Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Language preservation

When I am at home with my family, we do our best to talk in Urdu. Of course, sometimes dinner table debates evoke sentences in English but that is uncommon. I still think of English as my second language. There are some things I can express much easier in Urdu while other topics require English.

A few months ago, I was having a conversation with my sister in Urdu and then she asked me to help her with her Chemistry homework. As soon as we cracked open the book and started talking about how to balance a chemical reaction, I switched to English. I feel like both these languages are distinct tools for me and I can't imagine communicating without one or the other. When it is necessary for effect while telling jokes, Punjabi also gets thrown into the mix too.

Our family tries our best to preserve Urdu in our new lifestyle, but who knows where it will be centuries from now. I was listening to a story about a group of linguists who are making digital audio archives of dying languages and once again I came across an article about them in NYTimes.

"Kim is a dying language, and Dr. Childs a field linguist. From his base here in Tei, a small fishing village on the Waanje River, he canoes up the narrow waterways that cut across the river’s floodplain, and hikes a few miles inland, to where the last Kim communities remain. Based on recordings taken there, he has devised an alphabet and compiled a dictionary and is finishing a book on the grammar."

Check out the full article