Inuit delegation look to Wales for language preservation lessons

December 17th, 2016 by Jeela Palluq-Cloutier, executive director of the Nunavut Language Authority, and her 16 fellow travellers are Inuit — representatives from Nunavut, Labrador, northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories. They were invited to Wales by Prince Charles in order to try and learn how to save a dying language. “In some areas of Canada’s north, the Inuit language is really thriving,” explains Palluq-Cloutier. “But there are communities where it’s gone down to 20 percent. And the speakers are only the elderly people — the youth are not speaking it anymore. So in those areas, we’re trying to bring the language back.” Wales might seem like an odd detour on the journey to revive an Inuit language but the Welsh language survival story speaks volumes. Welsh is believed be around 4,000 years old, making it the oldest language in Britain but during the mid-1900s, it almost became extinct. The language was rescued thanks to a concerted campaign over the past 25 years, which saw Welsh declared an official language and Welsh education made compulsory in public schools. Read more: Global News

This nonprofit wants to build a tool to share and document all the world’s languages

February 24th, 2016 by Like most of his compatriots in Kosovo, 19-year-old Plator Gashi grew up speaking Albanian. As a linguistically curious young man (some might say, a “language nerd”), Gashi discovered the dialect he and his neighbors spoke — which is different from the one used across the border in Albania — was beginning to lose many of its older, richer expressions. Blame the influence of English, French and the general tendency to simplify language in the age of texting acronyms and Bitmojis. “There are lot of very beautiful words and expressions that have started to fade away. A lot of people tend to use simpler language, and I think that is a shame,” Gashi says. “I’m not a purist, but not only do you lose words that are beautiful in an objective sense, they are also related to our culture.” Gashi’s concern with preserving the uniqueness of his native dialect is not unique. Under pressure from economic globalization, the Internet, and government policies favoring centralization, regional dialects and languages are increasingly under threat. According to one oft-cited statistic from the United Nations, more than 3,000 languages currently spoken today will become extinct by the end of this century unless current trends are reversed. But the Internet, home to polyglot YouTubers with dedicated fan bases, and language-rights activists who have built large communities on Facebook and Twitter, is also an indispensable tool for those who want to preserve endangered languages. As a volunteer with Wikitongues, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and recording linguistic diversity, Gashi is at the forefront of the movement. Read more: PRI‎