Community Events Treasure Languages

International Mother Language Day – Treasure Language Storytelling

This past Sunday, February 22, we spent the afternoon/evening attending our 2nd Treasure Language Storytelling event at the Awaken Cafe in Oakland, CA. We enjoyed the amazing opportunity of listening to immigrant and indigenous languages still spoken in Oakland today. We have to admit we were also pleasantly surprised to find that the promotion poster/postcard for Sunday’s event featured a photo of us seated in the audience at the December Treasure Language Storytelling event.

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Treasure Language speakers shared songs and stories in Hawaiian, Shona (Language spoken in Zimbabwe), Twi (Language of Ghana also known as Asante, Ashanti, and Akan), Iu Mien (Language of the Yao people of China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand), Tigrinya, (A language of Eritrea and Ethiopia), and Dafing (Language of Burkina Faso, also known as Marka).

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After sharing their individual stories, the Treasure Language speakers were all invited back on stage to participate in the Language Champion Panel, where they spoke from the heart about their languages and the work they are doing to maintain their language.

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We had a chance to get to know the Treasure Language speakers a little better during the break between sessions and enjoyed a few conversations where we talked about curriculum development and our new Vietnam War lesson –  On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Memories, inspired by the first Treasure Language event we attended.

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We stayed for the Conversation Cafe portion of the event where we joined a discussion group with storytellers and fellow language champions to participate in culture-building games and listen to the Treasure Language speakers talk about the cost and benefits of teaching their language to their children. We also shared ideas about what we could do involving treasure languages.

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As mentioned above, this was our second time joining language researchers Robyn Perry (University of California, Berkeley) and Steven Bird (University of Melbourne, Australia) learning more about the incredible work they are doing through the Aikuma Project – a project that aims to protect and strengthen the world’s existing cultural and linguistic heritage. We are so grateful that Robin and Steven have organized these Treasure Language events and given us a solid model to follow for a future event in our very own Elk Grove/Sacramento communities.

Please continue to help spread the word about the Aikuna Project. If you, or someone you know, speak a “treasure language” (endangered language) and would be willing to be interviewed, please contact Robyn Perry at robyn@ischool.berkeley.edu or 831-332-4208.

Gail and Kathleen

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