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 revitalisation.
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 alive.