Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vanishing Voices

This woman was photographed in the Village of Chamula in the State of Chiapas.  She speaks Tzotzil.  Most of the indigenous in Chiapas do not have Spanish as their first language, I've been told by knowledgeable guides. Tzotzil, I'm told, is a dying language.

It was interesting to receive this month's current issue of National Geographic with an article on Vanishing Voices.  Much was to be learned in reading this article.  

For one thing, contrary to U.S. citizens, English is not the language of the world.  Chinese is.

I'm always amazed when well-meaning ex-pats want to teach English to Mexican Nationals.  Their second sentence is always, "That's the only way they'll ever get ahead and get a good job".  Really?   I humbly disagree and feel that keeping their traditions and language is very important.

According to the article, one language dies every 14 days - Spanish is not one of them.  Actually Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.  English is third.  Surprised?

The article is fascinating.  One of the segments is on the Seri language which is danger of becoming extinct.  The people that speak it are in the area around the State of Sonora.  Way up near the Sea of Cortez and the border with Arizona.  Hopefully some day I'll get up that way.  

It's projected that by the next century at least 7000 languages will have been lost in favor of Mandarin, Spanish and English.  

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of this issue and read the article.  It is eye-opening. 

Also in this issue is another article that stopped me dead in my tracks.  It's called "If They Could Only Talk".  It is about Easter island and the statues referred to as moai.  What shocked me was the absolute similarity between the Easter Island statues and the Olmec statues seen in Xalapa.  Even down to the ear covers and helmets.  It conjures up all kinds of questions about origin.  I've got to do more reading.........The other fascinating detail is that the Rapanui, indigenous of Easter Island, paint their bodies just as the Tarahumara and Lancondon do for their ceremonies.  Can anyone shed more light on this for me?

Don't you just love when you read something that gives you lots of information but also gives you more to think about and want to know about?  I certainly do.


norm said...

I've read that the Easter Island people came from both the east and the west, two different groups but I have also read where some think this is baloney. That they came from the west and that's that. It is best to read most things on Anthropology with one eye closed because who really knows.

ThisOldSpouse said...

Actually the statistic you gave is for "primary" speaking countries. As for worldwide or secondary speaking countries English is indeed the second most spoken language. English is also present in four times as many countries as any other language. Mandarin of course being the most "spoken" language but that being because of so many Chinese.

ThisOldSpouse said...

Interesting secondary statistic, it is thought that by 2020 there will be 350m English speakers in China.. Just sayin..

ThisOldSpouse said...

Also, you should connect with
she lives (well has a house) in Bahia Kino. She can tell you about the loco Seri's..

Steve Cotton said...

NWexican beat me to the punch. When I was in China, I was surprised at the number of English speakers. But I discovered English is taught in Chinese government schools -- starting in kindergarten. And the street signs in major Chinese cities are in both Chinese and English.

Like you, I enjoyed the National Geographic article on languages. Of course, the extinction process is not new. Language is merely a tool to convey thoughts. When tribes started mixing with one another, the need for certain languages disappeared as primary languages developed. When my ancestors left England, there were areas of the country where the English could not understand one another because of dialect differences. That is all that is happening now. As small groups join larger societies, they no longer need the specialized language or the culture it reflected. The old disappears, and new creations evolve.

Two hundred years from now, National Geographic may be running an article about the extinction of American English because it has been absorbed by Mandarin Chinese.

Babs said...

I thought the statistics on First Language Speakers in millions were amazing. Chinese - 1,213; Spanish - 329; English - 328 and Arabic 221 just to name the top four. If you see the graph you understand that English is waaaaay back.

Dialects are very interesting and still alive and well in the USA.
When I moved from Chicago to Shreveport, La., I failed spelling for the first two years. I couldn't understand anything that anyone said, including the teacher.

One of the funny phrases, still used is "I'll carry you to the store or to school or wherever". That doesn't mean literally, it means they'll drive you.......I find all this fascinating.

BTW, in Houston, in Chinatown the street signs are in English and Chinese also.

In Houston, also, Spanish is taught starting in kindergarten.

Brenda Maas said...

As NWexican says there are Seri people around Bahia Kino, just north of us here in Guaymas.
They come into Guaymas selling their products during certain festivals or when the cruise ships come in.

Babs said...

Well Brenda I've been wanting to come up there for years - maybe this coming year it will happen. When is your weather the best? What festivals to the Seri come into town for? This article in NG tells a lot about the Seri........

Brenda Maas said...

Babs, it is lovely here in November and December, for us now Jan. is chilly; but your weather in San Miguel is cooler than here so it might be fine for you. Then it is great again in March, April, May, June.
July, August, Sept. and first part of October can be uncomfortable with the heat and humidity, someone once told me it is much like Houston in the summer. I don't know I haven't been to Houston.
Would love to meet you, come on over.
As to what festivals the Seri come to, your guess is as good as mine lol. I know I have seen them when the cruise ships are in; but that is no guarantee lol. Kino Bay is not that far from here, you could also go there and visit. They used to have a museum there; but when we went it was closed. They have some eco tourism on the Isla de Tiburon. Here is a couple of links:

ThisOldSpouse said...

Something I found very interesting was on a recent trip to the Philippines I discovered that English is taught in school every year through grammar, middle and high school and has for decades. Also all Govt communication is primarily in English. Interesting fact in that everyone speaks Tagalog (Filipino, the national language), their local dialect, which may be completely different than Tagalog, and most speak English.

Babs said...

Thanks Brenda for that info. I think WHEN I get to come up I'll fly into Hermosillo and not try to drive there......When it is around mid 70's and 50's at night. What months is that? DON'T want to "do" Houston summers - did that for 34 years!

NWM - Interesting. Might that go back to WWII when there were so many US Servicemen there? Just wondering, have no idea........

Brenda Maas said...

Babs, yes it is a long drive, better/easier to fly into Hermo. for sure.
70's in day and 50's at night, yikes that is winter time lol. December and January. Water is too chilly for swimming and the breeze is chilly, (for us), too chilly for sunbathing; although some tourists do so.
Remember we have lived here full time for a number of years so are a little acclimatized. The snowbirds that come here for the winter wear shorts all winter, while we bundle up lol.
The Houston type weather is only July, August, Sept. and first part of Oct., before and after that it is lovely here.
We await you lol.

Unknown said...

Really the actual figure a person offered is perfect for "primary" talking nations. For globally or even supplementary talking nations British is definitely the 2nd the majority of voiced vocabulary. British can also be contained in 4 occasions as numerous nations because every other vocabulary. Mandarin obviously becoming probably the most "spoken" vocabulary however which becoming due to a lot of Chinese language.

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