Content Collection: Society and Culture

Content Collection: Society and Culture

Indian Breath Montage (courtesy Matthew Vestuto)The point of this section of the site is the social and cultural contexts in which language revitalization takes place or is being planned.

Language revitalization is concerned essentially with increasing the knowledge and use of a community’s ancestral or heritage language. In North America most Native American communities have experienced steady and often dramatic declines in the numbers of people who can speak, understand, read, or write their ancestral languages. The history and circumstances of these declines have been well documented and you can find information on many of the sites on the organizations list. Language revitalization can be looked on as a strategy or set of strategies to get individuals more information about their languages, especially those that have lost their speech communities entirely, but it is also focused on developing individuals’ communication skills in the language.

Language decline happens within a community, and language revitalization has to take place within a community. If a community’s goal for its language revitalization is focused on increasing the number of speakers, in the way that this happens naturally, then it takes only the initiative of individuals in the community to teach children to understand and use the language from birth. Naturally, this kind of language nesting requires parents or grandparents with high enough skill in the language to serve as models for younger generations. With sleeping languages or with communities whose strongest language knowledge resides mainly among its elderly members, bridging the gap of English dominant generations requires teaching and learning programs aimed at pre-school children, school-age children, adolescents, the parent generation, and the grandparent generation. Setting up and maintaining these programs requires wide-spread community resolve and the active participation of individuals.