The following excerpt from an article in National Geographic News ("At Remote
Eskimo School, Yearning for the Lower 48," by Stefan Lovgren, February 24,
) may be of interest. (The full article was also seen on ILAT and reposted to
A future of subsistence hunting hardly appeals to the students at Paul T. Albert
Memorial. But getting out of the village - and finding a job - is an uphill
climb. In the last ten years the school has only graduated one male student.
Most students who try for college do not succeed.
Language is one of the main obstacles.
Students begin their studies in the Yupik language then switch to English in
third grade. Most young people in the village become fluent in neither Yupik
nor English, putting them at a big disadvantage when it comes to taking
"The kids speak a sort of 'village English,'" Kanrilak said. "They'll say things
like, 'We'll check you.' That means they will come to see you."
Kanrilak speaks to his eight children in both English and Yupik. Although his
children can understand Yup'ik, they respond in English. Kanrilak says his
generation was the last to be immersed in the Yupik language.
"We have been told that our language is inferior and we should speak English,"
he said. "Today we have to compete with television. A minority of people in the
village speak to their children in their native language."
Experts say that language loss is perhaps the strongest indicator that a culture
is eroding. According to Wade Davis, a National Geographic
explorer-in-residence and an expert on struggling cultures, there were 6,000
languages spoken around the world 50 years ago. Today, fewer than half of them
are being taught to schoolchildren.
"Unless something changes, [these cultures] are already dead," Davis said.
"Language is not just vocabulary and grammar. It's the flash of the human
spirit, a vehicle through which the soul of a culture comes to the material
world, and every language is like an old-growth forest of the mind."
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