The Edge of Extinction

What do snow leopards, African wild dogs, black rhinos, and the Arikara language of the North Dakotan indigenous people have in common? They are all endangered. Just as species’ extinctions threaten the food chain and thereby the ecosystem, language extinctions hurt cultural diversity and thereby our society. To best understand the harsh reality of language extinction, we should investigate some statistics. While differentiating between unique languages and dialects, or just variations of the same language, is very difficult, researchers agree there are between 5,000-7,000+ languages alive today. Studies project that up to 50% of these languages will die out by the end of the century. Some even say the figure is higher at 80%, That is one language dying every few months! This slow and steady leak of linguistic and cultural diversity must be plugged for the sake of our children gaining the exposure to different thoughts and ways of life- exposure that stimulates appreciation and innovation.

Admittedly, we, here at Little Pim, do not teach endangered languages, nor have we discussed them in prior blogs. We do, however, always hope to impart that a language is:

  • Powerful in the classroom, in the workplace, and on the street
  • Empowering in its ability to help cultivate creativity, cultural awareness, problem-solving skills, and pride in one’s roots
  • Effectively important to personal and societal growth

In spreading this message in the past (as we will continue to do in the future), we hopefully indirectly made the case for the preservation of dying languages. Additionally, in teaching what are currently actively used languages, we aim to prevent their downfall into the endangered category one day. Yet, today, in this article, we will take a firmer stand for endangered languages, giving them a voice that might otherwise soon be taken away. It is with this voice that endangered languages might return from the edge of extinction.

It is with power in numbers that we can spread the word and reach someone in a position to change an endangered language’s course, so share this if you like the rest of the article. I will explain how we classify levels of endangerment, expound on why you and your family should care, and share what YOU can do to create a better future in which we maintain cultural diversity and awareness.

How do we know when a language is dead?

There are two main measurements of a language’s vitality, the number of speakers and the number of avenues of use.

Number of Speakers

Many languages can be said to have few speakers, but the word “few” is loose and open to interpretation. Determining the exact number of speakers of a language, however, allows linguists to be specific in distinguishing between levels of endangerment. Arikara, which you may recall is in our backyard in North Dakota, is a critically endangered language, with only 3 speakers still alive while the Cherokee language spoken in Oklahoma is classified as a vulnerable language, with only 1,000 speakers.

Number of Functions

The number of functions a language takes on, whether that be in prayer, in scripture, in school, in ceremonies, etc. can quantitatively represent a language’s vitality, because the more sectors of life the language is involved in, the more spoken it must be, and the more it veers away from the edge of extinction.

Some other factors linguists consider with regards to a language’s vitality are the age range of speakers, the number of speakers adopting a second language, the population size of the ethnic group the language is connected to, and the rate of migration into and out of the epicenter of the language.

Why do we care?

In history, conquered civilizations have had to adopt the language of their conqueror in order to fit into their social structure and economy. This is the case because language is so integral to a culture. From writing literature, carrying out rituals and practicing religion to voting in elections, all the human interactions associated with a culture involve written or spoken word. Effectively when a language dies, the culture associated with it dwindles away as well. If 50%-90% of languages die within the century, 50%-90% of existing cultures will likely die as well.

Many of these cultures that will die out only possess oral histories, so we will lose out on the knowledge they have gained from years and years of experience. Even if some of the cultures whose languages die have been documented, without active speakers, their thoughts and practices will likely be left behind in favor of the ones possessed by the dominant cultures and languages. Accordingly, our future society will lack in a diversity of thought and practice due to a lack of cultural diversity. Not only do we lose diversity of culture and thereby thought when languages die, but also when people conform to speaking one language, as is the case with English in the business world. If we continue along this path, we will become a monolingual, culturally homogenous society. In such a society, people might communicate efficiently because they speak the same language, but creativity would be strangled and progress slowed.

What can we do about it?

To prevent the fate of becoming a uniform society, we must recognize that cultural exchange is a two-way street. People speaking endangered languages are learning other languages to be able to interact with members of their extended community. While it may be hard for us to learn endangered languages, we can educate ourselves on which ones are endangered and why, learn about the cultures the endangered languages are from, and encourage their preservation. For example, the Arikara people were originally a semi-nomadic community that expertly harvested corn and tobacco. This mastery of the land gave way to power over other groups living in the plains until smallpox hit. Would this knowledge of the land past on from generation to generation in their language be lost in translation if the language died? Time will unfortunately tell.

Moreover, to avoid one major language from pushing out the others in the future, English-speaking people could learn other languages to communicate with non-English-speaking people, tapping into a whole wealth of knowledge they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. We cannot become complacent just because English is the “language of business.” Little Pim can open your child’s eyes to these other languages and vibrant cultures in the click of a button… literally. Check out our new iOS app!

Live in a Spanish-speaking community? Try our Spanish for Kids program.

Want to know more than the words for French foods on the bistro menu? Try our French for Kids program.


Works Cited:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/what-endangered-language

https://www.ethnologue.com/endangered-languages

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_endangered_languages_in_the_United_States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arikara

Featured Photo by Mark Rasmuson on Unsplash

10 Words English Speakers Are Missing Out On

10-Words-English-Speakers-Are-Missing-Out-On

Uh um eh. We often find ourselves tripping on our words. This inability to articulate our thoughts can be the unfortunate side effect of nerves when addressing a crowd, discomfort talking to a stranger, or tiredness after a late night. However, it’s not always our fault at all. In fact, the English language is missing some words to succinctly describe a situation or feeling. Below is a list of just 10 of these words in foreign languages that efficiently express sentence-long concepts in English. Fun fact: the concepts that the English language doesn’t have words to describe are often unpopular, unaccepted or previously non-existent in our culture, which reveals how critical a role culture plays in language evolution. You may not want to integrate these words into your daily English conversation, but they are perfect for trivia or an icebreaker and they shed light on the power of language to provide speakers with the agency to voice thoughts.

1. German: kummerspeck

Ever drown your sorrows in chocolates after a heartbreak or dive into a pint of ice cream after a cruel day at the office? If you have fallen victim to the emotion-induced indulgence and seen progress in your cookie pack instead of six-pack, you can probably relate to this word, which directly translates to mean “grief bacon.”

2. Japanese: wabi sabi

In English, we sometimes call things “perfectly imperfect.” The Japanese have eloquently expounded on this oxymoron by giving a name to the ability to find the beauty in flaws and to accept life’s cyclic nature of growth and decay. American singer Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful” asks “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” and is therefore somewhat of an ode to this this subject matter.

3. French: seigneur-terraces

In Starbucks, you can always spot the people who haven’t bought a lot but are really just there to hang out, read a book, research for a paper, answer emails, or just kinda people watch. You know who you are. Well, the French have ingeniously come up with a word to describe these individuals who should owe rent to the coffee shop.

4. Italian: slampadato

The girl or guy at the party who is just a little bit too orange for comfort and definitely owns a membership to the tanning salon is perfectly described by this one word.

5. Mexican Spanish: pena ajena

Overhearing the silence after a colleague makes a bad joke to a group of coworkers or watching on as a woman in heels trips down the steps to the subway can cause you to cringe yourself. This discomfort born of others’ actions and the natural human urge to sympathize is described by this Spanish expression. While there was never a way to describe this feeling in English, kids today have come up with the phrase “second-hand embarrassment.” This goes to show how our language is evolving to fill holes that other languages filled long ago.

6. Russian: toska

Friend: “Are you okay?”

You: “Not really.”

Friend: “What’s wrong?”

You: “I don’t know.”

Such a conversation might ensue when you feel an emptiness or lack of fulfillment that can’t be attached to anything specifically. You might desire something without knowing what that something is.  We have all experienced it, but most of us bottle it up or sweep it under the rug, because it’s hard to communicate to those we trust and/or love. The Russians have crated a solution to this problem by having a word to describe this feeling.

7. Arabic: ya’aburnee

If you were assigned the task to write a paper analyzing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this Arabic word, meaning the desire to die before someone else, because life without him or her would be too difficult, could prove useful.

8. Portuguese: saudade

When your child loses his or her favorite stuffed animal to the devastating toilet plunge, he or she is suffering from this feeling: a yearning for something or someone that has been lost.

9. Chinese: yuan bei

The deal you have been staffed to at your job, the deal whose pitch you spent sleepless nights writing, you ran by seventeen different superiors, you revised thousands of times, and you cried about more than you would like to admit, just closed. That inexplicable sense of pride in yourself and the perfection of your work is no longer inexplicable thanks to this Chinese word.

10. Korean: dapjeongneo

When you ask your significant other, “Does this piece of clothing make me look fat?” or “Do you even think I’m pretty/handsome?” There is only one acceptable answer. If you have ever been on the receiving end of those questions, you know that. This concept of there being a “correct” answer that a person has no choice but to give has its own recently added word in Korean but no English counterpart as of yet.

 

Works Cited:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/more-languages-better-brain/381193/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/50698/38-wonderful-foreign-words-we-could-use-english

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/emotions-which-there-are-no-english-words-infographic

https://www.google.com/amp/s/matadornetwork.com/abroad/20-awesomely-untranslatable-words-from-around-the-world/amp/

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170126-the-untranslatable-emotions-you-never-knew-you-had

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lingholic.com/15-untranslatable-words-wish-existed-english/amp/

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Happy Russian Language Day!

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Russian Language Day, proclaimed by the United Nations in 2010, is observed annually on June 6th. It also coincides with the birthday of Alexander Pushkin (6 June 1799 – 10 February 1837), a Russian poet who is considered the father of modern Russian literature. Celebrate today by introducing your child to the Russian language with the help of Little Pim!

Watch Little Pim, the Panda say the Russian words for all sorts of foods!

Did you know that Russian is spoken by almost 280 million people worldwide? It is the 5th most frequently spoken language in the world! The official language of the former Soviet Union, it is still spoken in 15 European and Asian countries. International political developments and growing business opportunities with multinational companies have led to increased demand for Russian speaking employees and experts, and thus, increased opportunities for Russian speakers.

Little Pim Russian helps children develop the unique speaking and listening skills necessary for learning the language.

Interested in more Russian Language Videos for Kids? Shop now and save 30% with code DISCOVERY on our website: shop.littlepim.com

Girls’ Day Festival in Japan

Hina_matsuri_Yasuda_residence_Tokyo

Girls’ Day or “Hinamatsuri” in Japan is celebrated annually on March 3rd for the health and wellbeing of young girls. This special day is also known as “Doll’s Day” as families who have girls display ornate dolls (hina dolls or hina-ningyō) atop a 7-tiered platform covered with red carpet starting in February until March 3rd. Each step represents a layer of society from the Heian period in Japan. The dolls are traditionally dressed in court attire according to the period and represent the Japanese Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians. In many cases, these dolls are passed down for generations from a grandmother to mother to daughter.  The origin of this festival dates back to over 1,000 years ago during the Heian period (794-1192).

Strawberry Daifuku Mochi recipe from Just One Cookbook
Strawberry Daifuku Mochi recipe from Just One Cookbook

In addition to displaying the dolls, the Japanese also celebrate by preparing and eating foods of the Spring season and of

pink color. For fun recipes to celebrate Girls’ Day at home, check out this post from Just One Cookbook. The website features recipes for the special foods prepared for the festival, such as chirashi sushi, clam soup, and strawberry daifuku.

 

The strawberry daifuku sounds delicious, especially for those with a sweet-tooth and a perfect recipe to celebrate springtime!

Other fun activities to do with your kids to celebrate and learn about Girls’ Day are origami crafts. Follow the steps on this website to create your own Origami Kusudama Flower or watch this YouTube video below to create your own Girls’ Day origami dolls!

Have fun introducing your little ones to world cultures and celebrations! If you’re celebrating today, share your creations with us using the hashtag #littlepim on Instagram, Twitter or tag us on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

Japanese_Discovery-800x600

Teaching your child Japanese? Little Pim’s Japanese Complete Set opens the door to over 180 basic words and phrases.

Holiday Crafts for Kids: Christmas Around the World

christmas-crafts-kids

Looking for some fun holiday crafts for kids during Christmas Break? Christmas Around the World is always a fun theme to incorporate into your holidays. Kids love learning about other cultures and countries and how they celebrate the holidays this time of year. Not only are crafts from around the world fun, they’re educational as well. What more can you ask for?

Before you dig out the paper, glue, and scissors, do a little research. Decide with your children what countries you want to learn about and make crafts. There are all kinds of wonderful resources on the internet for you to use in your research. Once you decide on which countries you’d like to learn more about, you can get started on the crafts. Try some of these fun ideas.

Flags of the World Ornamentschristmas-ornaments

Use real ornaments or make paper ornaments with the countries flags on them. For this activity, you can also head on over to your local craft store such as Michaels Arts & Crafts to buy supplies to paint your own flag ornaments. They will have plain ornaments that you can paint on. For a image database of the world flags and countries, visit this website from the CIA.

 

 

Traditional Holiday Crafts

During your research, find traditional decor or a tradition the country enjoys during the holidays and recreate it with crafts. For example, The Nutcracker is a traditional ballet done in Russia. Design and create your own nutcracker using things from around the house like milk jugs or cartons, paper rolls, Legos, or wood pieces. For ideas, check out this great post from Multicultural Kids on DIY Christmas Ornaments Inspired by World Cultures.

Holiday Nature Craftspoinsetta-crafts

Many countries have “treasures” that come from nature that you can recreate at home. For example, Poinsettias come from Mexico. You can make paper or tissue paper Poinsettias after learning about Mexico. Christmas trees originally came from Germany. In the link above, there is a beautiful Mexican Felt Poinsettia you can make with the kids. Do you have any Christmas crafts that you do with your kids that you can share with the Little Pim community? There are tons of fun Christmas tree crafts to make! Share your traditions in the comments below.

 

Holiday Dress Crafts

Many countries have traditional clothing they wear during the holidays. Make paper dolls or clothes pin dolls with the traditional clothing worn from the country you researched.

Paper Crafts

Make crafts of the countries you researched out of paper and hang on a tree or decorate your home. Origami is a great idea for Japan, or make paper chains from Sweden. Let your imagination run wild!

Whatever crafts you decide to use for Christmas Around the World, you know your kids are having fun learning and creating great crafts! For more fun activities, print out our Winter Coloring Pages or fun Hanukkah Crafts for Kids.

Explore Winter in Ukraine with a Craft Based on this Clever Story

winter-stories-kids

The Holidays are easily the most magical time of year for a child. Make it even more magical by exposing them to another culture, like that of wintry Ukraine! In Eastern Europe, Christmas is not heavily celebrated. Instead, it is the coming of Father New Years that brings anticipation to children everywhere. That doesn’t mean that there’s any less winter wonder!

The Mitten is a common folktale for Ukrainian families to read to their little ones during the holidays. With such cold winters, it’s no wonder that the main feature of this tale is a group of animals trying to stay warm!

  • Explore Winter in Ukraine with this printable craft based on the classic Ukrainian children’s story, The Mitten.

The story starts with an old man in the forest losing one of his mittens. As animals in the forest find the mitten, they scurry inside to enjoy its warmth. The story begins with small animals, such as frogs and badgers, and works its way up all of the way to a bear. In the end, it’s a little mouse that “breaks the camel’s back,” so to speak; causing the bear to sneeze and all of the animals to fly out of the mitten.

Engaging your child with The Mitten:

 

 

  • Read the story with your children.
  • Ask them, “Why do you think the smaller animals let the bigger animals take up the room in the mitten, even when there were too many?” This will help connect your child’s mind to the abstract concepts of the reading.
  • Color and illustrate pictures using your kids’ imagination of the different animals mentioned in the story. Learn how to say the names of each animal in different languages.
  • Discuss Eastern Europe and its Holiday traditions; its climate, its animals, and the similarities and differences between our stories and theirs.

For more phenomenal winter crafts, stay tuned to the Little Pim blog! Happy Holidays!

Fall Holidays From Other Cultures to Promote Bilingualism

fall-holidays-kids

One of the most magical aspects of the last three months of the year is the many holidays observed around the world.

From the time of the fall equinox until the New Year begins, there is an added element of excitement and sense of the fantastic, especially when there are children around. Make the most of the holidays by expanding your child’s bilingual education to include learning about the customs, holidays and fun that are part of the culture of your child’s second language.

When learning a second language, observing traditions and understanding celebrations, helps a child’s vocabulary grow as his well as providing a connection to the culture.

Here are two celebrations that will help your bilingual child better relate to his or her adopted or first culture.

  • Día de Muertos — If your child is learning Spanish talk about Día de Muertos, a Mexican Holiday that coincides with All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day.  Some traditions include personal altars called ofrendas set up in homes. Visits to the graves of loved ones are featured. Gifts of sugar skulls and marigolds are presented along with personal items that once belonged to the loved one. To read more about Día de Muertos browse this informative article from Huffington Post.
  • Chongyang Festival ( 重阳节 ) — is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Japan. This holiday, which began before the Han period, is still celebrated today. Also known as the Double Ninth Festival, this celebration has many traditions you can do with your family to learn more about the culture. One tradition is climbing a steep hill or mountain to symbolically defeat evil. The festival occurs on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is believed that the day contains too much yang and so brings trouble. You can read about some of the traditions, myths, and ceremonies, and the reasons behind them in this article.

There are many holidays, celebrations and traditions to be explored. Take some time to browse the internet for information on these.

  • A good starting place for your search is to type into the search engine: _______ Holidays. (insert: Chinese, German, Portuguese, or the country of the language your child is studying).
  • Select one holiday or festival and enter that name in your search engine, e.g., Chongyang Festival, for more information about the holiday.

You will soon have a long list of holidays, traditions, and adventures to extend your child’s learning.

For more information on how Little Pim can support and contribute to your child’s bilingual education visit our website and browse our blog posts today.

Continue reading “Fall Holidays From Other Cultures to Promote Bilingualism”

Bilingualism: Benefits of Learning Arabic

arabic-for-kids

There are many articles stating the benefits of being bilingual, but not many go into the benefits of being bilingual in a certain language. If you are teaching your child another language anyway, why not choose one that will improve their future career opportunities, such as Arabic? Here are a few ways that learning Arabic will enhance your child’s future.

Commonality

Arabic is the national language of 20 countries and is the fifth most spoken language in the world. By teaching your child Arabic, you will be giving her the ability to communicate with over 300 million people.  The majority of native speakers are concentrated in the Middle East, but with Arabic being the language of Quran, Muslims all over the world speak the language.

High Demand

With the increasing importance of the Middle East in international affairs, there is a growing demand for speakers of Arabic. Few Westerners ever attempt to learn the language, so there is little supply to meet the demand. Those who know the language are needed in many fields including journalism, translation, education, intelligence, and government service.

Financial Incentives

Arabic has been declared a language of strategic importance. Not only will many careers offer a hiring bonus or higher salary to those who speak it, but the National Strategic Language Initiative also offers scholarships and more learning opportunities, including study abroad programs.

Culture

The Middle East has a rich and fascinating culture. Be it the food, literature, music, or history, culture is a lot more interesting to explore in its native language. Arabic-speaking countries have also made significant contributions to medicine, science, and philosophy over the centuries. Much of this learning, along with that of the Roman, Greek, and Byzantine empires, has been preserved in Arab libraries.

Intercultural Understanding

arabic-for-kidsMost of your child’s exposure to Arabic culture is likely to be through negative media representations or one-sided stereotypes in films. These false representations can create feelings of mistrust towards Muslims and the Arabic people. With over 3.5 million people of Arab heritage residing in the U.S and over half of them reporting experiencing racial discrimination, teaching your child about their culture can potentially minimize conflict.

What are you waiting for? Get started teaching your child Arabic today! If you have any tips or experiences teaching your little ones Arabic, please comment below.

Differences Between Brazilian and European Portuguese

brazilian-portuguese-vs-portuguese

Portuguese is one of the most beautiful, romantic, Latin languages. As the sixth most spoken mother tongue in the world, Portuguese is an excellent choice for your toddler or preschooler.
Speaking Portuguese, even if you have no ties to the language and culture, is a marketable skill that will serve your child well in the future.

As with English, the country where the language is learned and spoken makes a lot of difference in words, pronunciation, and grammar. The Portuguese spoken in Brazil is so different from European Portuguese that it is often referred to as Brasileiro, according to the website Lexiophiles.

There are many reasons for these differences and here are two of the most obvious ones.

Cultural Influence

In Brazilian Portuguese American Indian tribal languages donated many of the words for local foods, plants, and animals, as well as other objects. These words are unknown to speakers of European Portuguese.

Italian, French, and African languages such as Yoruba, have also found their way into Brasileiro. These add a significant contribution to the vocabulary of Brazilian Portuguese that does not exist in European Portuguese.

Intonation and Cadence

Brasileiro is more musical or lyrical than European Portuguese. Vowels are more open than those in European Portuguese and to English speakers, European Portuguese can sound somewhat muffled.  Brasileiro is syllable-timed like Spanish with equal stress on all syllables. And European Portuguese is stress-timed, with stressed and unstressed syllables in words, which is more familiar to native English speakers.

Little Pim’s language courses for young children make learning Portuguese an exciting, playful, and educational experience for your child. She will learn 180 Portuguese words and phrases to start her on a lifelong path of bilingualism. Browse our website for more information on Portuguese language learning for your child.