Safeguarding a mom tongue and mother mother nature — Global Issues

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Even nevertheless the two Nami and Tomoyuki were being born on Okinoerabu Island (at the moment dwelling to only 12,000 inhabitants), neither learned to speak Shimamuni – a area range of the Kunigami language – fluently as small children.

Kunigami was additional to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Hazard in 2009 and labeled as “definitely endangered” to raise community awareness that “children no more time master the language as a mother tongue in the house.”

A loved ones takes action

Just after learning that the indigenous language of Okinoerabu Island was formally regarded as endangered, the pair and their four young children took it on them selves to translate their really like for language into impactful steps that have considering the fact that resonated significantly outside of the island.

Okinoerabu Island inhabitants were not just worried about losing a language, but also more and more alarmed by the proliferation of marine litter. In what started as a faculty venture assigned around the summertime crack, the Sao youngsters resolved that they could tackle both equally concerns at the same time by undertaking daily beach thoroughly clean-up though participating in language things to do, such as singing and keeping a diary in Shimamuni to document their working day-to-day progress.

Leveraging the Shimamuni vernacular as a thread of shared community id connecting folks from numerous walks of lifetime, the Sao relatives has due to the fact expanded its conservation pursuits to include things like cooking nearby delicacies, delivering haircuts to residents of nursing residences, studying arts and crafts at the group centre and taking part in a “Shimamuni Salon” the place language classes are offered and nearby environmental difficulties are regularly talked about. The purpose is to cultivate the future technology of eco-conscious Shimamuni speakers.

“Without these community-driven things to do, the language would become extinct with the passing of its aged speakers,” reported Dr. Sumittra Suraratdecha, assistant professor of linguistics at the Analysis Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia (RILCA) in Thailand.

Linguistic range and sustainable advancement

When queried about the fundamental motivation for his family’s involvement in these a wide range of things to do, the thoughtful Tomoyuki cites the urgency of achieving the formidable Sustainable Advancement Plans (SDGs) by 2030.

He felt that rather than imparting to his youngsters understanding that he obtained by formal schooling 20 to 30 a long time in the past, it would be improved to support their mastering by doing and thus facilitate their accumulation of real-everyday living ordeals that will empower them to make a change.

As it turns out, the Shimamuni language not only serves as a car for transmitting local understanding, these kinds of as common dessert recipes, to the island’s youth, it also enhances the effectiveness of interaction about environmental difficulties to elderly islanders, some of whom when harboured the mistaken belief that marine litter ought to just be remaining to degrade on its very own.

Offered the present world wide fact of burgeoning non-degradable waste and microplastics, the Shimamuni mother tongue aids to convey the legitimate extent of the trouble to senior people with greater immediacy.

Reflecting on the situations of the Sao family and their inventive reaction to area ecocultural issues, Kyungah Kristy Bang, a specialist for multilingual education at the UNESCO regional workplace in Bangkok and coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Schooling Doing the job Group, remarked that “celebrating linguistic range can be an helpful device and alternative to reaching the SDGs at the regional degree.”

Recognition on a worldwide stage

In October 2023, the Sao household experienced the prospect to present their inspiring tale at the seventh Intercontinental Convention on Language and Schooling, in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Sao family

UNESCO/Santibhap Ussavasodhi

The Sao spouse and children

As reps of Okinoerabu Island collaborating in a big worldwide convention co-hosted by UNESCO, they attended the function, which drew more than 450 language gurus and members from all around the globe.

The Sao relatives garnered island-wide assistance, as the two principal cities on the island united in aiding to put together the family’s presentation videos and go over a portion of their journey expenses.

“While the convention delivers alongside one another a variety of stakeholders, these as policy makers, practitioners and scientists who share their encounters with language in schooling, we often ignore that there is much more normally an overall staff or local community, or in these types of scenario a family members, driving the sustainability of linguistic variety,” claimed Brandon Darr, a instruction consultant with UNESCO’s regional workplace.

For Tomoyuki, acquiring recognition on an worldwide stage has only served to reinforce his family’s guiding perception of purpose.

“Our aim is to live a mentally ample lifetime,” he mentioned.

His wife concured.

“When our little ones grow up, they can live everywhere,” she claimed, “but I want them to preserve their language and lifestyle in their hearts.”

Introduced in 1996 with some 600 endangered languages mapped globally, the Atlas carries on to thrive today as an interactive on-line device premised on the perception that linguistic diversity underpins sustainable growth and fosters equitable and pluralistic societies.

Understand far more about the Atlas and the languages it shields here.



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Even nevertheless the two Nami and Tomoyuki were being born on Okinoerabu Island (at the moment dwelling to only 12,000 inhabitants), neither learned to speak Shimamuni – a area range of the Kunigami language – fluently as small children. Kunigami was additional to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Hazard in 2009 and labeled…

Even nevertheless the two Nami and Tomoyuki were being born on Okinoerabu Island (at the moment dwelling to only 12,000 inhabitants), neither learned to speak Shimamuni – a area range of the Kunigami language – fluently as small children. Kunigami was additional to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Hazard in 2009 and labeled…