Posted at 11:13 AM ET, 05/17/2011

Busuu language, with only 8 speakers left, seeking a comeback in song


Six of the last eight speakers of Busuu in Cameroon. (Busuu.com)
According to the UNESCO endangered language atlas, 2,473 languages around the world are in danger of being lost to the world’s memory.

Some, like the Ayapaneco language, only have two speakers left in the world. The challenge of recording and documenting those languages, let alone encouraging others to take up the tongue is in­cred­ibly difficult. (In the case of Ayapaneco, those challenges are only compounded by the fact that the two speakers refuse to talk to one another.)

One group of eight people, the last speakers of the Busuu tongue, spoken in Cameroon, are fighting to keep their words relevant in the viral video age. With the help of a savvy Spanish ad agency, the last speakers of Busuu have recorded a song and music video in the ancient language to encourage other people to pick it up.

The joyful tribute may not get everyone to sign up for Busuu classes, but the Web site does offer people a chance to record their own songs in Busuu.

The death of a language is the death of a culture and one more lost link to ancient knowledge. As National Geographic wrote last year:

Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying various languages also increases our understanding of how humans communicate and store knowledge. Every time a language dies, we lose part of the picture of what our brains can do.

The video is also an advertisement for the European language school Busuu.com. It’s not the first time the school has attempted to “rescue” a language on the brink of extinction. Two years ago, they recorded a short documentary on Silbo Gomero, the whistled language of Spain.

(Via Creative Roots)

By  |  11:13 AM ET, 05/17/2011

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