International Mother Language Day – February 21, 2009

The International Mother Language Day has been observed yearly since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Yesterday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the 3rd edition of the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger was presented in an online edition and is available free of charge worldwide. It contains information on 2,500 human languages throughout the world that are in danger of becoming extinct. The atlas aims to answer the questions: Why do languages disappear? Which parts of the world are most affected? What can be done to save them?

The film, The Linguists, was also shown yesterday. It’s about two linguists, K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, and their attempt to record and document dying languages before it’s too late. They are both directors of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and Harrison also wrote a book called When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge that I thought was really interesting. It made me feel incredibly sad for the last speakers of languages. Can you imagine how lonely it must feel to know that NO ONE else in the entire world of 6.2 billion people speaks your native language anymore??

And as the title implies, the book is much more than just which languages are dying. It’s about the human knowledge that we are losing with each extinct language. Cultures view the world differently and it’s expressed in their language, from classifying animals and creating calendars to drawing maps and simply counting. Not all human languages use a base 10 system. The French soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, and quatre-vingt-dix, although cumbersome, are much simpler than numbers expressed in languages that use base 6 or body-counting, for example. But if we had never known about these languages and their different ways of thinking, we would never know the limits and potential of human cognition.

Finally, UNESCO also offers a free map of the World’s Languages in Danger (PDF format – 20 MB). France alone includes about a dozen languages that are considered “definitely” and “severely” endangered, such as Breton, Norman, Picard, Lorrain, Burgundian, Auvergnat, Languedocian, Provençal, etc. However, the majority of endangered languages in the world (the “hotspots”) are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the American Southwest, central South America, eastern Siberia, and northern Australia.

“Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and unconscious work of anonymous generations.” – Edward Sapir, Language (1921)

Is it 2005 again?

I heard some loud laughing down in the parking lot earlier tonight, but I thought it was just the noisy neighbors having a party. But because I’m so curious nosy, I decided to look outside and see what they were up to. Oops, my bad. Not a party. Just a burning car across the street. […]

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A dozen would just be too many.

Who says that French doctors overprescribe medication? 11 boxes is normal, right? I went to the doctor for help with my winter depression, fatigue and insomnia. That cost me 55 € just to see him, of which I’ll probably be reimbursed about 20 €. Then I went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions, which […]

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Cat in Couette

For the second year, we’ve had a technician come to verify that the chauffage au sol is actually working, and sure enough, they tell us everything is fine. Then why is it only 14 C / 57 F when we get up in the morning?? I seriously think the (main) reason why I don’t like […]

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Pont de la Caille between Annecy & Geneva

The Pont de la Caille (also known as Pont Charles-Albert) on the former RN 201 in Haute-Savoie is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It was built in 1839 over the Usses River by the engineer Belin. However, in 1929 another bridge was built next to it for a tramway line between […]

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It has been a while. (For me, anyway.)

I suppose I’ve been too tired and sluggish to do anything on my site or blog since we still have no heat in the apartment. It’s been snowing most of the week too, so double yay. I also recently discovered that the building where my office is located on campus does not have a heating […]

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Not much has changed.

I keep spending too many hours online searching for a new place to live in the countryside and for that perfect PhD program that I can apply to in a few years. The problem is that I don’t know where we will be moving to this summer, so it’s impossible to actually find a new […]

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Téléfrançais – Episode 1

Hey, I have an idea! Let’s put a talking pineapple, a creepy pilot doll, skeletons playing music, and two kids together in a video to teach useful French phrases like Je suis un ananas and Ce n’est pas possible ! Brilliant, right? Thanks to Dedene for this gem.

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Exchanging French Francs for Euros is Still Possible?

I just saw an article on 20minutes.fr that mentioned today is the very last day for exchanging 100 franc bills (the “Delacroix”) for euros.  Apparently at the end of 2008, there were 12.14 million 100 franc bills still in circulation? All other franc bills can still be exchanged until February 17, 2012.  I had no […]

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Links Roundup for Learning Languages Online (Audio Version)

I’ve been slowly going through my Language Links page to delete dead links and add new ones. Some new language sites that I’ve come across since my last links post include audio prominently: SWAC Audio Collections provide pronunciations for a wide range of words in 11 languages: Bielorussian, Czech, Chinese, German, English, French, Dutch, Russian, […]

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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 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 a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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