8A   Video   Saving Languages

8A Video Saving Languages

Northern Territory. Australia’s native people,
the Aborigines, have lived in this area
for more than 50,000 years. A group of researchers from
the Enduring Voices project has come here to find
and study the local languages, many of which are
in danger of becoming extinct. The team’s mission
is to visit language hotspots, areas around the world
where there are a high number of languages
that are endangered. The situation
in Australia is bad. Over a hundred native
languages are endangered. The researchers’ guide teaches them
about how the Aboriginal people lived – and how these cultures
survived in the desert. Many cultures do not
write these things down, and consequently, once
the language stops being spoken the knowledge
is lost. The team studies
old maps and writings, and works with
local researchers, to find out where specific
languages were spoken in the past. Then, they look for people
who might still speak the language. On this trip, they get an opportunity
to meet a man named Charlie. Charlie is the last person on Earth
who speaks a language called Amurdag. But he doesn’t remember
many Amurdag words because he hasn’t used
the language since he was young. The team takes Charlie to a place
that was special to his ancestors. Here, Charlie manages to remember
a few simple Amurdag words. He tells the team
what each word means. The team is eager to hear
every word Charlie can remember. And they record every moment
of their time with him. The team is also working to make
people more aware of the problem. Their goal is to use cameras
and modern sound equipment to help these “last speakers” record
as much of their language as possible. In Australia, this means teaching
a new generation an old language. There are many reasons
the children of today didn’t learn
their grandparents’ languages. These children are learning Yawuru,
which has only three speakers left. The children and their teachers hope
they will become fluent Yawuru speakers. With so many languages
in danger, these researchers, and many others,
must hurry to save all they can. Subtitles by the Amara.org community

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