Reaction to “Babel Runs Backward” I found this article to be incredibly enlightening. I was moved by the idea that there are thousands of languages spoken today that may not be spoken tomorrow. The authors do a fantastic job in creating a sense of responsibility and urgency in the reader. By using modern, non-third world languages as examples of languages endangered of becoming extinct, such as Welsh, and Hawaiian, not only is the reader able to easily understand the scope of the problem, but, for those readers in places such as America and Northwestern Europe especially, the issue is brought a little too close to home for comfort.
I initially had read the article about a month ago, and returned to re-read it last week. My first experience had left me feeling awakened and energized. However, it wasn’t until mine revisiting the article that I even recalled having had felt those emotions in the first place. Initially, upon remembering my once felt motivation, I felt somewhat guilty. You see, it was through actions, or lack there of, like my own that had been, and will continue to be, the very reason behind the demise of so many thousands of languages.
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Feelings of guilt soon gave way to those of shamefulness for having had abandoned my cause. What had happened? How could I have been so selfish? Could it have been that I cared so little? I was forced to turn inward. And, there, while scrutinizing my memories sense last reading this article, I found the answers I was looking for. Though this reading did make me feel as though something must be done to save the endangered languages from extinction, and, thus simultaneously saving their parent cultures as well. I must say there had also been a much more subtle sense of “too little, too late”.
As if the issue were out of my hands. After my first reading, my feelings of empowerment had been so strong that I could not have been bothered by such feelings of helplessness. Not that I would have been, even if I could. I spent the weeks following bringing up the topic whenever circumstance allowed. I tried to talk about the vast numbers of languages there have been throughout time with my boyfriend, who found the topic to be worthy of only a few comments. I tried bring up the value of a language to it’s culture as a discussion topic in my public speaking class.
They proved to be too uninformed and unwilling to learn about something so impertinent to their current subject. I even went as far as to breach the topic with my father (to him no question is answered until given the due justice of at least a thirty minute explanation. ) I found little more information from him than I had already possessed. Time after time, my efforts proved fruitless, and repeatedly met with little to no enthusiasm. And so, without proper reinforcement, my drive and ambition had soon become nothing more than a mere passive interest.
In the article, “Babel Runs Backward”, the author mentions this lack of interest as one of the major obstacles for today’s linguists trying to document the languages of yesteryear. I find a certain solace in being a part of that majority. After all, does the author not also mention that “… there is no point in trying to save a language unless the speakers wish it… ”? I know that, if I wanted the traditions of my culture to be passes down through the generations, I would pass them down myself. I would see to it that, my children learned them each as I had. Told to them by their parents or learned at some school of culture.
They will know to do the same and not to expect any one person to do it for them. As I do not expect anybody else to ensure their education for me. And so, does that mean that we should throw our arms akimbo and sigh, “Who cares? ” and “So be it! ”? Of course it doesn’t. But, maybe we are approaching the problem from a backward angle. Peradventure we should rethink our strategy, and work in reverse. Rather than spending our precious time and money on rallying the troops together to go forth and save the world from itself. Perhaps, we should teach those endangered to save their own culture.
Show them their future, so that they may realize the cause for urgency they need to start them on their way. Place the tools in their hands directly, so that they may be armed with the ability and the sense of empowerment they will need to see them through. And, teach them all they will need to know, so that they are able to understand their responsibility. A responsibility that they have to their culture and to their ancestors. A responsibility to save themselves from extinction. And, through their own actions, earn their well deserved place in the history of our world.
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