Friday link dispatch 03

Today’s links still follow the endangered language theme with special emphasis on Alaska Native languages.

The first one is fun. Frozen Whitefish  is a rock band from Bethel (a town and Yup’ik village of 6500 off the road system in south-west Alaska close to the coast) that was features in the Discovery Channel series Flying Wild Alaska.  They sing in Central Yup’ik, so if you’re interested in learning the language, you may want to listen. And the link goes to their MySpace page, where you can listen to a number of quite well produced tracks. Here is a video, in somewhat lower sound quality, but still, charming (via the Alaska Daily News Rural Blog)

Frozen Whitefish performing Maani Alaskami live at the 2011 Alaska State Fair


The second one is serious and comes out of a gallery & workshop entitled “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska” of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage: Sharing the Dena’ina Language (via Talking Alaska):

Sharing the Dena'ina language - a language instruction video

The third one is a news report about how to preserve an endangered language: Living Languages reports on cumpulsory Ijaw in Bayelsa schools in Nigeria. Balyelsa is a state of Nigeria. Now not all of the 10 Ijoid languages may be endangered and I have no way of gauging the effectiveness and coverage of the Bayelsa school system. Still, the approach of making a declining local language compulsory is the winning formula if the basic conditions are united. I remember that when I was a teenager in the 80s, there was much sadness and nostalgia about the imminent death of Irish and Welsh, two Celtic languages and thereby preeminent vehicles of European culture. Well, no one does this any more. It makes me very happy to hear teenagers speak Irish among each other in the streetcars of Dublin, thereby escaping the danger of being overheard by old ladies like myself — the middle-aged being the generation with the lowest rate of competency in the language. As for Wales, I hear that the demand for Welsh instruction for adults is up significantly.

Texting in Welsh

I found this in one of my own open browser tabs.

The UK mobile (AmE: cell) phone comparison site right mobilephone has a short English-Welsh phrasebook for what they say are the 10 most common text message (AmE: SMS) abbreviations in use. Useful if you’re learning Welsh.

Right mobilephone's English-Welsh texting phrasebook
Right mobilephone's English-Welsh texting phrasebook

Apologies for the lack of attribution to who ever it was whose link I followed.

Bilingualism FAIL.

Is it futile to blog a phenomenon already noted by BoingBoing and Language Log? Probably, but does it matter?

As reported by the BBC, Swansea council neglected one of the basic principles of multilingual publishing: employ competent proofreaders for each of the languages you’re publishing in. Even if you have an in-house translation service, as is the case of Swansea council.

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated”.

The English's fine, the Welsh is an out-of-office reply
The English's fine, the Welsh's an out-of-office reply

The only similar example I’ve recently seen was the Chinese dining hall (located on the Beijing-Taiyuan expressway) that was advertised as “Translate server error” on a billboard.

The Chinese read "dining hall"
The Chinese reads "dining hall"

Here in the West, we like to make fun at the sometimes misguided Chinese efforts to adopt English in public signage alongside with the local language. And face it, they are funny. What we may be forgetting is how easy it is to fall into the same trap if you have similar requirements, as is the case for public officials in bilingual areas, who are likely to have a legal duty to promote languages they may not, themselves, master.