The Palace Theater welcomes guest speaker Bob Holman, producer of the film Language Matters on Friday February 12th at 7 pm. Holman will introduce the movie and offer a Q & A following the screening.
This poignant documentary explores the questions: What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language?
Holmans travels to the outback of Australia where he meets Charlie Mangulda, an Aboriginal songman (read “poet”), and listens to him sing in Amurdak. Charlie is the only person left on our planet who speaks Amurdak. When Charlie is gone, except in the notebooks and recordings of the linguists, Amurdak will disappear with him. Through Charlie, we begin to understand the poignancy of language loss.
In Wales, Language Matters explores the humor, rage, and lyricism of the Welsh people, who have brought their language back from the edge of extinction. After the English conquest of Wales, Welsh was considered to be a gutter language of the uneducated. But in the middle of the 20th century, with the number of Welsh speakers diminishing, Welsh language activists led a movement to reclaim the Welsh language. Today, children can go to school in Welsh from pre-K to post grad, road signs, government forms and menus are bilingual, and you can watch Welsh television 24 hours a day. Wales is a useful model for other endangered language speakers to follow.
Native Hawaiians nearly lost their language, once spoken by hundreds of thousands of people. After Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1898, Hawaiian was banned from schools and English became the official language of government. In 1983, fewer than 50 children spoke Hawaiian. But Hawaiian immersion schools have brought back this beautiful language from the brink of extinction.
Holman spent time on the Big Island in filming some of his documentary at one of the largest and most comprehensive Hawaiian immersion schools, Nawahi, a school with 300 children from pre-K through high school. In Language Matters, Keali’i Reichel, singer, songwriter, and hula master speaks of Hula and the Hawaiian language: “Hula cannot exist without the chant. It is one of the very few dance forms that require words.”
By the end of this century, half the world’s languages will have vanished. The death of a language robs humanity of ideas, belief systems, and knowledge of the natural world.
With languages all over the world in danger of extinction, Holman reflects on language and its profound connection to our humanity: “Just as the physical ecology of the earth depends on a healthy interaction among plants and animals, many endangered, there is an ecology of consciousness, an interdependence of knowledge, culture and wisdom we find in and through our languages. Language is a lens through which we see the world. Through language, we become more fully ourselves.”
Holman has received a grant to travel the country showing this movie. Come join him on Friday, February 12th as he gives us a personal view into this moving film. Regular Palace movie prices of $8 and $7 apply. No Passes accepted.
Pictured Above: Producer Bob Holman