Friday, 2 December 2011

An innovative way to save an endangered language: Possible in Oman?

Lakota is an endangered language spoken in the United States and some parts of Canada by Native Americans who descend from the Sioux tribes. Lakota’s situation is not very different from Jabbali, since the former has around 6000 speakers left while the latter has around 5000. It is mostly the older generation who can speak Lakota fluently.
A Lakota chief 1885 (from Wikipedia) 

However, the good news is that in an effort to save Lakota from dying, the animated cartoon The Berenstain Bears, which for decades has been aired in various languages including Arabic, is now going to be aired in Lakota.  That's right, The Berenstain Bears are going to be speaking Lakota as part of a project that attempts to spread the language to the younger Sioux generation in order to preserve the language. 

The Berenstain Bears was created in 1962
I think this approach to save a language is innovative. Instead of accepting the fact that the language is dying hence document it, record it, and observe it from the older generation while it’s at the verge of extinction, this project attempts to preserve the language not by saving it on paper, but by teaching it to little children, and therefore the possibility of having another generation that speaks the language. In other words, this project foresees the possibility of saving a language by giving children access to another source of input of the language, which is probably more interesting and captivating to them than a conversation with an old person in their family. Consequently, this can increase their chances of acquiring the language.

This brilliant idea makes me wonder if such a project is possible to adopt in Oman. Knowing that a language which is more or less in a similar condition to Jabbali is getting a lot of attention and effort is a motivation. What makes it impossible in Oman?

I leave you now with the Lokata Berenstain Bears trailer:

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