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Our Global Community: Checking in with our Partners on International Mother Language Day

Updated: Feb 20



Hello Friends,


International Mother Language Day is a remarkable opportunity for people around the globe to reflect on the importance of linguistic diversity and the efforts of communities to revitalize, preserve, and maintain their traditional languages. We are honored to be continuing partners with many communities across the globe working to sustain heritage languages and continue to celebrate the many languages that belong to the world’s many distinct peoples. To commemorate this day, we are taking the opportunity to showcase some of our many partners' historic and ongoing work. Please see below for updates on community efforts and how you can continue to support them directly!





Houma 


The Houma Language Project (Brittany Jimenez, Fellowship Alumnus 2023) continues to support reclamation of the Houma Language by community members in the southern United States. Recently, a Houma filmmaker interning with Brittany, Mariah Hernandez-Fitch, developed and released a short documentary about her experience in reclaiming Houma language and culture in a film called “Ekbeh.” Ekbeh recently premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. Further, Houma community members are beginning to build a sacred mound to commemorate and revitalize this traditional practice. Houma Language Project leadership are involved in this exciting project. You can catch Houma Language Project next at the upcoming New Orleans Jazz Fest where they will share Houma language and history with visitors.


all images courtesy of Houma Language Project




Taíno

7000 Languages partner organization Casa Areyto (led by Co-Founder and Creative, Priscilla Colón) continues to advocate for the Taíno language through educational video lessons on YouTube, children's books, a digital course, and live events.


As the first Indigenous people of contact in 1492, a major challenge they continue to face as a community is the perpetuation of the Taíno extinction myth by official texts and lack of a culturally-responsive and updated curriculum.




One way in which Casa Areyto began to address this challenge was through the creation of Reencuentro Taíno Conference, the first international conference on the Taíno language held in August 2023. This historic event brought together Taíno linguists and educators, archeologists, artists, musicians, spiritual leaders, and others from across the Caribbean and US to share their research, ancestral knowledge, technology tools, and more as a statement of the Taíno people's perseverance. Due to their outstanding work in the field, Casa Areyto has been approved as a contributing member to UNESCO’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages. This amazing accomplishment now includes the challenge of getting Taíno added to the official language list as it is currently classified as “not in use.”


Due to their outstanding work in the field, Casa Areyto has been approved as a contributing member to UNESCO’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages. This amazing accomplishment has culminated in Taíno being added to the official language list on the IDIL site.


Priscilla notes that “I believe with all my heart that Yáya (our people's name for Great Spirit) awakens us when we are ready to use our experiences and skills to help heal the world. Maybe your gift is music, art, animation, or language curriculum creation; whatever your skill, you can use it to raise awareness and revitalize the Taíno language.” If you're interested in volunteering your skills on any of their Taíno projects, please contact Casa Areyto at: info@casaareyto.com 

all images courtesy of Casa Areyto LLC



Ekpeye


The Speak Ekpeye Fluently Language Initiative (founded by Franca Umasoye Igwe, 2023 Fellowship Alumnus) remains committed to teaching and promoting the Ekpeye Language and has recently launched a culturally immersive calendar that educates people on the Ekpeye counting system while keeping them informed about the Ekpeye culture.


This calendar will be distributed for free to schools in Ekpeye-speaking communities at the upcoming 2024 International Mother Tongue Day courtesy of the Young Girls Empowerment Foundation.


The Initiative had its first Mother Language Day event in 2023, with the theme  “Say no to language shaming.” This year, through their collaboration with YGEF they aim to inspire more young people to embrace multilingualism starting with their mother tongue.


Umasoye recently collaborated on a project with Julen Villarael Moreno, Tony Vincent Ijere, Roberto Barbero Goñi, Txaro Larrageta Markotegi, and Angela Moreno Merino to document Ekpeye folktales titled “Eyolukanyi'' which translates to “Ancient Wisdom.” The book is a unique compilation of Ekpeye tales, proverbs, and a short dictionary. The goal of the project is to help preserve the oral heritage of the Ekpeye people. 


Traditionally, Ekpeye literature was transmitted orally, but modernization has weakened its transmission. Thus, a multimedia format such as a book and YouTube series can help safeguard and promote this patrimony. As of 2023, there seems to be a positive shift regarding the use of native languages in Nigeria, which is home to hundreds of languages. Hopefully, this project can help develop Ekpeye schooling and literacy by making a culturally rich contribution to Ekpeye education.


Umasoye shares her journey into becoming a language activist in this interview with Rising Voices.



all images courtesy of Franca Umasoye Igwe



Balinese



7000 Languages community partner BASAibu strengthens the role of youth to address civic issues with the government through creative digital platforms in local languages. The first initiative was supported by Transparent Language and what is now 7000 Languages. It involved Balinese linguists, anthropologists, academics, students and the general public to create the first video-based program to learn Balinese which included interactive exercises and digital flashcards. That led to translating Google's home page into Balinese and a multilingual digital dictionary in Balinese, Indonesian, and English known as BASAbali Wiki. As time went by, the community transformed BASAibu Wiki into a digital space to discuss public issues.


BASAibu Wiki seeks to cultivate youth participation in the public sphere by encouraging young people to express opinions about civic issues so that youth's constructive ideas can inspire the government's policy-making process. The Balinese and South Sulawesi teams regularly hold in-person skills-building workshops to increase youth capacity to participate, including persuasive writing. In a society without a tradition of public participation and where youth tend not to participate in some of the new decision making initiatives that the government offers, BASAibu Wikis offer a meaningful alternative that has been developed by young people and has the support of the government. 


With over 4 million users, BASAbali Wiki has been recognized locally by the Governor of Bali and internationally by the International Linguapax Award in 2018 and the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy award in 2019. The US State Department has recently awarded BASAbali Wiki funding to engage the community in South Sulawesi to add a digital Makassarese dictionary to BASAsulsel Wiki – including videos using dictionary words in context. The support is also to develop a new wiki with the Banjarese language in Kalimantan, site of Indonesia’s new capital. In each location, BASAibu works with a local organization in addition to encouraging the sharing of experiences between the wikis.


BASAibu Wikis provide a safe space for youth and the general public to discuss civic issues with the government as a more participatory, inclusive model of governance. You can learn more about BASAibu at their website.



all photos courtesy of Yayasan BASAbali Wiki



Marma 



Working through the collaborative platform of 7000 Languages, Rani (Queen) Ukhengching Marma, embarked on a meaningful journey last year by connecting with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. This partnership has been instrumental in developing a comprehensive digital dictionary for the Marma language, a linguistic endeavor that has now accumulated over 250 words. The initiative is ambitiously expanding, integrating audio pronunciations, illustrative images, and explanations of cultural significance to enrich the learning experience. Given the rapid loss of linguistic diversity, the Marma language faces the threat of losing many of its unique words. Therefore, Rani Ukhengching collaborated with Tongsa, an indigenous Marma-led organization to create the dictionary and course materials aimed not only at preserving the linguistic heritage of the Marma community but also at serving as a resilient beacon of cultural identity and knowledge for future generations.


"This work is massive, and it might take years to finish, but I'm still passionate about it. Marma is the core of my culture and the source from which I have grown. Marma is the essence of my heritage, the root from which I've grown. It is this deep connection that fuels my commitment; I refuse to let it fade into oblivion." - Rani (Queen) Ukhengching Marma



all photos courtesy of Rani (Queen) Ukhengching Marma



 

We are so grateful for the opportunity to support our community partners around the world continuing to promote their languages. We hope you take a moment to learn more about our partners and how you can partner with us in the future. If you are able, consider a donation to 7000 Languages in partnership on this work. Your support makes it possible for us to continue to serve community partners like these in the many years to come.





Thank you for being a part of our community!

- 7000 Languages Team




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