Undeciphered Scripts: Rongorongo on Easter Island

As a new assistant editor of the Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies as well as a new associate curator of the Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture international exhibition, I am exposed to a wide range of interesting topics related to the South Pacific. My latest fascination involves rongorongo, a system of glyphs found on Easter Island in the late 19th century. Easter Island is famous for the moai, or stone statues, which many people wrongly believe are only heads. In fact, they have torsos as well, but many of the moai are buried in the ground up to their necks. Rongorongo was not inscribed on the moai, but on wooden tablets – none of which remain on the island as they are all now in museums or private collections.

Rongorongo

Rongorongo

The glyphs are written in reverse boustrophedon (alternating directions) and have yet to be deciphered by linguists. Some believe the glyphs are not actually writing or a representation of the Rapa Nui language, but perhaps proto-writing or even a mnemonic device. Overpopulation, deforestation, European diseases and Peruvian slave raids almost killed all of the Rapa Nui by the late 19th century. Much of the history and knowledge of the previous generations died with them, so we may never be able to decipher rongorongo.

The Rapa Nui still live on Easter Island, which is now a special territory of Chile, and the island has not been uninhabited since the Rapa Nui arrived (perhaps as late as 1200 CE). The population dwindled to its all-time low of 111 in 1877, but today the population of the island is near 6,000 and more than half are Rapa Nui. Most representations of Easter Island focus on the moai and the incorrect assumption that the island is uninhabited. Out of all of the commercials, advertisements, cartoons, novels and comic books I’ve been investigating lately, this Chilean commercial is the only one that focuses on the Rapa Nui people rather than the moai. Note how the island is also called Rapa Nui (the name for the island in the Rapa Nui language) and you can hear a few words of Rapa Nui being spoken as well.

Mutual Intelligibility between English and Scots

Frisian is often cited as the language that is closest to English, but Scots is actually closer (i.e. has a higher degree of mutual intelligibility with English). Not Scottish English, which is a variety of English, or Scottish Gaelic, which is actually a Celtic rather than a Germanic language, but Lowland Scots. There are just […]

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Foreign Earned Income Exclusion for Americans Living Abroad (Form 2555)

Just a reminder for Americans who have foreign income: you must declare all foreign income on US income tax returns. For most language assistants, for example, this often simply means including the assistant income on line 21 of Form 1040 as “other income.” This will increase the adjusted gross income, however, and if it is more […]

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Free Peace Corps Language Learning Materials: Over 100 Languages Available

If you love free public domain language learning resources as much as I do, then check out the Peace Corps Language Courses Archive. Live Lingua has a large collection of Peace Corps manuals teaching languages ranging from Acholi to Zarma (over 100 languages are available!) and some also include audio resources in addition to the […]

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How to Learn Languages by Reading Interlinear Books

Linas is a language learning enthusiast who founded InterlinearBooks.com. His project aims to make literature more accessible to language learners. He wrote this guest post to introduce the concept of learning with Interlinear books. If you have been reading this blog, you probably already know Jennie has strongly supported listening and reading to learn languages, and she […]

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North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain

If you are a US or Canadian citizen who would like to teach English at public schools in Spain, the North American Language and Culture Assistants program is accepting applications until April 1, 2014. Canadian applicants whose first language is French can also apply to teach French instead of English. This program is similar to the […]

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Frozen’s “Let it Go” in 25 Languages with Subtitles

Disney has released a multilingual version of the song “Let it Go” from the film Frozen. There are 25 languages total in the song, and luckily there is a version on Dailymotion with all of the lyrics and English translations available as subtitles: “Let It Go” (All 25 Languages Transcript… by Ko Sherman If you […]

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Applied Linguistics, CALL and French Conferences in 2014 and Beyond

Upcoming conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning/teaching with technology, general language teaching & learning or French studies: Applied Linguistics / Materials Design Organization Dates Abstracts due Location American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 22-25, 2014 closed Marriott Downtown in Portland, Oregon Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics (CAAL / ACLA) May 26-28, 2014 ?? […]

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New Zealand and the Cook Islands

I went to New Zealand last month to present at an applied linguistics conference, and decided to stay for another two weeks to travel around both the North and South islands and also head up to the Cook Islands. I had a feeling that I was going to love New Zealand, and I was right, […]

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English Teaching Positions in France or DOM-TOMs 2014 (Lecteur/Lectrice d’anglais)

If you would like to teach English at a university in France or the DOM-TOMs for the 2014-2015 school year, job announcements for lecteur/lectrice and maître de langue positions are starting to appear on university websites. Both positions require native or near-native fluency in English but the lecteur/lectrice position requires completion of only one year […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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My Say it in French phrasebook and Great French Short Stories dual-language book (both published by Dover Publications) are available at Amazon.com.

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Visit the Store to buy the PDF e-book for $14.95 or paperback book for $29.95.

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