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dimanche 29 mai 2011


As Medical Students, we had a lunch time talk by a visitor (appropriately dark skinned), about Cross Cultural Sensitivity and we were told that we had to be sensitive about African People and a few words about East Asian Indians. So we learned about Reggae, Calypso and Curry. It was so superficial that it was pathetic. There was no mention of Cross Cultural sensitivity the rest of the time.
Move the clock around to New York 2011
176 languages are spoken in its Public School System. (how many of you can name 176 languages, I think all of us can name about fifty quite easily). But the interesting fact is that some of the Endangered languages have found their refuge in New York City. You may hear, in New York City:
Vlashki, from the mountains of Croatia
Mumuju from the island of Sulawesi
Aramaic, Chaldic and Mandaic
Bukhari from Uzbekistan where fewer people than in New York speak Bukhari!
Chomorro, familiar to the people who have visited Guam or read Oliver Sacks
Irish Gaelic is dying in Eire, but not so in New York, Kashubian from Poland is spoken here.
Upto 300 or 400 000 people whose mother tongue is one of the indigenous languages of Mexico live legally and illegally in the confines of the city.
Rhaeto-Romanic, Romany and Yiddish can all be heard in this city.
In fact, when we see a "latin face", an Indianness etched into the face, we think of Mexico and other parts of Indigenous America. and we assume they speak Spanish. But they may be one of the 400000 Indians from outside the borders who may not speak Spanish or English, but fluent in their Mixtec, Nahuatl, Chinantec, Otomi, Quechua. In California it is estimated that 150 000 people speak Mixteco! Up to 200 000 Garifuna speakers live in New York City.
In Staten Island, you can hear Chiananteco. South Bronx and Astoria, Queens claim Otomi. In fact National Geographic magazine had an article about a street in Astoria in which the most number of languages are spoken! A community speaking Trique lives in Albany. In Trenton, NJ one can hear Quiche, Paterson, NJ are home to soem Quechua speakers so is Queens, NY.

What about the old fashioned thoughts about "foreign Languages", we thought about French, Spanish and German. Now there are here by the thousands. Russian neighbourhoods and Punjabi, Marathi, Bangla food and language is no stranger to this island cheated from the native Indians a few centuries ago.. Japanese, no worries; Chinese, by the hordes.. Tamoul? Malay? Thai? Burmese?
In fact it is estimated that there may be 800 different languages spoken in New York City!
Perhaps the New World would offer some of these dying languages, a small chance of revival and hope for future speakers...