Tribes, literacy, and language loss

Today is the International Day of Literacy, which often makes me think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages. According to Davis half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Imagine what it must be like to be the last person that spoke, read, and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge. This happens every two weeks on average to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Icelandic, Liki or Kazakh. Perhaps now we can empathise and understand what it may be like not to have anyone to speak our native language, read books to websites, or write stories and songs to share with others. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

The following quote is from Stephen Corry who is director of an organisation called Survival International that ‘champions tribal peoples around the world. We help them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.’
“Every time another tribe becomes extinct and their language dies, another way of life and another way of understanding the world disappears forever. Even if it has been painstakingly studied and recorded, a language without a people to speak it means little. A language can only live if its people live, and if today’s uncontacted tribes are to have a future, we must respect their right to choose their own way of life.”

So as we go about today speaking, reading, and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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A Woman of Planet Earth

Around 49.6% of the world’s population identifies as female, giving a total population of around 3.52 billion, and 101 man for every 100 woman. Despite this near even split there are still places in the world and people that see being female as a second class citizen, and even third class below the oxen that pull the cart. To mark International Women’s Day here are a few thoughts on being a woman on Earth.

One of the greatest skills so many of us take for granted as we read and write posts on Facebook to texts and emails on our phones is the ability to do both read and write. We learn the fundamentals at such an early age that unless we have struggled with either, perhaps due to dyslexia, we think nothing of being able to do so. So why is it that in many parts of the world this is still taboo? To anyone that laughs or scoffs at these people for being backward or stuck in the dark ages take a minute to realise how lucky you are to read, write, vote, drive, own your own home and post freely your thoughts on social media.

I went to an all girls school, which in some areas of the world it is unthinkable such a thing could exist. The grades I achieved gave me a foundation to be very fortunate with my academic studies to achieve a doctorate along with two masters degrees and an undergraduate degree, despite many thinking I would never achieve anything like that in life. I have friends throughout the world that continue to fight to be heard because they were born female and to ensure the next generation have it better than theirs. Fighting against traditions such as child marriage to widow abuse or FGM and breast ironing as can see these are not a way forward, in some countries it is holding them back from achieving improvements in developing as nations.

Women are our friends, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmothers, we matter as much as any human or living creature on this planet. We need to work together not apart to create change be it locally to globally but grassroots is where that change begins…I have seen it with my own eyes through the work of friends in Africa and Asia. We can be the change and light in the world for others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

World Book Day 2016

Today is World Book Day. My immediate thoughts are taken back over twenty years to my high school biology classroom with Mr Dickson as I learnt the subject for my standard grades. He told my class that the longest book some people will read other than our exam paper would be a catalogue that came through the door selling clothes to household goods. It simply took my breath away that some could ever read so little in their lifetime. Coming back to the present I find myself wondering how many now would not read anything more than Facebook posts to Tweets, which brings a few tears to my eyes.
 
However, given the average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9 year old, should I really be so surprised? I discovered recently that The Guardian newspaper has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8. As someone who reads a lot each day, websites to academic journals to books (fiction and non-fiction) I realise part of me takes for granted this skill and the academic study I did. I first started to learn age four and my eldest niece is beginning to master it, which is beautiful to see. Unlike writing, which I could not do on starting school and still so tiny that many ask for a magnifying glass!
 
Books are ways to get lost in adventures or learn how to do new things, sharing one with a child with funny voices is something enjoyable and laughing out loud on the bus when caught should be smiled upon. However, I am aware some find this difficult due to dyslexia, I cannot imagine how difficult it can be in a world that focuses much on the written word, especially that upon the screen. Nevertheless, books should not be confined to the classroom or bedtime, but instead of mobile phones stuck in our hands with our faces and hands glued to them replace them with a novel, play, poetry, or kindle. Ask friends for suggestions and get caught reading something other than your Facebook news feed, as may find unlike when at school you may enjoy doing it.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown

Language

On this the day of International Literacy, I think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages; he states that half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Pause for a minute and think what that means. To be the last person that spoke, read and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge on. Amazing that every two weeks on average this happens to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Chamicuro, Liki or Kaixana. Perhaps now we can understand what it may be like not to speak our native language. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

So as we go about today, reading and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown