Thursday, April 29, 2010

City of Endangered Languages

I just read a fascinating article about dying languages in New York City. I'm posting it, not only because of the dire importance of cultural preservation, but as a pause to honor life in the most ethnically diverse place in the world. If you have an extra minute, read the Times article here.

It is so easy to fall into the grind of routine. I've been guilty of this- caught up in micro details of life to appreciate that I hear at least 5 languages when I step out of my apartment, without even leaving my neighborhood. I am too often so engrossed in my book on the subway that I don't notice the pot of cultural soup I'm in or the world's interconnectedness squished into a train car.

One of the remarkable things about language is that it is always changing. Old tongues die out, new ones are formed, words and phrases become archaic as soon as new colloquialisms pepper our speech. In many places, even the native language is under threat.

Thank goodness for New York. It may be a tough place to make it, have intense weather and little patience for the weak, but culture, culture it is always kind to. Language can flourish here, and even have a shot at getting off the endangered list.

Next time I rush to work with my headphones on, or feel like scowling at chatty commuters while I'm reading, I will instead put my book down, mute my ipod, and listen. And be grateful to live free in a place where every corner of the world meets.

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