Eamer (2014). E-learning for Endangered Languages: What is the State of the Art?

Eamer, A. (2014). E-learning for Endangered Languages: What is the State of the Art? In Research Challenges in CALL (pp. 137–142). Antwerp: University of Antwerp.

[Language loss and revitalization …]

“Colonialism and globalization have created a linguistic hegemony in which indigenous languages are the casualties of assimilation and empire building. Increasingly language loss is becoming part of public consciousness (Morrison, 2013) and well-coordinated efforts to revitalize a language have taken place in various parts of the world (i.e. Wales, Ireland, France, Peru, New Zealand).” (p 137)

[7000 languages threatened …]

“It is widely speculated that half of the world’s 7000 languages are no longer being transmitted to the children of that linguistic community, and are therefore likely to become extinct by the end of this century.” (p 138)

[Dominant languages dominating …]

“Termed ‘killer’ languages by some sociolinguists, colonial and state languages such as English, Spanish, French, Mandarin and Hindi have threatened or replaced indigenous languages on all continents. Sadly indigenous peoples have often participated in the devaluation of their own linguistic identities which served as a further for catalyst for language shift. This tacit endorsement of the superiority of the dominant language by the members of a minority language community is referred to by Bourdieu (1991) as the process of symbolic domination.” (p 138)

[Visible online presence of Indigenous languages affirms their contemporaneity …]

“Increasingly the world’s indigenous people are recognizing the value of using digital environments in the battle against the extinction of their languages and cultures (Hermes & King 2013). Likewise as indigenous languages become increasingly visible on the internet, perceptions of them as antiquated or as anachronistic in the Information Age are challenged.” (p 139)

[Rush to technology is resisted by some elders, traditions. Colonial institutions see tech as a public relations tool …]

“… some indigenous communities have resisted the rush to embrace technology. Transmitting traditional ways of knowing and cultural knowledge has always been the dominion of the elders in most aboriginal communities. Thus it flies in the face of thousands of years of history to create a means of language transmission that circumnavigates the authority of — and respect for — the elders of the community. … Regional and federal governments, in an attempt to provide redress for the horrors of ‘Indian Residential Schools’, are readily funding language revitalization projects. Oil companies, which have devastated aboriginal land, are eager to fund revitalization initiatives for the purpose of enhancing their public profile.” (p 139)

[Scholars are sceptical; identify inter-genrational transmission as key to language vitality …]

“It is worth noting that within academia, there has been some cynicism with respect to the excitement attached to technology’s widely touted ability to rescue dying languages. Databases, websites, and language learning apps all do a great job of keeping endangered languages visible and at the top of scholarly research agendas.

“They do not, however, necessarily translate into fluent speakers, and it is only via fluent speakers that dying languages can be inter-generationally transmitted in order to once again become the mother tongues of a new generation.” (p 140)

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