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Settler raddlers living in settler colonies - have you done serious thinking about learning the language of the indigenous people of the area in which you stay? (more in body of text)

Submitted by ergdj5 in AskRaddle

For example, I think Mandela said in one of his speeches that one of the firsts things that a white person could do towards overcoming previous separation would be to learn indigenous languages. (though he might have been wrong about many things this does strike me as an obviously desirable and genuine gesture towards undoing divides)

And then there's also the fact that it was part of the work that the Zapatista guerrilleros like Marcos did:

While Marcos had come [to Chiapas] to teach politics and history to the communities, he quickly discovered that this revolutionary education, steeped in its own assumptions, made no sense to the communities (ibid., p, 166). In effect, the urban guerrilleros had to be reeducated and become new subjects capable of inhabiting the realities of the indigenous southeast if they were to be anything other than another failed group of radicals preaching incomprehensibly and ineffectually in a vain effort to recruit followers to their cause. This reeducation process included: learning indigenous languages; slowly coming to comprehend radically different ways of making sense out of the world; renouncing a politics based on Euro-Enlightenment assumptions and subordinating their own political expectations to the needs of the communities themselves; and giving up on a revolutionary politics of the vanguard and embracing a collective decision-making process grounded in the collective. The nondogmatic, radically democratic, and self-reflexive approach to radical social struggle and transformation that would come to characterize the Zapatista movement is poetically encapsulated in another Zapatista slogan, preguntando caminamos, “asking, we walk.”

Of course, it may be that the language has been wholly destroyed, and in places where it has been mostly destroyed it would not have the same effect to learn the languages where they are quite common (as in Mandela's country). But if not language then, what else can be done?

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md_ wrote

Well, I am not from or live in the West, so the concept of "settler colony" and "indigenous language" doesn't directly apply without redefinitions, but I am coming from the majority linguistic group of my region and my linguistic group has through its state policies done a lot of damage to another regional language: I've thought of doing this, and I didn't because of scheduling difficulties. I would give it a shot again next year.

Generally I think it's a good thing to learn "minority"/"marginalised"/"indigenous" languages. But I am aware that some linguistic communities, at least in the context of Australia, are actually against outsides learning their endangered languages, because of the power imbalances it creates (considering that they themselves, because of colonialism, hadn't had the opportunity to become fluent in their heritage languages).

I haven't seen this stance expressed where I live though, and it's probably related to how the idea of "cultural appropriation" is also not directly applicable outside the West. If anything, they are angry at their grandchildren for not being interested in learning a language of less than 500 elderly speakers.

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ziq wrote (edited )

It's too bad we can't go back to our original language, before conflicting empires imparted their languages on us and created permanent divisions between those who chose one language and those who chose the other.

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md_ wrote

It's too bad we can't go back to our original language

I don't know how back you are thinking here. It's more likely (although probably unprovable either way), that there was never one original language. Nor it seems like it's possible to keep a language from diverging into radically different languages as time passes.

permanent divisions between those who chose one language and those who chose the other

I wouldn't take such a pessimistic stance. It's true that language politics caused a lot of long lasting damage (from cultural genocide, to personal trauma), but we still have this amazing capacity for learning many new languages, so the divisions don't have to be permanent.

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ziq wrote (edited )

We now know we migrated here from the mainland (Syria/Lebanon), so it's likely we originally spoke a language from there, and it slowly morphed into the Eteocypriot language, before being (forcibly) supplanted after Hellenism, Venetianism, Ottomanism, Britishism, and all the other invading colonialists made their mark, and very deliberately set us against each other (for example, the British making one group the exclusive police force and ordering them to fuck up the other group, or the Ottomans heavily taxing one group but not the other to get people to switch cultures).

but we still have this amazing capacity for learning many new languages

I think adopting a common language, maybe a blend of the 2 (which we pretty much already have, to some extent) is the way forward.

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md_ wrote

I won't cry over Eteocypriot. We know next to nothing about it, and we can't ever learn it. It's not really "the original language" of the region, let alone the world (which was my initial interpretation of your comment, Proto-Human/World), it's just an arbitrary point in time that happens to be the earliest with written records on the island and that's why we named it "Eteocypriot".

I also don't really buy the stigmatisation of languages that followed as "colonial". Since all of them are colonial, none of them really is. It's just useless as an analytical category, in this context.

I think adopting a common language, maybe a blend of the 2 (which we pretty much already have, to some extent) is the way forward.

Spanish and Chinese? :P

I don't see the point. Language policies aren't enacted without violence, nor they succeed in achieving what they set out to achieve. And you cannot stop language change, like you cannot stop descent with modification. Create an international auxland today, get a dozen divergent varieties a year later.

I would put my effort in organising second language learning classes in autonomous social centres, and creating translation task-forces inside the milieu.

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ziq wrote (edited )

I think as long as people that share one land speak different languages, it will be used by hostile external forces to set them against each other. Divide and conquer has been every imperialist's MO.

Language is the biggest divider because we literally don't understand each other. You could force everyone to learn both languages, but that would only work in times of stability where everyone is affluent and educated. As soon as drought, hunger or invasion hits, everything is up in the air. With climate change hitting the region hard, things will get a lot harder to control.

The languages merging could take generations, but I think it's the best hope for lasting peace in the future.

Not that we have any control over it - wasn't suggesting it be a gov policy, just a natural evolution.

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md_ wrote (edited )

You could force everyone

Here you have it. That's why I don't consider going "back to the original language", or "establishing a common language".

That's why my proposal is to make the option available, and to be prepared to accommodate speakers of other languages, by translating stuff from one language to the other.

The languages merging

That's not something that happens to natural languages. The closest thing would be creolisation, but that's something that happens in those rare circumstances where there is no common language, and a dire need to communicate. That's not the case in most of the world, because multilingualism is the norm.

Generally, I think that people are attributing too much responsibility to language. Language politics are just an epiphenomenon. Look at former Yugoslavia for a clear cut example. It's not language that divided them. Nationalism did, and only as a consequence they came to think of Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin as different languages.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Good points. I'm not sure about languages not merging though; our dialect is very different from mainland Greek and contains countless Turkish words and influences already. But I'm no linguist.

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md_ wrote

English is not French, and Japanese is not Chinese, despite heavy borrowing of vocabulary stock from those languages.

Simplifying greatly, a language is the vocabulary + the unconscious language-specific rules to put words into sentences + culturally-dependant nuances on top of the literal meaning.

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this_one wrote

I have. I'd love to learn the local (reconstructed) Indigenous language, however; unfortunately, access to learning it is only available to people of Aboriginal descent (which I'm not).

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Solisition wrote

I'd love to but would need to see what the local tribes would have thought of it; cultural appropriation is my main concern. Though, if it were preferred, I definitely do want to learn the language of those who lived where I now stand.

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mofongo wrote

The native people of my land were successfully exterminated. Very likely my family came from African slaves brought to work in the plantations. I can't confirm though, the story of my family pretty much begins with my great grandmother.

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ziq wrote

Great question! Though I doubt anyone will answer yes, hopefully it'll inspire them to hit the books.

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therealmidnite wrote

Mandela was dead wrong - just like he was dead wrong about a lot of things. I can throw a brick in this little town I'm stuck in and hit some racist alt-right sympathizing National Party apologist who can either speak or at least follow Zulu or Sotho. If you can't see "the other" as a human being in the first place, learning his or her language isn't going to have much of an effect.

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ergdj5 wrote

Nobody's proposing that learning Zulu or Sotho is the only thing people should do, or that it is a general cure for colonisation. I am not sure why that isn't clear.

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therealmidnite wrote

White people don't need to learn different languages... they need to confront the realities of white supremacy and their own place in it (for which their own language is quite sufficient). The problem isn't that white people don't understand other people's cultures - the problem is that they don't understand their own. And this liberal self-help book style feel-good non-racialism (such as learning the "the others'" language to supposedly "understand" something they don't have a chance in hell of understanding anyway) has actually been an obstacle to achieving that - it's simply another way of externalizing the problem, when the problem is, in fact, internal. Being able to speak another person's language doesn't disqualify anyone from Washington's ditch. In fact, quite the opposite - it makes the dirty work more efficient. Just ask any South African cop.

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retiredaccount wrote

I think this brings up another question regarding minority languages overall; Belgium was never colonized or slaughtered, but the minority language of Walloon (Wallonia is the area that had constant strikes and huge labor unions) was repressed by French imperialism from the 1800s to 1900s wherein they basically ran the region as a puppet state with their own money. Presumably, this repression was to help culturally integrate the area and minimize their conflicts and strikes. These days, its spoken in only a few cities (especially the ones that are still furthest left) and areas, and seems to be on the decline- as anarchists, another question to ask is whether we should try to breathe life into these minority languages as another form of anti-imperialism or try to go with the currently prevailing languages as to best continue to communicate with those around us and those further away in a form of internationalism?

I don't mean to hijack a native-oriented thread with my European anecdotes (and will remove if requested, as that could be an entirely appropriate request), but I only want to note that this brings up a larger question about language that covers more than the settler states.

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ThisGuyIsAProblem wrote

I know the natives here used to engage in a practice called scalping, where an enemy tribes member was disfigured vie removing a portion of their skull in the belief that their enemy would enter the afterlife eternally disfigured.
They would dry and tan the skull parts and then decorate their spears with them.
And the Hopi partake in a ritual where they sew baby eagle eyes shut and tie their necks together for 90 days, in a way to gather feathers for their headpieces.

I then decided that there are some good things in my own culture I wasn't giving enough appreciation.

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ergdj5 wrote

Are you aware of how much of a close-minded asshole and a racist you're coming off as? You'd possibly benefit from reading this week's f/readinggroup submission, 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance.

In relation:

In 1606, the British finally succeeded in establishing their first permanent settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia. In 1620, Pilgrims (English Puritans) landed on the east coast also, establishing the Plymouth colony.
Meanwhile, Beothuks in Newfoundland had retaliated against a French attack in clashes that followed killed 37 French settlers. The French responded by arming Micmacs —traditional enemies of the Beothuks—and offering bounties for Beothuk scalps. This is believed to the origin of ‘scalp-taking’ by Native warriors; the stereotype of Native ‘savagery’ was in fact introduced by the French and, later, the Dutch.

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retiredaccount wrote (edited )

And the Hopi partake in a ritual where they sew baby eagle eyes shut and tie their necks together for 90 days, in a way to gather feathers for their headpieces.

European settlers partake in a ritual where they round up thousands of cows into one room for six months, then punch holes in their heads in a way to gather meat for their restaurants.

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ThisGuyIsAProblem wrote

The native americans partake in a ritual where they cut off the limbs of their enemy, then caterize the wound so they person can be conscious when they cut their heart out. They would ride over 1000 miles to kill off a single family, torture woman with fire, butcher babies, wear broken pieces of their enemies skulls as trophies, and drink blood.

So yeah, good for you bro.