In this 8th installment of the Unheard Of! series, ELA continues to promote poetry, song and story-telling in endangered languages from around the world. Tsou, an indigenous language of Taiwan, has less than 2,000 living speakers but is well-known for its ceremonial choral songs. Baitz (Paicu) Niahosa is one of the few Tsou singers writing new music in the language. Applying her classical training to ancient vocal traditions, she creates a totally new kind of Tsou music in the Bel Canto style.
Advance tickets (only $10) are here — some tickets will also be available at the door for $15.
Unheard Of! is an ongoing series presented by ELA highlighting the linguistic and cultural diversity of New York City.
Join us this summer at our office in the heart of NYC. The short online application is due on February 26 at 5 pm EST. Apply and help us spread the word!
What’s it like to volunteer at ELA?
We’re small, friendly, flexible, and driven. We match people with projects based on their skills, interests, and languages.
Everything we do is tied to our mission to document and support endangered languages, and you’ll learn a lot about languages while you’re here. There’s also all the vital day-to-day work of running a non-profit: fundraising, marketing, event planning, and more.
We have a limited number of volunteer positions over the summer, but you can get involved year-round too. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
In January, we opened “Mother Tongues” at the City Lore gallery, the first-ever exhibit dedicated to the languages of New York City. In the same month, PBS premiered the documentary Language Matters with Bob Holman, produced in conjunction with ELA and screened nationwide to critical acclaim. Throughout February and March, ELA presented events featuring Garifuna arumahani, a traditional, now endangered song genre; Yiddish folk music; and the languages of the Caucasus. April marked the beginning of our three-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, to build Kratylos, a new tool which aims to revolutionize language research. May brought an amazing Breton-Garifuna musical collaboration and our All You Can Speak Language Buffet at Ideas City, and in June we started classes in K’iche’, an indigenous language of Guatemala.
In July and August, we continued our documentary work on Ikota and Gurung; in September and October,our Mixtec literacy workshops continued in collaboration with the East Harlem Neighborhood Network; in November, our Jewish Languages of Brooklyn fieldtrip, our first language and culture tour, drew a big crowd. In December, we started making plans for a public, digital archive devoted to the endangered languages and cultures of New York. Two things we’re particularly excited about are Kichwa (Ecuadorean Quechua) classes set to begin next week in our office, and programming we’re planning with the Queens Museum for May 2016. Stay tuned!
To learn more about everything ELA is working on, dig deeper into our website, which we’re constantly updating, and visit our Youtube channel, with over 200 videos of languages you will hear nowhere else. Keep up with us on Facebook!
The fieldtrip was a huge success! Some 30 people of many ages and backgrounds came along for Juhuri dancing, singing in Judeo-Arabic, out-of-this-world baklava, and even a look at an extraordinary collection of antiquarian books in lesser-known Jewish languages. We even got a write-up (in Yiddish) in the Yiddish Forward!
This is a small group tour and tickets are very limited. Reserve yours at http://jewishlanguages.bpt.me.
Brooklyn is a global center for vanishing Jewish linguistic diversity.
On Sunday afternoon November 15, from 2 to 5:30 pm, this first-ever Endangered Language Alliance fieldtrip will explore one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse Jewish places in the world, a side of Jewish New York that most people never see.
We’ll visit the heart of the tight-knit Syrian Jewish community; learn about a unique Jewish dance tradition from Azerbaijan; hear the singing of a cantor who carries on classical Judeo-Arabic musical traditions; and sample delicacies at a famous Syrian Jewish bakery. As a special additional side trip, we’ll be guided by a self-taught bibliophile through his unique treasure trove of Jewish books, with a focus on deep Jewish diversity. In the process we’ll hear examples of Jewish languages from Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, the Caucasus, and elsewhere.
Today, with few exceptions, the remaining longstanding Jewish languages are severely endangered. The goal of the Jewish Languages Project, run by the non-profit Endangered Language Alliance, is to document and celebrate those languages. This fieldtrip, a pilot project, helps supports that work.
The fieldtrip will involve some walking and standing. We’ll visit several locations in South Brooklyn within walking distance of each other, maximum 15 minutes between stops. For those interested, the special side trip will involve a 10 minute ride by public bus.
We’ll meet at the cafe at the entrance to the Sephardic Community Center at 1901 Ocean Parkway. The nearest subway stop is the F train stop at Kings Highway, about 10 minutes away on foot, or the Q train stop at Avenue U, about 15 minutes away. Allow an hour of travel time from Midtown Manhattan.
ELA co-presents two fantastic films this year at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History. Catch them both this Saturday!
Khonsay: Poem of Many Tongues
2015 | 15 minutes | U.S.A.
Director in Attendance
Both a celebration of the world’s languages and a call to action to preserve global linguistic diversity, Khonsay is a unique document: a motion poem written in 50 endangered languages, from Yiddish to Nuer (South Sudan) and Adnyamathanha (Australia). Compiled by the poet and activist Bob Holman, who calls it “a cento in film,” the work is tour de force of poetic styles and cinematic techniques, and its effect is at once delightful, melancholic, and mesmerizing.
Bering. Balance and Resistance (Bering. Equilibrio y Resistencia)
2013 | 84 minutes | Mexico, U.S.A.
New York Premiere
Straddling the International Date Line, the fabled Bering Strait, and the border between the United States and Russia are the Little and Big Diomede Islands. These remote outposts are home to a small Inuit community that has traversed these borders for years, for trade, hunting, and festivals. In Bering. Balance and Resistance, Lourdes Grobet, one of Mexico’s most renowned photographers, takes a lyrical approach to the subject matter, closely following the day-to-day lives of the residents of Little Diomede (U.S.A.) as they balance a modern lifestyle with the preservation of ancient customs and language. Slow-moving, wide-angle cinematography makes for an immersive viewing experience of the punishing Arc
Jane Jacobs’ rallying cry that healthy cities must have “eyes on the street” has long served as a central idea of what it means to experience the city—to see and be seen, to feel safe and secure, to feel a sense of belonging in a community. But sight is not our only way to understand and experience the city. There are five senses New Yorkers can take to the street. This year’s Jane Jacobs Forum showcases new, innovative ideas of how we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste to be a part of our city.
At the edge of the same ocean, two cultural worlds have thrived despite hardship. Their languages are unique and face extinction. Their music booms with joyful rhythm and is all about sparking the dance. Sometimes salty, sometimes moving, songs are often danced. As feet pound in both communities, you’ll hear a voice call out, greeted with voice ringing out in response.
What are these two cultures? You’ll never guess: The Bretons in Northwestern France and the Garifuna of Central America. Now these unexpectedly harmonious sounds and beats come together in collaboration as part of Breizh Amerika, a multimedia cross-cultural initiative to celebrate the beauty of Brittany, its music, food, lifeways, and language. The collaboration will debut on May 14 at New York’s Meridian 23 (7:30 PM start; meridian23.com). The musicians will also spend time in the studio, perfecting and documenting their collaboration.
The connections between the Bretons and the Garifuna, a group that traces its origins back to shipwrecked Africans who intermarried with indigenous Arawak, felt implausible to organizer Charles Kergaravat–until he heard Brooklyn-based Garifuna drummer James Lovell and his Garifuna Drum Band. “Percussionists often have an easier time leaping into collaboration with singers,” explains Kergaravat. “So when I heard about James, I decided we should meet. We chatted for a few minutes, and James insisted that we were all just crazy enough to pull this off.”
Lovell and his band will join two sought-after Breton singers of Kan Ha Diskan, the call and response-based form that ignites the dancefloor at Breton parties. Rhythmic and cheeky, the singing style has a corollary in Garifuna music, as songs are often improvised to fit the occasion, shifting and growing to incorporate new tales–and to keep people dancing.
The Breton-Garifuna will explore these connections in more depth, then present their discoveries in New York and across the US this May. It’s part of a larger effort to highlight Brittany’s distinct culture, cuisine, and language, and to place Breton lifeways in a world-wide effort to enliven and maintain endangered languages and the worlds they encompass. Both Bretons and Garifuna face an uphill battle to preserve their tongues–both have barely over 200,000 speakers left–but both have strong musical traditions that have helped raise the banner for greater awareness.
“Even when singing, much of Breton music is all about the rhythm,” Kergaravat notes. “There is a much greater overlap in Garifuna and Breton experiences, and in the sounds we favor, than meets the eye.”
The Breizh Amerika Collective tours through New York City, Rochester, Cleveland, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque forFête de la Bretagne, an international celebration of Breton music, food, and language. In an unprecedented level of participation, these US cities will be joining a global network, from Shanghai to Sao Paulo, of hosts to celebrations of Breton culture.
Brentwood Bay, B.C. – The Endangered Languages Project is launching a new website today (www.endangeredlanguages.com) to improve access to information and resources on endangered languages for a global audience of Indigenous language speakers and language experts.
“Our goal is to create a collaborative online space where the world’s languages have a voice and where people of all audiences can share language information, resources and connect with one another,” says Tracey Herbert, Executive Director of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and Chair of the Endangered Languages Project Governance Council.
New website features let users browse resources by category, tag (or topic), format and most viewed. Categories include language education, language revitalization, language and technology, and more. In addition, a new process for submitting materials will make it easier to find a wide range of resources concerning the world’s endangered languages.
“In response to user feedback, our team of global language experts and designers has developed an improved website that will be a more interactive and accessible resource,” says Verónica Grondona, Catalogue of Endangered Languages Manager at Eastern Michigan University. “For example, the website will be available in five additional languages later this spring, making it available to more user communities.”
The Endangered Languages Project is a collaborative initiative designed to facilitate the documentation and revitalization of at-risk languages around the world. Languages included on the website and the information displayed about them are provided by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat), a project by the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and Eastern Michigan University, which aims to have the most up-to-date and accurate data about the endangered languages of the world. Language communities and speakers can play an active role in putting their languages online by submitting resources in the form of text, audio, links, images or video files.
Did you know the words for chocolate, tomato, avocado and chile all come form the Nahuatl language? Join Nahuatl teacher Irwin Sanchez as he discusses the etymologies behind popular Mexican cuisine and demonstrates the traditional preparation of several dishes. Not only will participants get a crash course in Nahuatl and be able to pronounce “tomato” and “chocolate” properly for the first time, they will also be treated to a sampling of authentic Nahuatl food from the Mexican state of Puebla.
Film Screening of the new PBS documentary, Language Matters.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Bob Holman, host of the film, and Daniel Kaufman, ELA executive director.
There are over 6,000 languages remaining in the world. Hundreds will be lost within the next generation. The die-off parallels the extinction of plant and animal species. The death of a language robs humanity of ideas, belief systems, and knowledge of the natural world.
Language Matters, a two-hour PBS documentary, asks: What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language?
We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with Google Cultural Institute to launch online exhibits of some of our projects. Through this new platform, we can bring even more photos, videos, audio, and information to you in a format that’s made to …
ELA is proud to announce a new series of videos —“¡Conozca sus derechos!” (Know your rights!) — that respond to the new threats that immigrants and refugee communities are facing. Now more than ever, it’s vital that speakers of endangered languages know their …
As is plain to see, it has been a tumultuous few weeks here in New York City. We take this opportunity to stand with the many other non-profit organizations, institutions and individuals around the country who have expressed their shock …
As a registered non-profit organization, ELA cannot endorse political candidates, nor did we want to add to the ceaseless chatter during what felt like an eternal campaign here in the US. But there have been some points that we cannot …
We’re thrilled to share “Mother Tongues and Queens” — a language map of the world’s languages capital! The map shows NYC’s linguistic diversity in more detail than ever before, reflecting ELA’s work over the last 6 years. The map is …
Through the initiative of Breizh Amerika founder, Charles Kergaravat, a unique musical collaboration between Breton and Garifuna musicians entitled the Breizh Amerika Collective has put forth a striking new album “Asambles. Uwarani. Together”. Trust us, you’ve never heard anything like it. Help …
Over the last several months, led by project coordinator Nawang Tsering Gurung — originally from Mustang, Nepal and now living in Queens — ELA has launched Voices of the Himalayas, a new project exploring the lived experiences of migration and …
On Tuesday June 21 at 6:30 pm, come listen in on a live podcast taping, featuring ELA and The World in Words at the New York Public Library, one of the world’s great research institutions, with materials on over 430 …
ELA is collaborating with the Queens Museum, at the center of one of the most linguistically diverse places on earth, on two exhibits and a series of public events. This Saturday June 11, from 2 to 4 pm, “Languages Lost …
A new introductory Hawaiian class, starting this Thursday night, June 9 and continuing every Thursday night in June from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm! ʻO ke alelo ka hoeuli. The tongue is the steering paddle of the words uttered by the mouth. In …