Monday, May 15, 2006

Making endangered languages fun ....

In the Neapolitan discussion group napulitano@yahoogroups.com we are discussing about languages ... how to protect them ... how to make them fun ... how to make sure they will survive ...

It is not an easy task, but only caring about a Wikipedia and a dictionary (in Wiktionary or WiktionaryZ) is not enough. Like Berto said: we need cool stuff, things that attract young people ... it must be fun and cool again to speak and write another language, the mother tongue maybe or that one of friends.

Let's take the example of Neapolitan. Now you will say: well, but it is not in the red book of endangered languages ... not now ... if we stand here and wait it will be part of it very soon. Oh yes, great ... there are all these famous songs, poems, films ... well: they are confined in their angle ... we need Neapolitan in everyday life.

I was answering to Berto's "we need something fun for young people to start off with" ... when a link came along my way, by chance, through Gerard - the link to the website of a Wikipedian ... and there I found something really interesting: a link to a comic they are creating: http://www.nutkidz.net/ - well, it is a comic ... have a look at the archive ... fun stuff ... well yes, we should translate it into Neapolitan ... and I already have the answer: we may translate it into any language.

That leads me to what we need in Neapolitan (and of couse the same is valid for all other languages as well)

  • people need to understand that what they speak is a language - that it has a high cultural value and that it should be treated like English, French, Italian, Spanish etc. - they should be very proud of it
  • we need the language to be used in everyday life - not only with friends
  • we need localised software
  • we need localised websites
  • we need localised games
  • we need cartoons, new stories, news
  • we need our wikipedia :-)
  • we need a freely accessible dictionary with downloadable data
  • we need spell checkers
  • we need to get old documents out to the public - even only scanned without OCR
Well, there is one more thing we need: people who share our goals ... we really do need them. Please get into touch with us - on wikipedia, by e-mail, in chat, on skype ... we will try to connect you to the people who care about your language.

Besides caring about language only: old traditions need to be kept alive ... just thinking about the Neapolitan cribs in Maiori ... how to make Mozzarella (handmade) ... we should write down stories old people tell us ... but how much can a handful of people do?

Now you might say: well, I would like to do something, but even if I am of Neapolitan origin I don't speak the language ... no probs ... if you want to help: there are many, many things to do ... first of all: look in the old stuff you have at home, ask your grandparents, try to find texts, photos ... all is important ... it is like a giant jigsaw puzzle ... each piece needs to find its place.

Well, I could go ahead ... there's so much to do and to write about and for sure I will come back to this theme over and over again.
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