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Rejuvenation - a Language Shift

Essay by   •  June 15, 2011  •  Essay  •  724 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,424 Views

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A language shift has gradually spread throughout the decades in America which has affected the Native American culture greatly. The situation has come to a point where the "linguistic monster", English, has devoured languages to the point of nonexistence. Although the language shift in America is strong, many Native American communities have been fighting and coming up with ways to combat the annihilation of their indigenous language.

The language shift and, in some cases, eradication of some Native American languages were mainly due to the integration of children to the American school system. From the beginning, Native Americans were forced into American culture and English was the only language that mattered. The children were not even taught correctly and memorized more than learned the reasoning and basis behind what they were being taught. Students would be punished in boarding schools if they used their native language or brought facets of their culture to the school. In doing so, English was perceived as the dominant language and slowly the use for indigenous languages dwindled. Public schools contributed to the progression of language shift. In one instance, a child named Galena Dick experienced a clash of cultures. Her assignment was to write her experience of baking her first cake. The Navajo's traditions are far different from American's and her first experience baking a cake was not the same. She became embarrassed of this fact as she thought she would do poorly on the assignment if she wrote about the Navajo's tradition. The anglo-world also created negative connotations associated with Native Americans and their culture. Children at a young and impressionable age, as a result, turn away from their own culture, advancing the language shift.

Native American speakers have seen the decline of their language and many see the importance in reviving and rejuvenating the language. The Navajo community is one of the few groups that are fighting to keep their language alive. The Rough Rock community school in Arizona is devoted to creating opportunities for children to learn their native Navajo language and culture. They introduce the children to the language at a young age and teach them both Navajo and English curriculum, emphasizing the importance of bilingualism and biculturalism. Outside the school, within the community, they also have various traditional activities for both the young and the old in order to instill cultural values. Rough Rock, like many similar schools it has paved the way for, face many obstacles in maintaining their native language. The language shift has advanced so much that it has gotten to the point where there are not that many speakers of the native languages. This creates a very limited selection of qualified teachers. In addition, these schools rely solely on government funding which limits their resources. As expected, there is not much material

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