Endangered Languages Summit in Okinawa to discuss 8 UNESCO-listed languages

Endangered Languages Summit in Okinawa to discuss 8 UNESCO-listed languages

During the Endangered Language Summit in Okinawa held on September 18 at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum in Naha City, panelists read the same story in different endangered languages.


September 18, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On September 18 at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum, an “Endangered Languages and Dialects Summit” was held. People concerned about the dying out of eight languages listed as endangered by UNESCO discussed how the languages could be passed down to younger generations.

The eight endangered languages are from northern Japan, where the Ainu live, and the Okinawan islands, including Yaeyama, Yonaguni, Amami, Kunigami, Okinawa Main Island, and Miyako.

Professor Masahide Ishihara at the University of the Ryukyus explained the challenges in a recent survey.

“Many people in Okinawa hope to preserve and pass down the languages through school education; however, teaching materials are limited. Teachers cannot speak Shimakutuba (island language) either,” he stated.

Kitahara Mokotunashi from the Hokkaido University explained that their challenge in disseminating the Ainu language is a lack of community space where people can come together to practice and access materials.

The program included a lecture by Shimakutuba entertainer Hayato Fujiki and an audio demonstration comparing endangered languages.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana) 

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