Written by Dyami Millarson
Many people believe that the only way to save endangered or minority languages is through language education, revitalisation, and documentation efforts. However, I believe that there is a simpler solution: learning the language. Our brains are like computers or books that store information, and when we learn a language, we store that language in our brains. In essence, language-learning is the primordial way of language-documentation, by storing linguistic information in our brains. Through my experience of acquiring languages such as Wangerooge Frisian, Sagelterland Frisian, Bargum Frisian, Langenhorn Frisian, Ockholm Frisian, and many more, I am a witness of the fact that languages can be saved by simply learning them.
Language death is a global problem, but the answer is right in front of us. As individuals, we can take action to reverse the decline of endangered and minority languages by simply learning them. In doing so, we not only save the language but also document it in our minds for future generations. They may wish to adopt the language from us at a later point in time. Learning a language is a crucial step in saving it from extinction. When we learn a language, we not only acquire the language itself, but we also gain insight into the culture and worldview of the speakers of that language. This knowledge can help us to better appreciate the language and understand why it is worth preserving. As more people learn the language, it becomes more widely used and begins to gain recognition and status. This can help to promote its use and encourage its preservation. Learning is also important for dead languages; for learning to actively use a dead language is the way to make it a living language again, which contributes to the linguistic diversity of the world.
While it may seem daunting to learn an endangered, dead or minority language, there are many practical steps that you can take to get started. First and foremost, it is important to have a genuine interest in the language and the culture of its speakers, whether past or present. This interest will motivate you to continue learning and make the process more enjoyable. I am, for example, highly interested in the people who used to speak Wangerooge Frisian and I appreciate learning about their culture. Next, you can seek out works about and in the kanguage to start your self-study journey or you could take traditional classes, find private tutors online, or participate in language exchange programs that focus on the language you wish to learn. There may or may not be many online and offline resources available, as well as local language-learning communities that may be able to offer support and guidance. For example, when I studied Bargum Frisian, I had to deal with the fact that very few resources were available.
It is also important to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. This can be achieved through listening to music, watching films, reading books, and conversing with native speakers. By immersing yourself in the language, you will gain a deeper understanding of its nuances and cultural context. Another practical step is to document your language-learning journey. This can include blogging about your language challenge, keeping a language-learning journal, creating flashcards or study guides, or even recording yourself speaking the language. By documenting your progress, you can track your growth and celebrate your achievements. I can attest to the efficiency of this method. Finally, it is important to remember that language-learning is a lifelong process. While it may take time and effort to become proficient in an endangered or minority language, every step you take is a step towards preserving and revitalizing that language for future generations.
While there are many organisations and institutions working towards language revitalisation, revival and preservation, it is important to recognize the power of individual action. Every person has the ability to make a difference in preserving, reviving and revitalizing endangered, dead or minority languages. By learning these languages, we can contribute to the documentation of their unique cultures and histories, and ensure that future generations have access to these valuable resources. Individual language learners can also help to spread awareness and appreciation for these languages and their communities, both locally and globally. By sharing their language-learning experiences and the knowledge they have gained, they can inspire others to take action and make a difference.
In addition, individual language learners can support the work of language revitalisation organizations and institutions in plenty of ways. It is important to recognize that the preservation and revitalization of endangered or minority languages is not solely the responsibility of language communities or governments. It is the responsibility of all individuals to recognize the value and importance of linguistic diversity, and to take action to support the preservation, revival and revitalisation of the languages which are the building blocks of this diversity.
While collective action and community-led efforts can certainly play an important role in language preservation and revitalization, individual efforts can also make a significant contribution. Individuals who are passionate about preserving endangered or minority languages can take a variety of actions to help ensure their survival. This may include learning the language themselves, sharing it with others, creating resources for language learners, and advocating for its recognition and support. In the face of language endangerment and loss, it is often easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed. With entire languages and cultures on the brink of extinction, it can be tempting to believe that only large-scale, organised efforts can make a difference in preserving linguistic diversity. However, the truth is that individual efforts can also play a significant role in saving endangered languages.
The first step in preserving an endangered language is often simply learning it. While this may seem like a small and insignificant action, it can actually make a significant difference in the long-term survival of a language. By learning an endangered language, individuals become part of a small but dedicated community of language learners and speakers who are working to keep the language alive. In addition to learning the language themselves, individuals can also share their knowledge with others. This may involve creating resources for language learners, such as textbooks, dictionaries, or language-learning apps. By making the language more accessible to others, individuals can help to raise awareness and interest in the language, which can ultimately lead to increased support and recognition. Advocacy is another important aspect of individual efforts in preserving endangered languages. By advocating for the recognition and support of endangered languages, individuals can help to raise awareness of the importance of linguistic diversity and the need for action to protect it. This may involve writing letters to local authorities, attending language preservation events, or simply sharing information about endangered languages on social media.
It is vitally important to recognize that we have the power to save languages through our own individual efforts. By learning a language, we not only preserve it but also contribute to its revitalisation and future survival. It is time to break out of the academic rut and start taking practical action to save our world’s endangered languages. By learning endangered, dead or minority languages, we can contribute to the preservation, revitalisation, and documentation of these important cultural treasures. With dedication and effort, anyone can make a difference in the fight against language death. So, let us take practical action today to save our world’s linguistic diversity! Every person has the ability to make a difference in the work needed for reversing language death. While collective action and community-led efforts certainly play an important role in language preservation and revitalization, individual efforts can also make a significant contribution. Through learning, sharing, and advocacy, individuals can help to ensure that endangered languages are not lost to the sands of time. The power of individual efforts in saving endangered languages should not be underestimated, as even the smallest actions can make a big difference in the preservation of linguistic diversity.
Let me sum up the essential ideas of this article as follows:
- Languages are facing extinction at an alarming rate, with thousands of languages projected to disappear in the coming decades.
- Language education, revitalization, and documentation are commonly seen as the only ways to save endangered languages.
- Learning endangered languages can also be a crucial means of saving them, as individuals can store language knowledge in their brains and pass it on to future generations.
- Thousands of languages are at risk of extinction, with language education, revitalisation, and documentation seen as the primary ways to save them.
- Learning endangered languages can also be an effective means of saving them, as individuals can store language knowledge and pass it on to future generations.
- Practical steps such as finding language resources, speaking with native speakers, and immersing oneself in the language can facilitate language learning and revitalization.
- Individuals can take action to save endangered languages through language learning, with even small efforts making a difference.
- The current dominant approach to language revitalisation emphasises collective efforts and community organizing as the primary means of saving endangered languages. (This is a collectivist rather than individualist approach.)
- This approach can be limiting, as it ignores the potential impact of individual efforts on language survival.
- Languages can survive through individual efforts alone, as long as there are at least two individuals who are committed to using and transmitting the language.
- Learning languages is a primordial way of documenting them, and individuals can play a crucial role in saving endangered languages from death as well as reviving dead languages.
- Individuals have the power to save endangered languages through practical language learning steps, and this can be a complementary approach to collective language revitalisation, revival and preservation efforts.
- The overemphasis on collective efforts is wrong because languages can survive without collective efforts, and individual efforts should also be recognised and encouraged in the field of language revitalisation, revival and preservation.
Having an opportunity to use/speak with others is or at least for me was critical. I took Spanish for five years in school but without being able to easily speak it with others, my speaking ability never came close to my reading ability and then slowly the reading and writing ability fell back.
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Thank you for sharing your experience with learning Spanish. I completely understand how important it is to have opportunities to use and speak a language in order to develop fluency. Reading and writing are certainly important aspects of language learning, but it is through real-life conversations and interactions that we can truly hone our language skills. It is great that you recognise the importance of practice and immersion. I wish you a wonderful day!
– Dyami Millarson
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