Revitalizing an Endangered Language – Part 5


“Thinking” in the language I’m studying seems very different from “thinking” in English.  Do I have to learn the indigenous thinking before I can learn the language?

As you learn the language you learn the thinking – they go hand in hand. Language students who have achieved both fluency and understanding can confirm that the more you know the language, the more you understand the culture’s unique perspective on action, relationships, responsibility and identity.

You probably remember learning that Subject-verb-object is the basic building-block structure of an English sentence.  It is also the structure of “English thinking” — because how those building blocks are arranged in relation to each other marks the sentence structure, the pattern, as “grammatically correct English.”

So how do I know my Lakota thinking is correct for Lakota?

Every language has its own version of “grammatically correct,” and that is also contained in how the building blocks are placed in relation to each other – in the sentence pattern.

When you use correct grammar – the correct sentence patterns — you are “thinking” in that language.  In fact, you must “think” in that language in order to construct correct, understandable sentences!

Here’s a Secret Language Learning Tip: The more you learn about sentences patterns and grammar of a different language … the more you will begin to notice the underlying sentence patterns and grammar of English.

Strange but true: learning a second language teaches you more about your first language than you ever imagined.

What can I do to help revitalize an endangered language?

Even one person making the effort to learn and use an endangered language gives that language a better chance of survival.

Revitalization is such a big deal – what can I do? – More in Part 6.

The Language Conservancy provides technical and logistics assistance to indigenous tribes seeking to preserve and revitalize their traditional languages.

(c) 2014 The Language Conservancy

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