Arabs and Italians: Do we actually care about language death?

Fight for every member of the ecosystem--even for the less beautiful or "exotic"
Fight for every member of the ecosystem–even for the more plain and less “exotic.”

People talk about the tragedy of language death, but much of the worry focuses on losing the “exotic.” We worry terribly about indigenous Canadian and Australian languages, but not about other languages.

Recently I read about the dialect(s) of Arabic spoken in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which encouraged me to reflect on the potential death of the dialect of a major language. English is becoming so pervasive that children and even young adults cannot speak Arabic comfortably. The nonchalant attitude of the interviewees towards Arabic made me sad.

Also, I learned about the endangered Milanese dialect of Italian. The heart of a folk-music scene in the 1960s, it is spoken by only 2% of the population today.

Italian and Arabic: two well-known languages, not terribly exotic. No money is going into preserving these dialects.

Why do we care about indigenous languages dying, but not about other, less exotic, deaths?
Choosing survivors

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Six ways to get out of the expat bubble

I bet you could practice your language with someone here!
I bet you could practice your language with someone here!

When you go abroad to learn a language, how do you make sure that you’re learning the language? Many people travel with the hope that they will “absorb” the language, and then find that this process does not unfold by itself. Many people get lonely and make friends with the folks they have the most in common with: expats. They quickly get stuck the trap of speaking their native language while abroad rather than the language they’re learning.

How do you get unstuck?

When I visited Spain in college, I had a chance to visit Pamplona for the Sanfermin Festival (the “Running of the Bulls”). In one bar I met a local girl, and we chatted in Spanish. She told me she spent a year in the US—yet she never tried to speak English with me. Surely after a year in the US, she would speak better English than my self-taught Spanish, right?

“Where did you live?” I asked.

“Miami,” she replied.

That explained it! She lived in the US without speaking English.

What could she have done differently? What can you do differently while abroad?
6 ways to get unstuck

Practical tips for learning Somali in Minnesota, Part 2

a fire to be tended dab qoryo (xaabo) u baahan
[depicted]
a fire to be tended
dab qoryo (xaabo) u baahan
As I said in “practical tips, part 1,” languages don’t require a book to learn. They only require a community. Books help when you don’t have people around, but when you meet people who speak your language, make the most of the encounter. Introduce yourself, tell them how much you love their language, and see if they can help you advance. When I saw this sign, I knew I needed some help.

Doing the necessary work

The next time I went downtown, I saw at the light rail stop an advertising campaign consisting of multiple signs, each in Spanish, Hmong, or Somali. I wanted to learn more about the one depicted to the right.

a fire to be tended
dab qoryo (xaabo) u baahan

I recognized a couple of words: dab “fire” and qoryo “wood.” Please don’t underestimate how awesome I felt to see two words I actually knew in a single sentence!

As I was walking down the sidewalk towards my meeting, I was thinking about the sign. “Firewood”? That word doesn’t occur in the English. How odd that seemed! Was I understanding it correctly?

Why wonder? I stopped the next Somali folks I saw and asked.
See what I learned

Week 5 of loving Somali: Camel’s milk and hospitality

Yes, camel's milk. Cheers!
Yes, camel’s milk. Cheers!

What would it be like to live in Somalia, or even just to visit? What would strike me about the culture? Since love is learning to live with quirks that sometimes rub me the wrong way (in my humble opinion), what would I love about Somalia?

I know that I would love their helpfulness. I’ve found so many people already who want to help me with the language and who love doing so. I’m already grateful.

I wonder how I would love Somali hospitality. As an American, I love my space, but I sometimes feel lonely. I’ve found that Eastern forms of hospitality assume that people should be together, that being alone might indicate a problem. The negotiation between guest and host operates constantly. I love Eastern hospitality, but I know that as an American, I feel some tension with it. As an extrovert, I’m glad to experience cultures that value highly connecting with others, so I’ve tended to enjoy myself. If my lessons this week accurately represent Somali culture, I can see that Somalis are wonderfully hospitable. I look forward to experiencing it one day.

I have a couple questions about grammar this week (below), if anyone has a moment to help me. Thank you!
Continue reading “Week 5 of loving Somali: Camel’s milk and hospitality”