This blog has been a long time coming. For years i’ve jotted down notes in the back of books or on restaurant napkins, documenting linguistic points of interest as they arise. In all these years, though, I have never taken the time to compile all these thoughts and observations and give them the consideration they deserve. And until this past week’s Polyglot Conference in New York, I thought I would be hard pressed to find an audience for any of this stuff anyway.
The Polyglot Conference 2015 was a veritable orgy of unabashed linguistic fervor. To see grown adults jump with joy over language books nearly brought a tear (of happiness) to my eye. The dedication and talent of the attendees coupled with the variety of lectures made it a truly memorable event.
One lecture that particularly resonated with me was that of Dr. Richard Benton. He spoke of the importance of learning the languages of marginalized and underserved communities. As a resident of Minnesota he sees learning and speaking Somali as a subversive act of social responsibility. The Somali community in Minnesota is often overlooked and faces widespread discrimination. Dr. Benton seeks to break down barriers and offer respect and dignity to this community by learning their language and putting himself in the compromised position of a learner when interacting with them. This shifts the power dynamic and gives recognition to the community and its language.
This idea of offering dignity to a language by recognizing its value in the world, its value as a part of our linguistic ecosystem, has inspired me to begin sharing my thoughts and experiences. Some of my entries will be reaching back to trips I took 15 years ago and languages I have not heard since. I hope, however, that what information I am able to share will be of some use or interest to someone, as there is still to this day a surprising dearth of knowledge available online regarding lesser known languages.
I would also like to use this blog as a platform to share my current experiences with languages here in New York City. This city allows for some far-reaching cultural encounters and the number of languages one hears on the street every day is incredible. The world’s diversity of languages deserves greater visibility, and it is to this end that I begin this project.