Over half of the world’s languages are endangered. The Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages is working with Native Americans to revitalize their languages before they are gone forever. During a two-week program, participants will connect with libraries, archives and museums to support language learning and teaching. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will host Breath of Life workshops June 9–21, enabling activists from North American indigenous endangered-language communities to partner with linguists to navigate archives, locate and acquire documents, interpret writing systems and transform archival materials into practical lessons for language learning.
“Washington is an ideal place for the Breath of Life because we have access to the collections of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress,” said Ruth Rouvier, Recovering Voices program manager.
The Breath of Life Institute is based on the model developed for California languages in the early 1990s by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley. The 2013 Institute, like the one held in Washington, D.C., in 2011, will replicate the Berkeley model.
“Because the Breath of Life will be held by a public institution and because we want to foster future conversation, we hope to engage a wider audience through online media,” said Lisa Conathan, co-director of the 2013 Institute.
The conference will document much of the process and make it available through online channels. One of the main difficulties in language revitalization is building a community of speakers. By documenting the event, the Breath of Life organizers hope to create a resource for future generations interested in language revitalization.
I was accepted into the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages and assigned to the Eastern Alongquian Team.
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