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What You Need to Know about Endangered and Extinct Languages

What You Need to Know about Endangered and Extinct Languages

Kristen Bradley

What do languages and dinosaurs have in common?

Sadly, what they share in common is extinction. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization if nothing is done, at least half of the 6,000 languages currently spoken will be extinct by the year 2100. It’s alarming to think every 14 days a language dies and 43% of languages spoken in the world are now endangered. Languages evolves over time, they expand and contract adapting like living things to an ever-changing environment. But while some languages manage to spread and stand the test of time, others die out. It is largely the languages of smaller cultures that are among the casualties. Over the centuries hundreds of languages have gone extinct around the world. In Australia, out of 250 indigenous languages, only 40 remain. In some cases the extinction of a language can be traced to the death of the last speaker. Like the Siouan Language of Mandan that ended when the last native speaker, Edwin Bensen of North Dakota passed on in 2016.  As languages fade from prominence they become categorized in one of 5 primary ways: Vulnerable – Still taught to and spoken by children, but primarily at home. Definitely endangered - Children are no longer taught the language, even at home. Severely endangered - The language is primarily spoken by grandparents and elders, but subsequent parent generations typically do not teach or even speak the language. Critically endangered – The youngest speakers are grandparent generations, and the language is only rarely spoken. Extinct - No living speakers remain. Hundreds of languages are considered to be critically endangered across the globe including: Parji, in India Zenatiya, in Algeria Tsakonian, in Greece Itelmen, in Russia And dozens of Native American languages throughout the US, Canada and Mexico along with indigenous languages in Australia. While little can be done about languages which have already gone extinct, there is still time to  severely or critically endangered, putting these languages, and all they represent, in jeopardy of complete loss. Why Do Languages Die? With approximately 80% of the world speaking one of the major 80 languages, like English, Mandarin or Russian, more culturally obscure languages are continually marginalized by lack of use. English in particular is becoming more and more prevalent. Business, education and all things digital often cater to understanding and speaking fluent English. To truly master it and become skilled at speaking it requires constant dialogue in it and this pushes native languages to the side. Many parents choose to teach their children English to ensure they have the best opportunities to advance. Languages often pass into obsolescence as native speakers’ age and common multi-generational usage dwindles. As families adopt more mainstream languages, like English, as the conversational dialect within their homes, native languages may not be passed on to children and fluency among adults diminishes. In some cases speakers may live far apart and are not connected with others speakers. Immigration is also impacting language. As people move and adapt to survive in new places language is often one of the first things to change.Those who do speak dying languages are forced into being at least bi-lingual as social and economic constructs demand that they are at least bilingual in another more widely spoken language and as the more common language displaces the dwindling language, even in the speaker’s mind, their proficiency decreases. But the most serious threat to language preservation is a lack of active attempts to preserve the tongue. In many cases written records, classes or other materials that would be requisite to pass on the language are also neglected or, in some cases, discouraged. Why Should Languages Be Protected? We find ourselves often reminded of the dwindling plant and animal species and humanitarian efforts to save them. But unlike the giant panda or sea otter, languages rarely find champions to spearhead their salvation. Yet there are numerous languages that need one. There are over 500 languages in the world that are currently critically endangered, with a substantial portion of minority languages in North America that are nearing extinction.  While some accept the loss of language as a natural part of social evolution, the loss of language is also in a sense a death of heritage and a culture. Language represents a perspective on life that is contained within cultural idioms and concepts. Take for example the the Toratan word “Matuwuhou” which means to wake up in the morning and find something has changed. There is no single word equivalent for that sensation in English. When a language dies these idiosyncrasies can be lost forever. Language is also a matter of identity, as we become an increasingly global culture speakers of dying languages struggle to maintain the distinct identity encompassed by their native language. Finally, Language provides insight into the history of a people, and in a sense the history of our civilization.  As languages die out, our diversity of data sources narrows and we stand to lose pieces of our collective human history and social evolution.   What Can Be Done? Many linguists, academics and global-minded organizations are working to support efforts to save endangered languages. The preservation of these languages rely on a concerted effort by both the remaining speakers and outside organizations that are willing to put forth the effort. One such organization is United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) whose offerings include “Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger” and online collaborative platform called “World Atlas of Languages” and the Endangered Languages Programme that are intended to raise awareness of dying languages. The Endangered Languages Programme also provides support to communities, governments and experts by providing tools and services for advocacy, training and platforms for the exchange of skills.  Additionally The Endangered Languages Project from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity offers resources to revitalize and sustain threatened languages as does GoCompare, a British financial services website has launched a project to capture the tone and rhythm of some endangered languages. Raising awareness is indeed the first step to bringing this risk of lost to the forefront of our social and political conversations, allowing individuals and culturally oriented groups to find the support they need to help preserve an endangered language. Additionally, even though over half of homepage visits are to websites with English content the internet can be a vital tool for the preservation of languages.  Websites, video and even podcasts can be utilized to help encapsulate, disseminate and extend the life of struggling language by making them accessible and providing resources where the last remaining speakers can connect. Efforts preserve languages on the brink of extinction may seem like an uphill battle, but it is one worth fighting.  At LinguaLinx, we love languages and this is a cause very near and dear to our hearts. Every day, we work closely with our clients to ensure the integrity of the languages they use to communicate. That’s a part of why we keep an expansive network with native speakers of hundreds of languages representing cultures in every nation.  As a civilization, our collective history is encapsulated by the rich tapestry of language that make up our world. That is not a time capsule to be buried and reopened when it is too late, but one that is to be celebrated and protected right now. We’d like to help you keep language alive, contact us for your project!

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Airport Helps non-English Speakers With Language Interpretation

Airport helps non-English speakers with language interpretation  

Caitlin Nicholson

The customer service ambassador program at Orlando International Airport employs 16 individuals who speak 11 languages other than English and who are ready to assist passengers requiring language interpretation.

 While they may not be trained language interpreters, their language assistance is nevertheless appreciated by many non-English speaking passengers arriving daily at Orlando’s International Airport, who are often tired, frequently lost and, almost certainly, not sure where to turn for needed information. Wearing their trademark gold vests, these ‘ambassadors’ fan out across the main terminal or stand behind information booths, ready to provide answers in different languages, which is their stock in trade. “What I like best is to help people,” said Ana Rocco, a 52-year-old ambassador who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese. Last year, Rocco, her fellow ambassadors and 15 other people who work in customer service answered approximately 1 million questions, many in languages other than English, according to Orlando International Airport statistics. The queries are usually simple: Where is baggage claim? How can I get a taxi or shuttle? Is there a bathroom nearby? Is my plane on time? And where is the bus that will take me to Disney World? According to the Orlando Sentinel, catering to international visitors is important at the airport because they represent the fastest-growing segment of the passenger count, now comprising more than 9 percent of the total annual traffic of more than 35.3 million. “We want to make this as comfortable as possible, safe and secure,” said Debra Bouier, who runs the ambassador program. More information on Orlando International Airport is available courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.  

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How To Say Hello Around the World

How To Say Hello Around the World

Caitlin Nicholson

November 21st is World Hello Day. One might find this holiday to be a bit obscure at first glance, but its premise is a good one. People are encouraged to participate by greeting ten people. The greetings help demonstrate that communication is essential in promoting peace.

There are estimates that there are over 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. With so many to choose from, we chose ten to start. HOW TO SAY HELLO AROUND THE WORLD CHINESE (MANDARIN) Mandarin is the world’s most widely spoken language, and the most common greeting is below. Simplified Chinese characters: 你好 Latin alphabet: Ni hao Pronunciation:  Nee HaOW SPANISH Spanish has official status in 20 countries worldwide. There are over 470 million native speakers and about 90 million who speak Spanish as a second language. Latin alphabet: Hola Pronunciation: OH-lah HINDI Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world behind Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English. Below is the most universal greeting to use in India (where Hindi is one of the official languages). Latin alphabet: Namaste Devanagari script: नमस्ते Pronunciation: nuh-MUH-stay ARABIC Modern Standard Arabic is what is used in writing and formal speech. It has official status in 27 countries concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Arabic script: السلام عليكم Latin alphabet: Al salaam a’alaykum Pronunciation: Ahl sah-LAHM ah ah-LAY-koom PORTUGUESE Below, you can learn the best way to say “Good day” to those living in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and Portuguese-speaking communities worldwide. Latin alphabet: Bom dia Pronunciation: bohn DEE-ah RUSSIAN Russian is the largest native language in Europe. Below are both formal and informal ways to greet someone in Russian. (The informal greeting is equivalent to Hi in English.) Latin alphabet: Zdravstvuite (formal) / Privet (informal) Cyrillic alphabet: Здравствуйте (formal) / привет (informal) Pronunciation: ZDRAST-vwee-tye  / pri-VET JAPANESE Below is the most standard way of saying “hello” in Japanese. It can be used for anyone, regardless of social status. Latin alphabet: Konnichiwa Japanese script: 今日は (kanji) / こんにちは (hirigana) Pronunciation: Koh-NEE-chee-wah GERMAN German is the first language of 95 million people, and it is a widely taught foreign language in both the United States and the European Union. Learn how to say hello in German both formally and informally! Latin alphabet: Guten Tag (formal) / Hallo (informal) Pronunciation: GOOT-en Tahk / Hah-LOH  INDONESIAN Indonesia boasts the world’s fourth largest population (behind China, India, and the United States). Indonesian is the lingua franca (bridge language, common language) of this island nation. You can actually say “hello” or “hi” when you want to greet someone informally.  Below are more formal greetings that are used at the appropriate times of each day. Each greeting begins with Selemat (pronounced suh-lah-mat) Good day: Selamat siang (suh-lah-mat see-ahng) Good morning: Selamat pagi (suh-lah-mat pah-gee) Good afternoon: Selamat sore (suh-lah-mat sore-ee) Good evening:  Selamat malam (suh-lah-mat mah-lahm) FRENCH French is a global language with official status in 29 countries throughout the world. Latin alphabet: Bonjour Pronunciation: Bon-zhoor See below if you are looking for a less formal way to say hello (equivalent to Hi in English). Latin alphabet: Salut Pronunciation: sah-LOO

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Celebrate Russian Language Day!

Celebrate Russian Language Day!

Caitlin Nicholson

Did you know that tomorrow (June 6th) is Russian language day? In 2010, the United Nations created language days for each of their six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Their goal is to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity. June 6th was chosen as it is the birthday of Alexander Pushkin, the Father of Russian Literature. At LinguaLinx, we love languages. Words are our business, and our passion. In fact, our President, David Smith, holds degrees in Russian Language and Literature as well as Russian Translation! Let’s take a moment and celebrate Russian!

Currently, there are about 155 million nature Russian speakers in the world (about 2.33% of the total population.) Russian is an official language in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. It is also an important secondary language in other countries due to the influence of the former Soviet Union. Nine Fast Facts about the Russian Language: 1. The Russian alphabet uses Cyrillic script and has 33 letters. 2. Russian is called an “International Language of Space” – astronauts must learn it on the international space station. 3. Russian is the seventh most used language on the Internet with over 87 million users! 4. A lot of modern words related to computers are borrowed directly from English Example: компьютер = computer Example: чат = chat 5. Russian has no word for the, a or an. 6. There are only about 500,000 words in the Russian language. (There are over 1,000,000 words in the English dictionary!) 7. Only about 2,000-2,500 of these words are used frequently. 8. There are three genders in Russian language: masculine, feminine and neuter. 9. Russian’s closest language cousins are Ukrainian and Belorussian.

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Italian Language Translation and Good Food

Italian Language Translation and Good Food

Caitlin Nicholson

During the Renaissance, Italy was famous for its great artists and thinkers. These days, one of the peninsula’s biggest global cultural exports is its incredible cuisine. Everyone loves Italian dishes, which means that Italian language translation and good food go together like pasta and a zesty ragù Bolognese.

If you’re not from an Italian-speaking family, and if you haven’t studied the language, you probably still know quite a few Italian words. A lot of your “basic” Italian more than likely comes from the culinary arts and Italian language translation. Here are some of the basic Italian words English speakers use all of the time: Balsamico – a tasty Italian vinegar Broccoli – that vegetable that looks like a small tree Caffè – an espresso coffee Cappuccino – a coffee drink with frothy steamed-milk foam Lasagna – a lovely, layered, baked pasta dish Linguini – skinny noodles Pizza – bread, tomato sauce (or not), and toppings Mozzarella – great cheese Ravioli – filled pasta “dumplings” Prosciutto di Parma – wonderful salted and cured ham Well, you get the idea. The list can go on and on. Italian food traditions, as well as some of the Italians words that go along with food, have spread all over the world. For people who love Italian cuisine, language, and everything to do with Italy, cooking classes are available. We’re not just talking about classes at your local community center. Various agencies offer immersion-cooking classes in Italy, based out of different regions. Fond of Naples and the food from that region? No problem. There’s a class for you. If you caught the flick Under the Tuscan Sun or read the book, you might have fallen in love with Tuscany and the wonder dishes there. Of course, there are guided eating tours and cooking classes in this part of Italy as well. Italians really know how to eat, no matter what part of Italy they live in. The point is that you should eat, travel, dive into some Italian language translation, and then eat and cook up a whole lot more. Buon appetito!

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American Chinese vs. Traditional Chinese Food: What’s the Difference?

American Chinese vs. Traditional Chinese Food

What’s the Difference?

Caitlin Nicholson

One of the most popular cuisines across America is Chinese food. Wooden chopsticks and white takeout boxes are ubiquitous in all of the major cities in this country. But many people who enjoy General Tso’s Chicken might be surprised to hear that most actual Chinese people haven’t even heard of General Tso, let alone his chicken.

There are a number of differences between Westernized Chinese food and authentic Chinese cuisine, but the biggest difference is that Westernized Chinese food isn’t as spicy, and is considerably more fattening, than its authentic Chinese counterparts. Many of the dishes we have come to know and love are inspired by actual, authentic food, but a lot of it is a complete fabrication straight from the minds of American chefs. But how did these changes come to be? According to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Westernized Chinese food began in the mid-1800s in San Francisco. Chinese immigrants came to the United States and began looking for work, but many Chinese laborers and artisans found it difficult to procure employment. Chinese restaurants began as a way to simply feed their own communities — they weren’t opened by professionally trained chefs. But their restaurant industry expanded when Americans became interested in their flavorful cuisine at comparably low prices. The primary differences between Westernized Chinese food and Authentic Chinese food are the cooking methods and the ingredients. Much of Western Chinese food is fried, but authentic cuisine only sporadically relies on this method. Spices in particular vary from region to region. But much American Chinese food has more in common with other types of American cuisine than it does with a traditional Chinese fare. For example, a dish like Sweet and Sour Chicken is more like Southern American cooking than anything eaten in China. Of course, China is a large country, and the food eaten there does vary from province to province, but common authentic meals include such dishes as Peking duck, jellyfish, and sea cucumbers. You can find Peking duck on American menus, but it might be a little harder to find jellyfish.

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