Category Archives: Endangered languages

Patuá, The Sweet Language of Macau

Our blog entries dedicated to endangered languages will continue as promised. This month, our blog will present the “Sweet Language of Macau” or in Macanese (Patuà) the Dóci Língu di Macau. Macau is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China.

Macanese is classified by the Atlas of Endangered Languages as being critically endangered. In fact, The Atlas puts the number of Patuà speakers at 50 as of the year 2000.

What attracted us to this language is not only the danger of it disappearing, but also its history and diversity. Macanese dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese established their commercial naval base to Asia in the Island of Macau. The new settlers married women from Malacca and Sri Lanka, so the language took on strong Malay and Sinhalese influence. As a proof that languages evolve, develop and are never static, Macanese took on influences as demographic and political changes happened year by year. These influences made this language a unique mix of European and Asian languages. Furthermore, this language that has no known orthography and is a cocktail of grammatical influences, played an important role in the life of Macanese people. In addition to becoming their proudly claimed mother tongue, it was for centuries the reason the community developed socially and commercially. It was as well the only communication mean of the Macau’s Eurasian residents.

Nowadays, the geographical distribution of the Macanese population is at the image of the language itself. It is quite diverse and starts in Macau the origin point of the language, and migrates to reach Hong Kong, California, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Australia, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Paria peninsula of Venezuela. Even within that community, Macanese is actively spoken by just several dozen old people, mostly women in their eighties or nineties, in Macau and Hong Kong.

We said at the beginning that Patuà is also named the sweet language, and there is a reason for that. The poem below written in Patuà is a reminder of that. We will leave you to ponder on these sweet words. Until we meet again enjoy the sound of the sea and the romantic settings of Macau’s Patuà.

Patuà Portuguese Translation English Translation
Nhonha na jinela A moça na janela Young lady in the window
Co fula mogarim Com uma flor de jasmim With a jasmine flower
Sua mae tancarera Sua mãe é uma Chinesa pescadora Her mother is a Chinese fisherwoman
Seu pai canarim Seu pai é um Indiano Português Her father is a Portuguese Indian

New Blog Series – Endangered Languages – This Month: Squamish

We from busuu.com have ambitious plans! We do not only want to develop the best language learning community in the world but we are also committed to raise awareness about nearly extinct languages.

We have done this already with our highly successful campaigns about the Silbo Gomero and the language Busuu (our funny YouTube video has been viewed by more than 300,000 people around the globe).

Our commitment does not end here, according to the UNESCO, more than the half of the existing 6,700 languages are on the verge of extinction. We will be taking this initiative a step further. We will go around the world, following the UNESCO Atlas of languages in danger. Our mission will be to raise awareness each month on an endangered language, learning more about the community and the culture behind it in an attempt to empower it. Every month you will therefore read on this busuu.com blog about a nearly extinct language (you can subscribe here to our blog to get the articles directly delivered in your inbox). Each month, you will have the chance to learn new words in languages which are about to die out.

With the support of our community, we hope to make our contribution to preserve of the immense variety of languages around the world.

Endangered language of the month: Squamish

For January, we have chosen a North American language that comes straight from under the snow blanketed plains of Canadian British Columbia. Squamish or Swú7mesh Sníchim, according to the UNESCO atlas of languages in danger, is critically endangered, meaning that “the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently”.



Following the traces left by the imprinted words in the snow, we discovered a very interesting language. Squamish is spoken by only 15 people, according to a study done at the University of British Columbia. This language is spread among 6 communities in the Salish coasts of British Columbia. Squamish was overthrown by English at the beginning of the century, and the local community is making great efforts to revive it through language classes, online communities and active revitalization.

A language is only the doorway to hidden cultural wonders. On our pursuit following the Squamish traces, we discovered a world of wonderful architectural and artistic treasures that left us amazed. The longhouse, shown in the image below is a sacred gathering place where legends were whispered softly. Local colorful art work just transports you to another era, another time. Drums suddenly fill the air and magically command you in an aboriginal mystical dance.

 

This rich culture can only survive if the language is kept alive. Words should be spoken so that their sound echoes, and written so that younger generations remember them. Now it is up to you to help keeping the Squamish flame a live. Listen below to some words in this language! Chen kw’enmántumi! chen (I), kw’enmán (thank [someone]; greet [someone]; grateful), and -tumi [to you], basically thank you in Squamish.

How To Say Thank You by SquamishLanguage