ERIC Number: ED395732
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996
Reference Count: N/A
What Do You Lose When You Lose Your Language?
This paper addresses the impact of language loss on culture and the need for developing effective strategies for language restoration. Culture is expressed through language; when language is lost, those things that represent a way of life, a way of valuing, and human reality are also lost. However, if you talk to members of a particular culture about language loss, they do not address the symbolism of the language but rather talk about the sacredness of language, the sense of kinship associated with language, and their moral commitment to language. Millions of people worldwide are making an effort to restore or maintain their native language. However, there are many more failures than successes in stabilizing weak languages. One reason is that whenever a weak culture is in competition with a strong culture, it is an unfair match. There is also a kind of resistance among cultural groups to the idea that something is happening to their language. Older people may be talking the language, telling stories in it, and doing all the traditional things in it, but they are not likely to be teaching children the language. By this time it is usually too late, because a new language has entered the picture and a new language-culture relationship has developed. Another reason why language restoration is difficult is because people frequently settle for acquiring the language not as a mother tongue, but during the school experience. Relying solely on the school for language transmission is not effective because it focuses on literacy as opposed to the life of the language and its relationship to the culture. Reversing language shift needs to include strategies directed toward family life, culture building, and promoting a sense of community. Schools alone cannot do this; it will take a concerted effort among all members of a cultural group to ensure that effective strategies are being implemented to foster language transmission from generation to generation. (LP)
Descriptors: American Indian Languages, Community Role, Cultural Influences, Cultural Maintenance, Elementary Secondary Education, Family Role, Identification (Psychology), Indigenous Populations, Language Acquisition, Language Attitudes, Language Maintenance, Language Skill Attrition, Native Language Instruction, Native Speakers, School Role, Sociolinguistics, Values
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Language Shift; Native Americans
Note: In: Stabilizing Indigenous Languages; see RC 020 517.