Save the date: on Sunday February 24, from 2 pm, join ELA at University Settlement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for a no-holds-barred language marathon, featuring speakers of languages from around the world!
Come hear poems, songs, jokes, proverbs and learn a few words in over a dozen languages originally from Pakistan, Mexico, Indonesia, and elsewhere, all now spoken in NYC. The stage is also open to anyone and everyone who would like to share a few words of their mother tongue: just drop us a line telling us a little about what you’d like to present.
What’s the occasion? Since 1999, in memory of the 1952 Bengali Language Movement, the United Nations has designated February 21 as International Mother Language Day, a day to celebrate all of the world’s approximately 7,000 languages as equally rich, varied, and extraordinary vehicles for communication and thought. This year we’ll also be recognizing the International Year of Indigenous Languages, a huge range of events around the world celebrating the deep value and indigenous language, thought, and cutlure.
Celebrate International Mother Language Day, the Year of Indigenous Languages, and Black History Month by going to hear our long-time collaborator and friend James Lovell —with a team of percussionists and dancers — discuss and perform Garifuna music at the National Museum of the American Indian in downtown NYC.
More details below:
Native Sounds Downtown! Garifuna Concert with James Lovell
Thursday, Feb. 21, 6 p.m.
Cultural advocate and Garifuna historian James Lovell celebrates his Afro-Indigenous heritage in concert. Joined by dynamic percussionists and dancers, Lovell offers his knowledge and talent through music and conversation in honor of Black History Month.
This concert is presented in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Remote rural communities in Botswana are among the poorest areas in the country. We request funding to help pay for daily necessities such as food and clothing, and to help provide financial support to young people who wish to pursue educational opportunities.
ELA is supporting this effort as a fiscal sponsor.
Our immediate goal is to raise 10,000 US dollars for a pilot program to address these needs in a small number of settlement communities (primarily Mokgenene and Poloka in eastern Botswana). The pilot program will take place from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020.
If we are successful in raising funds, we will use the results of the pilot program to create a larger program covering more settlement communities. At the end of the pilot program, a report on expenditures will be available upon request.
Botswana is a country with a growing middle class. It consistently ranks very high on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. And the World Bank has reported a consistent drop in poverty levels.
But remote rural populations lag behind, especially people living in settlement communities such as Mokgenene, Poloka, Khekhenye, Serinane and Diphuduhudu, amongst many others. In these areas the effects of poverty are immediately obvious, including hungry children, people without proper clothing during the cold winter months, high unemployment rates and high rates of alcoholism.
During the school year, children are able to eat at school through the Botswana School Feeding Programme. However, on the weekend and during school vacations, children often remain without food. We propose to offer a pilot program to make food available to children during those periods. Since food preparation in the village is not feasible, students will be given rations.
Clothing and Toiletries:
Many of the people in the settlement villages do not have sufficient clothing for the cold winter months (with temperatures lower than 40°F at night), leading to illnesses of various kinds. We propose to buy coats, long pants, dresses, shirts, sweaters, shoes, blankets, hats, mittens and other clothing items that people need to remain healthy during the winter months. The lack of sanitary pads for young women is an impediment to school attendance, so we will also provide toiletries. The clothing will be purchased in bulk in Gaborone, the capital city.
Unemployment amongst young people in the rural communities is very high. The only jobs available are tending cattle, harvesting crops on a seasonal basis and Ipelegeng (a government sponsored drought relief program). We propose to make funds available for people who wish to pursue educational opportunities in the nearby cities. The funding will be as flexible as possible to cover any expenses that come up, including (but not limited to) living expenses, tuition, lessons, fees and apprenticeships. We will also make sure that children in local schools have the materials (notebooks, books, pencils, pens, uniforms, etc.) needed to succeed in school.
Please consider donating today. All contributions are tax-deductible. We are fiscally sponsored by the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Endangered Language Alliance
3 West 18th St., 6th floor
New York, NY 10011
Andy Chebanne is Dean of the Humanities at the University of Botswana.
Chris Collins is professor of Linguistics at New York University. He has over 25 years of experience working in Africa doing linguistic documentation.
Zachary Wellstood is a research assistant in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.
Ibrahim Index of African Governance
World Bank Botswana Poverty Assessment
Starting October 15, ELA will be hosting weekly introductory Quechua classes from our old friends New York Quechua Collective, 7 to 9 pm every Monday at ELA’s office in Manhattan. Sign up here!
On October 19 the American Museum of Natural History will host Ciao Babylon, a film about ELA’s work, as part of the Margaret Mead Film Festival.
On October 25, ELA Co-Director Daniel Kaufman will speak on ELA’s work at the conference Indigenous Languages: From Endangerment to Revitalization and Resilience, at the University of Michigan.
From November 14-16, ELA will participate in the Big Cities, Small Languages conference in Berlin, with Daniel giving the keynote.
This summer, with support from a National Geographic Explorer grant, a team from ELA is traveling across the Pamir region of Tajikistan and an adjacent area of western China, interviewing over 70 speakers and singers in a dozen different languages — primarily under-documented, endangered Iranic languages of the Pamiri subgroup such as Wakhi and Shughni, which have been a focus of ELA’s research since 2010. Here ELA’s team interviews Rushani speaker Guldasta Karimova on her topchan, an outdoor platform for receiving guests that is an integral part of many traditional Pamiri homes.
Working with NYC’s Department of Health and the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, ELA launched a 7-week series of activities in East Harlem centered on indigenous food, language, and community. Led by Nahuatl teacher Irwin Sánchez, the project brought together Mixtec and Mam mothers to share recipes, transmit languages, and talk about health. These gatherings were part of a larger, ongoing collaboration with the Health Department which has also involved in-depth interviews with speakers of Mixtec, Mam, Nahuatl, Garifuna, K’iche’, and Kichwa now living in New York.
With speakers of as many as 800 languages, contemporary New York City is the most linguistically diverse place in the history of the world. Kexaptun — “a few words” in Lenape, the endangered indigenous language of New York City — is ELA’ ongoing project to collect and create poems about or set in the City, in as many of its languages as possible.
Kexaptun contributors from four continents who live in New York will perform and discuss their work, reflecting on their adopted home and the distance they have traveled to reach this “Babel in reverse,” a last-minute outpost for languages and cultures in an age of extinction.
Yusra Zaini, from north Sumatra in Indonesia, will sing pantun, or rhyming quatrains, in Acehnese. Kewulay Kamara, a finah (lineage-based oral bard) originally from Sierra Leone and now based in Queens, will perform his work in Kuranko. Nino Provenzano will read and discuss his Sicilian poetry. Zenaida Cantú, a Tlapanec (Me’phaa) speaker from Guerrero, will reflect on the realities of life as an indigenous woman in both Mexico and New York. Moderated by Ross Perlin.
Over the past year, ELA continued its mission to document linguistic diversity both in our hometown of New York City, a global language capital, and around the world. We partnered with government agencies, high schools, museums, community groups, language activists and Google to support dozens of languages from five continents.
In January, we launched a new hyper-multilingual poetry anthology with a series of workshops. In February, we started Lunaape classes with language keeper Karen Hunter, marking the first time that the indigenous language of New York City and the surrounding area has been taught in the city. In March, responding to attacks on our immigrant partners, we launched a series of ¡Conozca sus derechos! (Know your rights) videos in indigenous Latin American languages. April saw the release of our Google Cultural Institute exhibit. In May and June we began our ongoing intensive collaboration with the New York City Department of Health to better understand the linguistic, cultural and health background of indigenous Latin American communities in New York.
Through July and August, and all this year, the languages of two of Asia’s mighty mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Pamirs, were a major focus — driven by the deep interest and digital savvy of our partners from these communities, our videos in languages like Mustangi, Dzhongka, Wakhi, and Shughni have been viewed tens of thousands of times.
In September, the family of the late Joshua Fishman, leading scholar of language revitalizations and the sociology of language, generously donated his vast library to ELA. In October, public events were a major focus — from the streets of Jackson Heights to a community bookstore in Washington Heights to St. John’s University in Queens. With support from the Brooklyn Arts Council, we began our project to record lullabies in a range of languages across NYC in November. In December, work has been progressing on our language map of the city, which we hope to share with you in 2018!
We hope to see you in 2018 — please help us make it all happen!
Working with communities on their languages is about more than just figuring out how the verbs work. Speakers of minority and endangered languages are marginalized both around the world and in New York City, with little access to the services that majority groups take for granted.
That’s why, earlier this year, ELA started working with the New York City Department of Health on a project to better understand and reach out to indigenous and minority Latin American communities in the city, who speak dozens of languages — including several that ELA has worked on, such as Mixtec, Garifuna, and Nahuatl.
Still at an early stage, the project aims to understand what language varieties are most spoken in the city. As the DOH wrote on their Tumblr site, the project is “part of our larger mission to address health inequities across ethnic and socioeconomic groups in NYC”, in order “to address the injustices suffered by the first Americans residing in what are now the five boroughs.”
Above: The first-ever Guelaguetza on Staten Island, a celebration of Oaxacan cultures whose name is derived from a Zapotec word that has been translated “reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services”.
New York City may be the most linguistically diverse place in the world, but that diversity began with Lunaape (also called Lenape or Delaware), a Native American language of the Algonquian family. Today, Lunaape is being revitalized in communities in Canada, Oklahoma, and elsewhere.
ELA is honored to host classes taught by Karen Hunter, who has been teaching and revitalizing her language for over a decade. It may mark the first time in 300 years that the language has been taught in the traditional part of Lunaape-speaking territory that includes NYC.
Classes are always the third Friday of the month, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, at ELA’s office near Union Square (3 W 18th St, 6th floor). Classes are free and require no previous experience. All are welcome — if possible, please drop us a quick email to let us know you’re coming!