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Living Tongues: reading informational text; Saving Dying Languages 7


Read the passage, then answer the practice question.

Note: this is a fictional blog post, but all the languages and information mentioned are real.

A Case for Saying Goodbye to Unused Languages

By Daniel Lato
  1. When the world is about to lose a language, it is “endangered.” When people stop speaking a language forever, it “dies”. I believe these words are unnecessarily harsh and negative.
  2. In truth, languages evolve and change as needed. As the linguist Salikoko Mufwene reminds us, languages change all the time; language death and language birth are connected events. When a language dies, that means it’s no longer useful to its speakers and another language is thriving in its place.
  3. On Easter Island, most children and teens aren’t fluent in the native Rapa Nui, so the language is dying out. Because Spanish is the dominant language on the island, it’s more useful to young people there. In the village of Mababe, in Botswana, less than 200 people still speak the native Ts’ixa—mostly adults. The children speak the languages they are taught in school, Setswana and English. Clearly, Ts’ixa is as useful as a bicycle without wheels to them.
  4. So why do preservationists insist on performing CPR on native languages like these? A common reason is the idea that cultures will lose their identities if they don’t speak the languages of their ancestors. Hogwash!
  5. Cultural identity stems from many different factors. Language is just one small piece of that. My grandmother only spoke Polish and her children only spoke English after the family had emigrated to the USA. Embracing their mother’s language wasn’t a strategy for success at school or work in the US. The idea that language is the great cultural unifier is a myth. Shared experiences determine the essence of a culture in the home and community. And the extinction of a common tongue just might be one of those experiences.
  6. In fact, there is evidence that holding too tightly onto local dialects causes dangerous tribal conflicts in certain countries. A shared national language could actually create more peace in many cases.
  7. What makes a language more viable than another, anyway? Again, people are the key to its success. They will fight to keep it alive. They will relearn it if they have to. Cornish, Welsh, and Manx, all Celtic languages of the United Kingdom, were brought back from the brink of death. But was this resuscitation practical in the long run? Time will tell.
  8. For many years, Hebrew wasn’t considered anyone’s home language. Today, it’s the first language for millions of people from many different countries. And so, it stands to reason the Hebrew spoken in Brooklyn, N.Y. will have a distinct flavor than Hebrew in Israel. It makes no sense that the language could stay exactly the same. Countries and cities aren’t identical. This is a good example of how language serves its speakers and not the other way around.
  9. As in the case of Ts’ixa and Rapa Nui, the languages weren’t serving the users anymore. Really, I have to trust they have a good reason for saying goodbye to it.

Practice Question

Select TWO sentences that explain how the author develops his position.
Choose 2 answers: