Language II

Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  • develop more appreciation for other cultures and the international global community
  • Develops the critical thinking skills and appreciation for humane values

Opening: 15 minutes

To what extent language plays role in preservation of cultural identity?

All of us heard for Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French or Arabic language. But have we ever heard for Bororoan language? Or, for Kwomtari? For Nimboran? 

Bororoan is one of languages spoken in Brazil while Kwomtari is the language of Papua New Guinea. Nimboran is, among others, the language spoken in Indonesia. Beside Nimboran, it is possible to hear Kemtuik, Gresi, Mekwei, Mlap in Indonesia too. According to statistics, there are 7102 living languages in the world now. The above mentioned languages of Papua New Guinea and Brazil are languages of indigenous people. But at the same time, at this very moment, some languages are in danger of disappear. This phenomenon is known as language endangerment. For many reasons ( the process of globalization produces negative effects too), people who speak smaller languages stop to use it. The number of people who use smaller languages decreases in every next generation and there are two main reasons why some languages disappear. As it was mentioned already, the number of people who use smaller languages decrease from day to day.  Also, the number of people who are capable or willing to transmit, in the most of cases, that sort of indigenous knowledge, is smaller too, sometimes close to number of two or even just one person who speaks that language.  Language or, better to say, a heritage of language has to be recorded somewhere, in a written manner, or taught in schools, to be saved and preserved. According to Ethnologue, 473 languages are currently classified as endangered.

What follows or goes hand in hand with language endangerment are social and cultural disruptions (depression, suicide, drug use, criminal etc.)The BBC journalist, Tom Colls cites the words of Ethnologue editor, Paul Lewis, who speaks about the role of language in preservation of culture (typically indigenous) and who claims that  “if people begin to think of their language as useless, they see their identity as such as well.”

Certain countries, such as Australia, make strong efforts in preservation of languages and cultures of indigenous people. 

According to  Australian Curriculum, “Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages are fundamental to the identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and this is recognised throughout the Framework. It is also the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have access to education in and about their own languages, as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (resolution 61/295, adopted 13 September 2007, Education systems can play a vital role in facilitating access to language learning and supporting community language revival and maintenance.

Development: 60 minutes

Following activity:

Students read the following an excerpt from the text of J.W.Coady, “The most powerful weapon: the ongoing fight against the First Nations Education Act” and generate knowledge issues from the text.

Deidre Kahwinétha Diome  is an activist from the Mohawk nation of Kahnawà:ke, and the chairperson of the Kahnawake Combined Schools Committee too.

It would be easy if I could just say that there was a break between generations relating to language, but people have to understand that it’s far more complex than that,” she says. “If you take generations of children from their homes and families, destroy their language, culture and identity, and physically, emotionally and sexually abuse them, what possible outcome do you expect for their societies? When the European settlers arrived here in North America, all they could see was the wealth, power and prosperity that they could harness for themselves. If they could suppress our language and our cultural identity, then they could erase our people and the truth of our title to the land.” and she continues, “The importance of local control of education is never clearer than when language is involved. In indigenous cultures, the two are often one and the same: language is a repository for the culture and is imbued with the nation’s history, lessons and knowledge of the natural world. Unfortunately, the First Nation Education Act would place limits on the use of language as part of curriculum. … Our understanding of the bill is that there is mandatory French or English instruction. There is room for First Nations language instruction but the extent of the instruction would be subject to ministerial approval. So, at best it might be taught as a second language. And frankly, if you want to revive languages that are on the verge of extinction, you need full immersion programs. And the only way to ensure that they will survive is to make sure that they can be taught in a manner that will reinvigorate their vitality.


Language as a weapon

Key thinkers on language:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.

‒Rita Mae Brown

Language can hurt sometimes.  Sometimes, some people tend to use harsh, rude or inappropriate words when want to hurt others. Such words may or may not provoke  violence. Even for thinkers is sometimes difficult to distinguish where is the line that divides free speech of hate speech. Freedom of expression is one of essential human rights, and , yes, I have a freedom, so as you have a freedom to think, to talk freely, to make a change in the world with my or your pen or a keyboard. But when I or you use that same pen or a keyboard with a goal to hurt or despise someone else, when I or you hit a language arrow to someone`s heart and mind, both of use become perpetrators of hate speech.

  • hate speech (racist, sexist and homophobic language)

Students read an article from Luis Dore, published in  “Independent”, “Iran has decided to ban the word ‘wine’ in books – there’s just one slight problem” and then a discussion on read follows.

Katherine Bruce – Lockhart writes that “Rwanda and Kenya, both countries that have experienced considerable violence in the past two decades, are useful case studies to discern when and how hate speech becomes dangerous speech.  The inflammatory role of the radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (Radio RTLM) in the Rwandan genocide has been widely documented, and offers a definitive example of dangerous speech. “The radio encouraged people to participate because it said ‘the enemy is the Tutsi,’” remarked one genocide survivor.

According to The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 protects freedom of expression. The following Article 20 clearly states that any speech, when coloured with racial or religious hatred that leads to discrimination, hostility or violence has to be prohibited by law.

The other type of discriminatory language is sexist language, commonly known as sexism(s) in language.  Sexist language is any kind of language that discriminates any of sexes, although in more cases, the female gender.

It is possible to notice that the fight for empowering women human rights is alive in a field of language too. In many countries, sexism becomes a political issue.  When compering, for instance, some new words in English language with its older form, we can conclude that the new words which have been constructed recently, aim to support fair and true attitudes to a particular sex.


  • humanity or human race instead of man or mankind
  • flight attendant instead of stewardess, firefighter instead of fireman, homemaker instead of housewife
  • instead of his or her use their

Language slowly has become the weapon for empowering women human rights, as seen from above mentioned examples. But it wasn`t always like that. History of humanity witnessed  to numerous number of examples when language was used with a particular goal, to destroy or diminish existing values, to sign certain groups of people as “enemies, threat, undesirable” and similar.

In following activity students watch two videos:

Closure: 15 minutes

  • Evaluation of a class
  • Homework assignment
  • Discussion about impressions on material seen so as about knowledge issues extracted from material seen



Australian Curriculum, Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages

Bruce – Lockhart, Catherine, When does hate speech become dangerous speech? Consider Kenya and Rwanda

How to avoid sexist language

 Dore, Luis, Iran had decided to ban the word wine in books – there`s just one problem, Independent–Z1iKhwRjhg

 Colls, Tom,  The death of language?, BBC TODAY

Languages of the world

J.W. Coady, The most powerful weapon: the ongoing fight against the First Nations Education Act, The Media Co – op

Inspirational quotes for language learners

Sexism in language


Feast your eyes on this beautiicle/59665/feast-ful linguistic family tree

Downey, Greg, Language extinction ain`t no big thing?


KNES 303, Homophobic language is unacceptable

Fry, Stephen, The power of words in Nazi Germany, You Tube

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