KRIOL-INGGLISH DIKSHENRI – Kriol-English Dictionary

Screenshot 2014-08-17 22.06.14


Click the picture to head over to a Kriol-English Dictionary by Jason Lee.

Adapted from:

SIL-AAIB. 1996. Kriol Dictionary: With Kriol to English and English to Kriol: First Draft, February, 1986: Reprinted: May, 1996. Darwin: SIL-AAIB.
SIL-AAIB. 1986. Kriol Dictionary: With Kriol to English and English to Kriol: First Draft, February, 1986. Darwin: SIL-AAIB.

Sandefur, J.R. & J.L. Sandefur. 1979. Beginnings of a Ngukurr-Bamyili Creole Dictionary. Work Papers of SIL-AAB, Series A, Volume 4. Darwin: SIL-AAB.


Aboriginal English – Kriol – Traditional Language

Happy NAIDOC Week!

I am an Aboriginal Australian studying Linguistics at the University of Oxford. Rather than write my thesis (ugh), I signed up for Deadly Bloggers’ Carnival and thought I’d use my turn to share some Aboriginal English and Kriol from Western Australia.

Both of these videos are from youtube and are infomercials showing how to be a good tenants for the Department of Housing. It is really cool to compare the speech of both videos.


This first video is listed on youtube as Kriol. I tend to think it is a lighter version of Kriol and leans towards to the Aboriginal English end of the continua. Having said this, we don’t know exactly where it is from, but I have a feeling it might be Broome Kriol.


This second video is listed as English, however you can here some Aboriginal English words sneaking into the speech. Taking into account the rhythm, speed and intonation of speech in addition to the AE words, I would say that this is a very light Aboriginal English. (I’ve just discovered that I can’t embed the vid – but watch it in youtube by clicking on the link)


Of course, Aboriginal English can change from mob to mob, area to area and from something closer to English or more towards Kriol. Aboriginal English speakers are not one homogenous group, so what is shown here will not apply to all speakers. But, it is still pretty cool to have some examples to look at.


As an added awesome bonus – here is the same youtube clip (with different actors) speaking in Walmajarri


Aboriginal ways of using English

Taken from> Interview with author Diana Eades


Photo on 13-07-2014 at 3.36 pm

Me with Diana’s new book.


Transcript: April 2013

What exactly do applied linguists do, and how might your work be relevant to a non-academic audience? In Australia, are there many people working in the part of applied linguistics you work in?

Applied linguists take findings from linguistic research, and apply them to real world questions, issues, problems or debates. Most applied linguistics has focused on educational issues, particularly those related to language learning. I have specialised in the applications of linguistics (particularly sociolinguistics) to the legal process. This is a much smaller and newer area of applied linguistics world-wide and in Australia. But Australia is making some important contributions in this area, with the work of about a dozen of us being internationally recognised.

What is sociolinguistics?

Linguistics is the study of language and languages, while sociolinguistics is the study of language used in social contexts. While linguistics mostly analyses the structure of language, sociolinguistics analyses language function and use.

book cover

We’re used to hearing about forensic policing, forensic medicine etc., through popular media like TV shows, but you talk about forensic linguistics. What is ‘forensic linguistics’?

Forensic linguistics is used broadly to refer to the study of language in the legal process, and more narrowly to refer to using linguistics in expert evidence in court. Personally I don’t like the term much, although I’ve been very involved with the International Association of Forensic Linguists, since a small group of us established it some twenty years ago. We changed the name of the journal ten years ago from Forensic Linguistics to International Journal of Speech Language and the Law (and I’ve been a co-editor since 2006).

Can we expect to see any TV shows on forensic linguistics?

Part of me hopes that we don’t! This is because I fear that trying to translate linguistic studies of language in the legal process into a popular TV show might distort and overestimate what linguists can do. That’s why I don’t like the term ‘forensic linguistics’ much. It can make people think of fingerprints and DNA evidence, but linguistic evidence is often much less black-and-white. There is no linguistic magic formula, or black box that can solve crimes, for example. So, the complexities of linguistic evidence in individual cases can be hard to get across. However, there was a forensic linguist character in the popular 1994 ABC TV drama Heartland. His role in providing linguistic evidence in a verballing case was based on my work in the Condren case (see chapters 7 and 8 in the new book); I had provided details to the scriptwriters of the series.

This book is a collection of papers that cover decades of research. In going back through the materials, what were some of the things that struck you about what’s changed in our understandings over that period?

In preparing this book last year, I was struck both by how much has changed and how much hasn’t. Australian communities, societies, and cultures have changed in thirty years, and there is much more mobility and mixing. But there is still a lot of continuity in Aboriginal ways of living, interacting and communicating.

When I was first researching Aboriginal ways of using English more than thirty years ago, many non-Aboriginal people thought that Aboriginal people in places like Southeast Queensland were ‘just the same as Whites’. In working against the assimilationist climate of that time (early 1980s), it was inevitable that researchers like me sometimes overlooked the diversity of Aboriginal communities and cultures. I think we have developed a better understanding now that there are many different ways of being Aboriginal.

So, this understanding resulted in me talking for the past twenty years or so about bicultural Aboriginal people — explaining that some people can switch between Aboriginal ways of living, thinking and talking, and mainstream Anglo ways (it’s a bit like being bilingual). There are now increased opportunities for many Aboriginal people to become bicultural, but it’s still something that needs to be explained to many lawyers, judges and magistrates. And I find myself still explaining why we need to understand Aboriginal ways of using English — and why it matters in the twenty-first century.

Thirty years ago most Aboriginal people couldn’t believe that there was anything interesting or important about the way they were speaking English — they’d had decades of being told they were speaking “bad English”. You still see some after effects from this negativity. But it’s great to see now that a growing number of Aboriginal people are proud of their ways of talking, and that it is increasingly recognised as being a part of identity.

Another change is about how linguists understand the nature of languages. We used to think of a language as a discrete entity that was clearly separated from other languages. But increasingly we’ve been realising how much overlap there is between related language varieties (we like to use the term “language varieties” to refer to both languages and dialects). So labelling someone as speaking language variety X or language variety Y is not a simple matter (in fact it really is an abstraction).

You talk about Aboriginal people using English in a particular way, but you don’t use the term ‘Aboriginal English’ very often; the title of your book is Aboriginal ways of using English. Why is that?

This is a good question, which I discuss in the book’s introduction. What linguists can observe and study is people speaking, so that’s the best place to start. And we know that many Aboriginal people use English in Aboriginal ways, with influence from Aboriginal languages and cultures. Decades ago people referred disparagingly to Aboriginal ways of speaking English as ‘bad English’ (or worse). Beginning in the 1960s, linguists started using the name

‘Aboriginal English’ for the dialectal varieties of English spoken by Aboriginal people. That name has been important in the recognition of Aboriginal ways of speaking English, and it’s a term I still use. But there is so much variation in different varieties of Aboriginal English, that I like to use the expression “Aboriginal ways of using English”, where possible. I like this expression so much, I decided to use it as the title for the book.

Which aspects of the book (or which chapters) do you think people understand the least and/or from which they might learn the most?

I guess this depends on the backgrounds of different readers. High school students might want to start with the short chapters: 5, 6 and 9. While they are based on linguistic research, these three chapters don’t give detailed explanations or references to other research. But having read them, I hope students have questions and want to know more, and then go to chapters 1–4. Like chapter 6, chapters 7 and 8 are largely based around stories of criminal cases in which Aboriginal use of English has been an important factor. But these two chapters were originally written for other scholars and uni students, so some high school students might find them a bit hard to follow.

I hope that university students and scholars start at the beginning of the book, reading the descriptions of Aboriginal ways of using English, and then moving on to read about legal applications. I also hope that legal practioners and judicial officers will read all of the chapters in Part II (‘Focusing on the criminal justice process’), and be so engaged that they are drawn to read the chapters in Part I (‘Describing Aboriginal use of English’).

The last two chapters are the most challenging. They come out of my most recent research, which builds on the earlier work. In this current work I’m trying to dig deeper into the way language is used in the legal process, particularly the criminal justice process. Intercultural communication in the legal process — as anywhere else — is a two-way process. Chapters 10 and 11 look at assumptions made in the law about how language and communication work, particularly how these assumptions can contribute to continuing inequality for Aboriginal people using English in the legal process.

Some people in Aboriginal communities get sick of researchers traipsing through, and may not see the relevance of that work to their lives. Over time, how have you chosen the communities you worked with and how did you negotiate the relationships?

I’m sure that lots of Aboriginal people are sick of being researched. And I wonder how I would feel if a researcher wanted to ‘hang out’ with my family and observe and record how we communicate?

I was priviledged to do my most intensive community work as part of Michael Williams’ oral history work with his extended family in Southeast Queensland in the early 1980s. Michael introduced me to his mob, and organised many of the field trips, and it was through developing relationships with members of his family that I had wonderful opportunities to learn so much about how people use English in their everyday interactions.

But in the last twenty-five years most of my research has focused more on intercultural communication, especially in the legal process. While concentrating my energy on this specific and very important area, I have not had to intrude into people’s families and homes. The main way I’ve been doing this research is by researching language use in public courtroom hearings, and by responding to requests in individual cases. At the same time, once a sociolinguist starts listening to the ways people use English, you never stop. The evidence is all around you. So I have plenty of opportunities through this work in legal contexts, as well as through everyday interactions with a wide range of people, to continually observe and reflect on different ways of using English.

We now know some important things about ways that many Aboriginal people use English differently from mainstream Anglo ways (and people can read about this in the first half of the book). One of my current priorities is to communicate about this with lawyers, magistrates and judges, and police officers. My other priority is to unravel some of the complicated ways that English is used by legal and judicial officers, especially in court, so that we can see what changes need to be made in order for Aboriginal people to have equality in the legal process (people can read about this in the second half of the book).

It’s usual to think that the dominant language in a country influences other languages, but there seem to be borrowings from Aboriginal ways of using English into standard Australian English. Can you give us any examples of this and how is it happening?

Yes, all languages leak. Deadly is a great example. Many young non-Aboriginal Australians now use this to mean “fantastic”, a meaning it’s had in Aboriginal English for decades. I guess having the Deadly Awards televised nationally every year has added to the acceptance and spread of this word.


I LOVE THIS BOOK – Hopefully I will get to meet Diana Eades one day 🙂

The Concept of Shame

The concept of shame used by Aboriginal English speakers is broader than the non-Indigenous use of the word. The meaning of shame extends to include embarrassment in certain situations (Leitner & Malcolm 2007:169) and is often due to attention or circumstances rather than as the result of an action by oneself (Vallance & Tchacos 2001). The feeling of shame can totally overwhelm and disempower a person.

Vallance, R. & Tchacos, E. ( 2001), Research: A Cultural Bridge. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, Freemantle, 2-6 December 2001.
Leitner, G. & Malcolm, I. G. (2007). The habitat of Australia’s aboriginal languages: past, present and future, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.

Taken from Indigenous Voices: Teaching Us Better

What Is Aboriginal English?

Copied full text from here   Studies and explorations into this question define Aboriginal English in different ways and they offer us a variety of understandings about what Aboriginal English is. Here are some examples.

Aboriginal English is a dialectal form of English that reflects [Aboriginal] language and culture… The form and structure of this language exhibit some speech patterns of standard English as well as speech characteristics and words originating from Aboriginal languages. Aboriginal English is a very effective medium of communication which has evolved to meet the particular needs and circumstances of its speakers. Aboriginal English also varies across the state due to the people, their culture and community.

Williams, M. (1988). ‘Aboriginal English’. In M. Williams (Ed.), The Nunga Code (p.10). Adelaide, SA: Education Department of South Australia. Mark Williams is Superintendent of Multicultural Affairs in the Department of Education of South Australia.

  Aboriginal English is the first language, or home language, of many Aboriginal children… throughout the whole of Australia. In subtle ways this language, a distinctively Aboriginal kind of English, is a powerful vehicle for the expression of Aboriginal identity… In linguistic terms, the differences between Aboriginal English and other kinds of English are dialectal differences. Aboriginal English is, strictly speaking, a dialect of English… Aboriginal English is not a Language Other than English (LOOT)… Although ERE is a distinctive linguistic marker of Aboriginal identity, and in this sense can be called an ‘Aboriginal language’, children who speak Aboriginal English as their first language are definitely speaking a dialect of English and have a good understanding and use of this dialect.

Eades, D. (1995). Aboriginal English. Aboriginal Literacy Resource Kit. North Sydney, NSW: NSW Board of Studies, p.1. Diana Eades is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New England, NSW, specialising in cross-cultural communication and forensic linguistics. She has worked with speakers of Aboriginal English, primarily in Queensland and New South Wales, since 1973.

  Aboriginal English is a non-standard variety of Australian English. It is as rule-governed and linguistically complex as any other non-standard form… Aboriginal English has only recently been recognised as a different lingo or dialect (in Aboriginal English: ‘our own language’).

Hansen, W. (1998) ‘Same language, different lingo’. EQ Australia, p. 2. Wendy Hansen is an independent consultant with special interests in literacy, dialectology and Aboriginal languages, culture (traditional and contemporary) and education. She works with the NSW Department of School Education.

  Aboriginal English is one of the many recognised dialects of English. It stands with others as a legitimate communication system for its speakers. Aboriginal English is not an imperfect attempt to learn standard English. It is a complex and coherent language system which is the result of clever use of the resources of English to express Aboriginal conceptual distinctions.

Ides in Hawkins, 1994, p. 176

  [Aboriginal English] has its own distinctive grammatical and semantic systems, by which it enables its speakers to express anything that can be expressed in standard English, though in some cases by different means. Its speakers also use it to express ideas that are not often expressed in standard English. Thus it must be seen as different, not deficient.

Hawkins, 1994, p.179

  Aboriginal English works in several codes. In its most distinctive form it includes Aboriginal words, and has a ‘distinctive voice quality, rhythm and stress’

Sharpe, 1990, p.234.

  This code is usually only used by Aboriginal people when speaking with each other. In their communication with non-Aborigines, Aboriginal speakers tend to use an inter-language, an English which has on the surface much in common with standard English… On the surface level the English which Aboriginal students use in the classroom may appear very similar to that spoken by rural or working class Australians. However… these students may be operating in a language which has major differences from mainstream English. These differences involve what goes on at the second level. At this level, speakers of Aboriginal English observe conventions and rules which are different to those of standard English. Questions are used differently… It is rare to make direct requests… Language is highly contextualised… Body language is common…

Groome, H. (1995). Working purposefully with Aboriginal students. York, UK: Social Science Press, pp. 100-101. Howard Groome lectures in Aboriginal Education in the Faculty of Aboriginal and Islander Studies at the University of South Australia. In his career as an educator he has worked with Aboriginal students, their parents and teachers.

  Kriol and Aboriginal English have different grammatical rules from English… in terms of tenses, plurals, prepositions, pronouns, possessions and questions… [Kriol] is recognised by linguists as a language in its own right, defined as a creole like hundreds of others in the world because it is complex with a wide vocabulary and established rules and because people speak it as their first language…Kriol speakers as well as people who speak a traditional language as their first language need to learn English as a second language (ESL). Aboriginal English is closer to Standard Australian English and linguistically is described as a range of dialects of English which are mutually intelligible with English, are governed by rules, and are systematic… Students who speak Aboriginal English need to learn English as a second dialect (ESD).

Wiltshire, C. (???). ‘Kriol defined: Do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students learn English as a second language? GP , 13. Cheryl Wiltshire is Manager of the Derby/West Kimberley Skillshare Project and she has had more than eight years involvement in Aboriginal education in Northern Australia.

  Aboriginal English is the name given to dialects of English which are spoken by Aboriginal people and which differ from standard Australian English in systematic ways… The social and linguistic development of early pidgin gave birth to Aboriginal dialects of English all over the country, as well as to two creole languages in some northern areas… A creole language is a type of language which develops when a pidgin language extends its structures and functions to become the language of speakers, not just a language of contact between two people who do not share the same first language. To distinguish the Aboriginal creole from other creoles…, it has been given the distinctive name ‘Kriol’. … To people not trained in linguistic and socio-linguistic analysis, it might appear that Aboriginal English is simply an uneducated variety of English. However, this would be an erroneous assumption, for while there are a number of features (particularly grammatical features) which AE shares with other non-standard varieties of English, there are others which are distinctively Aboriginal… There is a continuum of AE dialects, ranging from close to SE at one extreme, to close to Kriol at the other. Increasingly the terms ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ are being used to refer to these extremes. Heavy AE is spoken mainly in the more remote areas where it is influenced by Kriol., while light varieties of AE are spoken mainly in metropolitan, urban and rural areas. … AE is really a continuum of dialects. Certain features are distributed very widely through all dialects, while other features are localised within certain regions, or somewhere along the continuum from heavy to light varieties… Interested readers are referred to Malcolm and Kaldor (1991*) for information about the distribution of AE features.

*Malcom, I. and Kaldor, S. (1991). Aboriginal English: An overview. In S. Romaine (Ed.), Language in Australia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. This extract is taken from from Eades, D. (1993). ‘Aboriginal English’, Pen 93. Newtown, NSW: Primary Teaching Association, pp. 2-4. Diana Eades is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New England, NSW, specialising in cross-cultural communication and forensic linguistics. She has worked with speakers of Aboriginal English, primarily in Queensland and New South Wales, since 1973.

  Aboriginal English exhibits systematic differences from standard Australian English in sounds, vocabulary, extended texts and meanings. Us mob, unna? [aren’t we?] Sitting and yarning. Sharing is important to us Aboriginal people. All varieties of Aboriginal English share many features with standard Australian English but also include features and social language behaviour that come from Aboriginal languages…[Aboriginal English] is like any other language bound by its own system of rules.

Education Department of South Australia. (1997). Aboriginal Perspectives Across the Curriculum. Adelaide, SA

  [Aboriginal English] is remarkably consistent across the continent… It is the first form of English that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children learn to speak, and it remains for them the preferred form for use when they are in the company of members of their own community… It is a dialect of English which has not been standardised, and which therefore tolerates a good deal of variation. At the same time, it is rule-governed and non-random in its variation. Aboriginal English is part of Australia’s linguistic heritage. Despite the fact that it is commonly disparaged by non-Aboriginal Australians, and even by some of its own speakers who have accepted the common estimation of it as “rubbish English”, it is a highly complex linguistic phenomenon many of the intricacies of which are still awaiting research-based explanation. .. It is a fully developed English, not a pidgin, yet its distinctive features tend to reflect a past history of pidginisation and creolisation. …Aboriginal English must be maintained. It is a culture-carrier and a vehicle of thought for which Standard Australian English cannot be substituted… It needs to be given equal status with any other dialect of English as a vehicle of learning and expression.

Malcolm, I. (1994). ‘Issues in the maintenance of Aboriginal languages and Aboriginal English’. Keynote address to the 10th National Conference of the Modern Language Teachers’ Association. Perth, WA: Edith Cowan University, pp. 13-14. Ian Malcolm is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Edith Cowan University. He leads an Aboriginal English research team, comprising Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers, which has investigated many aspects of the grammar, semantics and pragmatics of Aboriginal English and has extended knowledge of the ways in which Aboriginal English and Australian English draw on different conceptualizations. His work has been applied in the development of two-way bidialectal approaches to Aboriginal education.]

  …Sometimes it isn’t merely a matter of a one-on-one correspondence between the Aboriginal English and the Standard English word or concept – the Aboriginal English word may incorporate a range of different English meanings… Aboriginal English is NOT simply uneducated English but constitutes a genuine dialect of English which needs to be respected and affirmed.

Nicholas, C. (1994). ‘Watch your language, eh?’. Paper presented to the Teacher Education Staff of Edith Cowan University while a Visiting Fellow in Aboriginal Education. Dr Christine Nicholls is an educator, writer, curator and Senior Lecturer in Australian Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. From 1982-1992 she worked at Lajamanu, a remote Aboriginal settlement in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory of Australia, first as a linguist and then as the Principal of the local Warlpiri Lajamanu School, which caters for all levels from Preschool through to Adult Education. Christine Nicholls has published more than 100 articles about Indigenous Australian education, art and languages, and has recently published a biography of Eastern Anmatyerr artist Kathleen Petyarre, in a book entitled Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place, co-authored by Professor Ian North.

  Aboriginal English is the home language used by many of the children, parents and caregivers of the local Aboriginal community. Each community has its own dialect, which may duffer from other communities due to the richness of their first language and environment. Since Aboriginal English varies from community to community, opinions as to what Aboriginal English should be called also vary.

NSW Board of Studies (1995). The way we speak.. Aboriginal Literacy Resource Kit. North Sydney, NSW: NSW Board of Studies, p.1.

  Aboriginal English is a dialect of English which is widely spoken by Indigenous Australians, and which differs from Australian English in pronunciation, vocabulary, idiom and in the ways in which it is used. To most Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal English provides a link geographically with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the continent, as well as a link historically with Indigenous people of former generations. Unlike Indigenous languages, Aboriginal English is strongly present among urban and metropolitan Indigenous people as well as among those living in more remote areas. Until recently, it has been common for people to refer to Aboriginal English in a derogatory way, whether as a “broken” or “distorted” form of the kind of English people regard as standard, or as a pidgin which does not have the status of a full language. Since the 1960s a series of linguistic studies in all states of Australia have confirmed that Aboriginal English (with certain local variations) is a consistent dialect spoken across the nation. It is different from Australian English, but it is an equally rich linguistic variety.

Malcolm I. (10. October 2000). Report to the Inquiry into the Needs of Urban Dwelling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Ian Malcolm is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Edith Cowan University. He leads an Aboriginal English research team, comprising Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers, which has investigated many aspects of the grammar, semantics and pragmatics of Aboriginal English and has extended knowledge of the ways in which Aboriginal English and Australian English draw on different conceptualizations. His work has been applied in the development of two-way bidialectal approaches to Aboriginal education.

Endangered Languages: To learn or not to learn.

An interesting article by Languages Around The Globe (click to jump to their blog)

Would you ever decide to study a language that was spoken by only 50,000 people? What about 5,000 people? 500 people? 5?Many of us make decisions about which language(s) to study based on a perception of their global worth. That is to say that we’re usually most interested in languages that can confer upon us some direct, personal benefit.

This usually comes in the form of enhanced employment, travel, the ability to communicate with a new romantic partner from abroad or their family. We might even choose a language simply to pursue its literature, movies or music.

But most of us would never take the time out of our lives to (painstakingly) acquire an endangered indigenous language that wasn’t directly relevant to our own heritage.

School of Life
(Photo credit: M R Hasan)

You know the sort – few hundred speakers, no writing system, only the elderly still remember it at all. Use of Internet, radio, film or other recordings is probably slim to none and without some serious concerted preservation efforts, the language won’t last another 20 years.

So, assuming you could even find the appropriate materials/tutors, would you bother to learn it knowing full well that your own acquisition of the language is unlikely to make a significant impact on its survival?

If you answer “no” to this question; don’t worry. You’re not a bad person. Most people wouldn’t.

While most linguists seem to be staunch supporters of indigenous/minority language preservation and documentation, there are still many who very strongly believe these efforts to be a waste of time and money.

Why bother preserving something nobody wants to speak?” is a question I often hear in relation to these languages. If the speakers are turning away from their tribal language in the pursuit of a more mainstream national or international language, is their life really any worse off?

While this question usually underscores a fundamental ignorance of what a dying language means to a native speaker, it isn’t a question entirely without merit.

Sometimes when a language’s fate is so bleak, such as is the case with many of the world’s moribund languages, it may start to seem ridiculous and even unwise to start directing government money into preservation efforts for indigenous languages.

In addition many in the language enthusiast community that write about endangered languages and their value or lack thereof fail to recognize the difference between preservation/revitalization and documentation efforts.

While there are many languages that are in fact responding well to revitalization programs sponsored by their governments or by local efforts such as talking dictionaries, radio programs or emphasis on native language use in schools, the vast majority of the languages in need may be too far gone for this sort of longer term aid.

The best these likely doomed languages can hope for at this point is documentation, and this truly is a race against the clock as linguists scramble to record, study and analyze these languages – most of which may have no written history to speak of and only a handful of surviving speakers.

Distribution of language families and isolates...
Language families and isolates
north of Mexico at first contact.

Those linguists working in documentation aren’t usually attempting to learn the languages themselves. Naturally they may pick up bits and pieces but their goal is not language acquisition, it’s the preservation of the knowledge of the speakers into electronic data banks. A sad ending for a distinct culture, but far better than oblivion.

So back to the question at hand: should you learn an endangered language?

As with all language learning recommendations I make I would advise learning what you love.

If you’re fascinated by Lakota (~6,000 speakers) and you can access the resources needed to learn the language; you should do it without concerning yourself over whether Lakota will help you find a better job or travel abroad.

If however you are concerned with more ‘typical’ language benefits, such as money, travel and meeting people, you probably wouldn’t choose an endangered language, and that’s okay.

Whether you are determined to be one of the select few individuals interested in personally learning a minority language or you have no interest in doing anything of the sort, it is most important to be aware of the issues facing the majority of the world’s languages and the ramifications of their extinction.

Would you learn an endangered language?

Would you assign certain speaker criteria of a language such as a minimum number of speakers? Are you currently studying or have you studied in the last a minority language that faces extinction? Are you a native speaker of a language in a situation like this? Leave a comment (link to their blog) and tell us your stories!


Another Map

I am not a fan of this one. I didn’t write down the original source :-/

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