Here are some ideas for teaching about linguistic diversity and endangered languages in classes of English.
We propose an outline for a complete lesson in a class of English at extended level, some ready exercises
and useful links to sources on the Internet.
In general, you may…
- make language endangerment the focus of activities (reading, writing, speaking, listening);
- include the topic when teaching about the role of English worldwide, or of different Englishes;
- include the topic when teaching about English-speaking countries;
- use exercises on the Interactive Map and Chapter 2-4 of the Book of Knowledge as background and impetus to expand vocabulary and grammatical structures and to teach pronunciation. The respective chapters include study questions which can carried out as classroom activities.
Lesson outline: The Channel islands and their languages
Download Teaching Materials (a .zip file including: General information, Worksheet, Teacher’s page, 2 audio clips)
Exercises to download
- Saving a language – reading task, with possible addition of listening (video clip on the Internet) and discussion. PDF (right click to save to disk, left click to view)
- Sleeping languages – reading and discussion activities. PDF
- When language endangerment is imagined – primarily a discussion activity with some reading. PDF
- Non-Indo-European features of Celtic languages – a set of exercises that allow students to discover the distinctive properties of the Celtic languages Irish and Welsh PDF
Links to on-line sources
We commonly classify Great Britain, the USA, or Australia as “English-speaking countries” and usually think of Canada as a country with two languages, English and French. However, many more languages are traditionally spoken in these states, and most of them are endangered. The following sites allow you and your students to explore this linguistic diversity. This is only a small selection – you may find many more interesting sites when searching the Internet.
- Northern Ireland (Irish and Scots): On this page you can find out more about languages and dialects spoken in Northern Ireland and the cultural identity of people living there: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/uk-languages/northern-ireland
- Scotland (Gaelic and Scots): In Scotland, in addition to Scottish English, which is the language of formal communication and administration, people also speak Scots, a language closely related to English and which is used or understood by the majority of the population and Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language traditionally associated with the Highlands and Islands. Scottish Gaelic is closely related to Irish. Follow this link to find out more about these languages: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/ScotLit/ASLS/SWE/ScotUnivLinks.html
- Wales: According to the latest figures, just under a fifth of the population of Wales speaks Welsh. Welsh is the oldest language in Britain dating back possibly 4,000 years. To find out more click on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/history/sites/themes/language.shtml
These two sites provide access to a great array of information about Native American languages, for example dictionaries, language learning games, lists of languages, their genetic relations and their geographic distribution, worksheets for learning a language, and collections of legends:
- The “Twelve canoes” present aspects of the history, culture and natural environment of the Yolngu people in Arnhem land. The site is visually attractive and the language accessible to students with an intermediate knowledge of English. You can download a study guide with suggestions for activities in classes: http://www.12canoes.com.au/
- Here you can watch animations and listen to Australian languages (with subtitles in English): http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/research/projects/independent/countrylines-archive/animations/
- “First Voices” contains games, puzzles and audio material on sounds of indigenous languages of Canada (site in English and French): http://www.firstvoices.ca/ or http://www.firstvoices.com/en/home
- “Dane Wajich” is a virtual museum where you can listen to stories and songs and learn about the culture of the Dane-zaa people. A teachers’ guide can be read online or downloaded as PDF: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/danewajich/english/project/index.php