If any of you know me even just a little bit, you know I love languages. Learning languages originally was a way for me to meet people while traveling. Well, actually, learning languages was originally a way for me to meet girls. And then it was a way for me to meet girls while traveling.
But after a while, I started studying languages for the fun of it. Sure, travel (and women) always added to the desire to learn—going anywhere for a few days was enough of a reason to learn 100-200 words in the local language. But since my traveling has *gasp* slowed down a bit, I don’t focus on just the languages I might need someday. Instead, I’ve been delving into languages just to learn them. Sure, I might never go to Mongolia, Myanmar, or Tuva, but that hasn’t stopped me from picking up a few words here and there.
In fact, my love of languages has slowly morphed into a passion for linguistics, and I’ve been looking into pursuing a Ph.D. in the Linguistics Dept. here at UCSB. Originally I wanted to work on a series of language books (phrasebooks and learning methods), and so I looked into a degree in order to get an added credential to help me be more publishable. And a part of me still plans to go the book-writing route, credential or no.
But as of late, I’ve discovered the world or Language Documentation, Endangerment, and Revitalization. It turns out that out of the 6900+ languages in the world (not including ones that are no longer being spoken), only about 500 or so (I’ve been told) have been properly documented in some way . And we lose a language on average every two weeks when the last speaker of that language dies. But languages don’t always die out naturally. Sometimes languages fade due to government oppression (many Native American languages withered this way). Other languages lose popularity with the younger generations who want to learn a more popular language and refuse to speak their native tongue. Personally, I’d like to see these languages continue to thrive.
So my latest focus on languages is in this area. UCSB has a great grad program for Language Documentation and Revitalization. But that’s a 7-year program, and I want to do stuff NOW! So while I’m still contemplating grad school, I’m also looking into raising awareness and working on being an advocate for causes I deem worthy of supporting. My first one is supporting Lost Words, a documentary about saving Native American languages. You can read how to help out at:
So you’ll probably be hearing a lot more from me regarding this cause as well as others regarding dying languages and ways to save them. You have been warned.
In the meantime, if any of you have any suggestions, advice, questions, comments, etc. regarding languages on the verge of becoming extinct or ways to keep languages alive, feel free to pass them my way!