In this article, I want to show you a few examples of successful language revitalization.
The main task – language revitalization
The task might appear daunting. How do we help revitalize the language that children have? don’t speak anymore. That might be on the verge of being lost well many people are currently working to revitalize languages and I want to show you very briefly.
three successful examples of the Hebrew language in Israel the Māori language revitalization in Aotearoa New Zealand.
and Wampanoag from Massachusetts so Hebrew believe it or not nobody spoke Hebrew for about 2,000 years by that time.
Jesus was alive, his language was probably Aramaic and Hebrew was most likely a liturgical language something like Latin.
so by the mid-1800s people could read Hebrew and understood it but only as a sacred language like you would learn Latin in school nobody spoke it.
certainly, children weren’t born speaking it.
Someone called Eliezer Ben Yehuda in the late 1800s helped propel a movement to bring Hebrew back to the people.
homes people were beginning to emigrate to Israel and they needed a lingua franca between them because many people spoke Yiddish many people spoke German Russian.
Polish and so there needed to be one language revitalization to immerse where just a communication language for all of these people coming to Israel he proposed that it’d be Hebrew which many people at first thought was really weird because Hebrew was like Latin.
It lacked many words from modern life. All you had were religious texts about how children could possibly speak this he tried when Eliezer Ben Yehuda’s son was born.
He became the first native speaker of modern Hebrew.
and Ben Yehuda had to invent a bunch of new words for new things he said that whenever he wanted to ask for coffee with sugar he would have to say give me that thing with that thing and then.
Another thing people believed in the project and eventually helped invent new words borrowed words from languages like Arabic for example from Yiddish and slowly people who.
started speaking Hebrew daily and had children and these children were then native speakers of Hebrew L1 speakers of Hebrew during the early 20th century this process continued.
until it became large enough that children who were born with Hebrew went to schools that were.
taught in Hebrew and then they had to go to things like university and government when there was a university that eventually came to be.
known as the Technion it was founded in the mid-1910s in 1913.
There was an event called the language revitalization wars in Israel where people debated whether this new university would maybe be better to have a teaching German.
because German was the language of science and technology he would have Einstein when the dignity was opening and. So why not use it instead of having to invent all these words for Hebrew but people insisted that Hebrew might be a good language for this university. And it helped establish it in the university but also bring it to the government and to eventually every corner of the life of Israel now as you can see.
We have soda in Hebrew we have road signs in Hebrew and there’s about 9 million people who speak it but there was nobody who spoke Hebrew as a as an L1 language 150 years ago because of the community.
got together to try to create new speakers of the language and in this way.
bring Hebrew back to being a living everyday language.
let’s go to the other side of the planet to Aotearoa New Zealand. This is a sign written in the Māori language of New Zealand.
In 1840 the Māori community of New Zealand signed a treaty with Britain establishing the conditions for the British remaining in the country during the next century the Māori language revitalization was slowly displaced from the life of the country all the schools were in English.
Many people spoke the language but they couldn’t get any education in it for example.
and by the 1950s only about 25 percent of the Māori populations could speak the language whereas 50 years ago everyone could speak it. groups of interest starting to develop like the Māori Women’s Welfare League.
to try to create schools where children could learn to read and write in Māori and hopefully people could learn to to use the language revitalization again.
by the 1980s the situation was so critical that they invented a concept called the language.
nest which I told you about in a previous article it’s teaching grandparents directly.
to the grandkids and through these kinds of projects and pressure to the government.
they eventually passed laws to help fund Māori training programs throughout the country as you can see.
On the left we have an illustration from a language nest and in the current day there’s still pressure to try to get it.
more resources for Māori training there’s pressure to for example change the signs on the streets to have names for streets and landmarks in the Māori language.
and while there has been strong official pressure to make sure that the language is considered a treasure of the country and is therefore well-funded and Māori communities have fundings to run their schools.
The progress still continues for example last year. they were debating whether all schools in the country should have Māori lessons for the children but as you can see they’ve made an effort.
to restart intergenerational transmission and to have political power to keep the movement going.
one last example I want to show you is from the language Wampanoag which is spoken in Massachusetts. It was probably the language that people spoke about that story where Native Americans taught Europeans how to farm in the Americas. The Wampanoag language was spoken in the 1600s and there were bibles for example there were many letters written in the language however early in the 1800s the language was displaced people.
stopped speaking it they transitioned into English to the point where the language stopped being spoken by the community. it became dormant about 150 years later.
There was a woman called Jessie Little Doe who said she had a dream about her ancestors telling her that she needed to bring the language back to life.
She did a master’s in linguistics and her master’s was making a dictionary of Wampanoag.
which she made from all of those old letters because that was the only record there was of the language.
she had to rebuild new words out of extrapolation of what neighboring languages. would make her language sound like and like. When she was doing this she founded a school.
to teach Wampanoag to the children in the community and she had a child and this person was the first native speaker of Wampanoag in more than a hundred years so as you can see.
It can also be like an individual wanting to make a difference for languages to be revitalised again individuals with a lot of drive and a lot of determination. so as you can see there are communities that have managed to revitalize their languages.
and keys to their effort are their successes are an attempt to create new speakers being able to have resources and political power to provide spaces for the language in schools. in society and a lot of determination and hard work.
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