To celebrate UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, the SOAS World Languages Institute recorded a series of podcasts discussing topics around Indigenous, endangered and minoritised languages.
Are you indigenous?
In the first podcast episode titled Are you indigenous? Former ELAR Archive Assistants Francesca Brown and Clare Green explore questions like ‘Are you indigenous?’, ‘What makes a person indigenous?’, and ‘What does being indigenous really mean?’.
SOAS graduate Adékúnmi Ọlátúnjí joined them in the studio for a big discussion on what it means to be ‘indigenous’, the differences between indigenous and endangered languages, and the alarming rate at which indigenous and endangered languages are disappearing. With flash interviews from linguists and SOASians, and a conversation with SOAS World Languages Institute director Mandana Seyfeddinipur, they disentangle the different meanings and contexts behind the heavily loaded term ‘indigenous’, and see what interesting and important information it can give us regarding the future of endangered languages.
What is Multilingualism?
Monolingual? Bilingual? Multilingual? Polyglot? Repertoires? Translanguaging? Registers? What does it all mean? Who defines it? Who is defined by it? Who does it represent? These are just some of the topics ELAR Archive Assistant Leonore Lukschy and SOAS graduate Frazer Roberts touched upon during their podcast episode. They explore what it means to speak more than one language, whether fluency is all that important, language ideologies and policies, how they affect us all, and a whole lot more in between.
Being at a multilingual place like SOAS Leonore and Frazer sent out a call for interviewees via the SOAS Student Union newsletter:
“We got so many responses, there was no way of interviewing everyone! For a hot second we debated launching a weekly show where people speak about their multilingual upbringing and their linguistic identity. In the end we spoke to 12 SOASians who had grown up with several languages, and interviewed Prof Friederike Lüpke who has published extensively on multilingualism.”
Listen to the episode and join Leonore and Frazer, as they take you on a whistle-stop tour around the world via interviews with speakers of a variety of languages in an attempt to answer the above questions.
Tongue Tied – do you speak your mother’s tongue?
Adékúnmi Ọlátúnjí invited a group of people who grew up with a home or family language different to a dominant societal one to speak about their experiences speaking – or not speaking – their mothers’ native language. Heritage speakers, as they’re often called (who sometimes do not actually speak the language at all) feel a connection to the associated ‘minority’ culture which at time leads to complex relationship with the language.
In the International Year of Indigenous Languages, this episode sought to ask what some people feel their indigenous language is. In the episode we hear about two languages (Yoruba and Spanish) and two generations to get their perspective on what it feels to be caught between two tongues.
For the Virtual Language Fest on International Mother Language Day 2020, Adékúnmi wrote a blog post about the experiences recording her episode.
Do you sign or do you speak?
In this episode, SOAS graduate Saskia Dunn examines an often overlooked side of languages. British Sign Language is the first language of many deaf and hard of hearing people, and their children across the UK, and yet misconceptions and myths about sign languages are pervasive and most Linguistics courses do not include modules on them. This episode explores some of those myths, looking at some areas of linguistic interest, in BSL and around the world. Diane Stoianov, a PhD student, and Bencie Woll, head of UCL’s DCAL (Deaf Cognition and Language Research Centre), share what they are working on, and what they most want people to know about the study of sign languages, including topics on conversation practice, the history of BSL, and how sign languages are structured. BSL is an official minority language in the UK, and in UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages it is important to remember that here in the UK there are 14 indigenous languages, and not all of them are spoken.