philosopher once said--of course, aren't all philosophers disreputable? The hedge school ends up being the best entertainment in Columbus, Ohio, as I've often said.

After an hour and a half of that, we get out the tea (or coffee), discuss the latest politics, local or Irish; entertainment, of whatever kind; etc. I, and others who have a lot of Gaedhilge (yep, pronounce it that way still) put Irish words or historical tidbits on the caint thru out this 'break' discussion. Soon enough, I get into telling one of the epic stories from Irish legend or history. (Thosaigh mŽ mo chuid staire Gaelach den 16œhaois deag go 17œhaois as Gaedhilge; na f’orstair le f’orGhael ar son na f’orGhaela’.) I have a big blackboard (or, if I am in the Rectory dining room, a white board for those colored markers), and I draw pictures to illustrate some word or sentence or point.

I speak only Irish at this stage. They, the students of the scoil gairid, try to follow along and figure it out. The more basic beginners have gone home. I draw a lot and act out parts a lot. The students, the most dedicated--or most homeless--are left. They help each other, of course. Since, as in a one-room school house, some will have more than others, and the mix is quite helpful. Now mind, I am not expecting them to answer back in Irish. My goal is to be able to speak Irish to them and them understand me and answer back in English. This forces them to concentrate on comprehension rather than production. It is great when, once in a while, someone is so in to the story that they actually answer as Gaeilge without noticing they've done so.

I think that is the success of the scoil gairid (besides making it a home away from home, a fount of cultural knowledge, an unmusical choir--yes, we sing, too). Aside from the first minutes of each session, I don't expect them to produce Irish, but rather to comphrehend it. Those first minutes of each evening, of course, I do the classic question/answer technique that is used in most all immersion courses; it allows them to feel that they are able to produce themselves.

But no adult, no matter what you tell him nor how prettily you try to convince him, feels comfortable essentially saying things he doesn't fully understand in a language the depths of which he is afraid of drowning in. And when one does try to use his small portion of cheeps and clucks to a native speaker, the latter will naturally answer him with far more Irish than he can comprehend. If the student hasn't built up an undertanding of the target language, if he doesn't feel comfortable around it, all the 'immersion' work is wasted. The student freezes up after he uses his pitiful fund of sounds, and the fluent speaker assumes he only had a couple of focail.

Besides, the production aspect of foreign language acquisition and teaching exists not to benefit students, but teachers. How can a teacher grade comprehension? With difficulty. It is much easier to grade production?!

Oh, by the way, I do use that 'graduated recall' technique throughout the evening, stopping in the midst of something, asking what the word for something we were talking about earlier is, or maybe a phrase. Get them to repeat it once or twice, and then go on. I'll try to remember to repeat a few of these throughout the evening.

The system works like a charm. Those words, at least, they acquire. Usually with a vengence.



The only improvement I could make, I think, is move into Columbus (t‡imse i mo ch—an’ faoin tuath) and have an open parlor and kitchen for this two or three nights a week. In a couple of years, there would be so much Irish around Colambas that the place could get a Udaras grant. It could easily take over your life. But then, what else where you planning to do that could possibly be this much fun? Besides having that root canal, I mean.

In short, treat students like extended family--in a way, we are their foster brothers and sisters, are we not?--focus on comprehension, use graduated recall, meet often at regular times, and don't worry about who shows up. Entertain yourself, if necessary. It takes a couple of years to get all this off the ground. Our local traditional musicians have done the same. They started with a handful and a turtle session. Now ceoilteoir’ are coming from Cincinnati and Cleveland to play.

Sin a mhothaigh mise Ž anois, mo l‡mh daoibh.
Ron Crow

"Standard Lao"

I have been working on Lao since 1990, when I was a foreign student at Dong Dok University in Vientiane for one year. I have since taught Lao at the Australian National University in Canberra, and completed research on the language in a number of areas (mostly grammatical topics).

I am now working in Melbourne on a "Sketch Grammar of Lao, for Reference", as well as a project on the state of Lao language in the rapidly-changing capital, Vientiane.

A few brief points regarding "Standard Lao":

Any standard must be codified (officialised) in grammars, dictionaries, the education system, TV, etc. Vientiane Lao is the standard in Laos, but it is only WEAKLY codified. This does not mean there is no idea at all of any standard. The Lao know "Dialects" when they hear them, and also recognise the more "correct" variety spoken by newsreaders, or as described (with some points of disagreement) in textbooks, etc. There is, as yet, no Reference Grammar, only pedagogical work.

The language spoken in Vientiane has undergone great change since 1975, with socialist rule (including imposed language reforms), and a huge influx of speakers from all around the country. The variety considered "standard" is the traditional dialect of Vientiane, spoken by those whose families have originated in the area (typically, around Vat Ong Teu). Certain features are diagnostic. SImilarly, certain non-standard features are recognised (and stigmatised).

It is naive to suppose (as Osatananda does) that "it is the government's policy to maintain that people are equal in every way and that there is no dialect which is superior". It would be a bizarre (and careless) government which did not have active concern for the political status of the language. In fact, the Lao government implemented reforms in line with socialist policies (e.g. hierarchical forms of address were discouraged, Sanskritic terms replaced by loan-translations). The reason why the standard has not been effectively implemented is simple lack of resources. Laos has very limited infrastructure. The economy is now expanding, but with it comes other difficulties for the language, such as the intense and pervasive presence of Thai print and electronic media in Vientiane.

In sum, there IS a "standard Lao", and it is based on the traditional Vientiane dialect. It is recognised by speakers, but is only weakly codified (i.e. in terms of full details of what is "correct", and what is not).

Nick Enfield
Department of Linguistics
University of Melbourne
Parkville, VIC 3052. AUSTRALIA

Linguistic Legislation in the USA

From the LINGUIST-LIST's Washington correspondent, James Crawford (July 25, 1996): Appeared Thu, 8 Aug 1996 11:47:33 -0500

A modified English-Only bill, approved yesterday by the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, appears to be on a legislative fast track. After months of inaction, H.R.123 (the "Language of Government Act") is suddenly a priority for House Republican leaders. The measure is expected to come to a vote late next week, before Congress leaves for its August recess. With nearly 200 cosponsors and a clear display of party discipline in committee, the English-Only bill seems likely to pass in the House, although Senate support remains uncertain.

If enacted, H.R.123 would designate English as the official -- and sole permissible -- language of U.S. government business, with only a few exceptions. The use of other languages would be permitted for purposes of national security, international trade and diplomacy, public safety, and criminal proceedings.

To mollify critics of the bill's restrictiveness, Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.) proposed an amended version of H.R.123 that would also waive the English-Only mandate in the case of language education -- including programs funded under the Bilingual Education Act and the Native American Languages Act -- public health, census activities, and civil lawsuits brought by the U.S. government. It would also exempt oral communications with the public by federal employees, officials, and members of Congress. Federal publications -- that is, virtually all written materials -- in languages other than English would still be banned. The House committee passed the Cunningham "substitute" on a vote of 19 Republicans in favor and 17 Democrats against. The committee's day-long session was remarkable for its rancor and partisanship, even by the standards of the 104th Congress. Democrats accused the Republican majority of desperately seeking to exploit anti-immigrant feeling in an election year, even if that meant violating constitutional principles of free speech and equal rights. "What about people who think in another language?" asked ranking Democrat Bill Clay (Mo.). "Would your bill prohibit that?" Republicans labeled such attacks as "demagogy," insisting they merely want to unite the country through a common language and help newcomers learn English.

Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Calif.) argued that the bill would deprive limited English speakers of essential rights and services while doing nothing to address the acute shortage of adult English classes in cities like New York and Los Angeles. (In the past two years, Congressional budget cutters have substantially reduced federal support for such classes.) "The idea that people who come to this country don't want to speak English is the sickest thing I've ever heard," Martinez said, accusing the bill's proponents of "promoting fear" of language minorities. "I'm sorry that people on the other side of the aisle are so insecure that they feel they need to do this," he said.

Cunningham responded to Martinez: "You want to keep people in the barrio" by discouraging them from learning English. "We want to empower them." Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.) added that "the purpose of this bill isn't just to make people speak English; it's to help them reach the American dream." As a small business owner, Ballenger said he had personally sponsored language classes for his foreign-born employees. "My Vietnamese are the best workers in the world because they can speak English," he said.

Citing the majority's refusal to discuss constitutional objections or to justify any need for the legislation, Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.) called the session "the most maddening debate I've sat through in my 18 years in Congress." Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) observed that even though everyone was speaking English, there was little communication taking place between the two sides.

Throughout the day the partisan split was consistent in votes on several proposed amendments, with not a single defection from either the Democratic or Republican side.

The committee rejected an amendment by Del. Carlos Romero-Barcelo (D-Puerto Rico) that would have allowed federal agencies to communicate in other languages to promote government efficiency. Rep. Jan Meyers (R-Kans.) argued that such an exemption would "totally gut the bill. What we're saying is that agencies must communicate in English....If I was in China, I wouldn't expect their government to print everything in my language."

The lawmakers then approved a proposal by Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to extend English-only restrictions to all "publications, informational materials, income-tax forms, and the contents of franked [i.e., Congressional and other U.S. government] mail." Under questioning, Graham conceded that his amendment would forbid virtually any written communi- cation by a federal agency in another language, including the tourist- oriented pamphlets of the National Park Service. Graham insisted, however, that "common sense" would eliminate any need to remove "E Pluribus Unum" from U.S. currency and coins.

Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hi.) offered an amendment to keep the bill from in- fringing the freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection of the law. But Republicans objected to including what Graham called a "laundry list" of constitutional rights. Instead, they inserted an assurance that H.R.123 was not intended to conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, the committee rejected an English Plus substitute proposed by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). It would have removed the bill's re- strictive features and advocated a policy of encouraging the acquisition of English, plus other languages, to promote international competitive- ness and preserve cultural resources. Before voting against the Becerra amendment, Cunningham conceded that "we're fools if we don't learn other languages in this country." But he insisted that language restrictions are necessary because of "a propensity for more and more Americans not to speak English" -- citing anecdotal evidence from his own Congressional district in south San Diego.

Until this week, H.R.123 had appeared to be going nowhere. Its chief sponsor, Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Mo.), recently died after a long bout with cancer. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a longtime backer of English-Only legislation, apparently decided the measure could boost Republicans' prospects in the 1996 election. As recently as May, Committee chairman Bill Goodling (R-Pa.) had assured the Joint National Committee for Languages that he would block the bill from reaching the House floor. But Goodling did an unexplained about-face yesterday, along with Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wisc.) and other members of the majority side who had expressed reservations about H.R.123 during committee hearings.

In the Senate, Republicans have postponed three scheduled votes on a companion measure, S.356, where support is weaker than on the House side of the Capitol. Meanwhile, the Justice and Education departments have spoken out in opposition. But President Clinton, who once signed a similar measure as governor of Arkansas, has yet to commit himself publicly on federal English-Only legislation.

--Jim Crawford 73261.1120(at)
LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1121.