In language is life; In language is death

Hilo, HI – March 17, 2015 - Language is the foundation of life experience. It is estimated that one of the nearly 6,000 languages left in the world dies every two weeks; a projection that estimates half of the world’s languages will be extinct by the end of this century.

Exploring this phenomenon in the documentary Language Matters, American Poet Bob Holman, travels the world researching three languages and the steps taken to preserve them.

His travels take him to Wales where an elimination of a ban on the Welsh language has lead to a country-wide revitalization of the Welsh language. He visits Australia where some aboriginal languages are spoken by as few as one person, a last link to an entire history of people and life. The documentary then travels to Hawaiʻi where a very near death of the Hawaiian language sparked a grassroots revitalization of the Hawaiian language.

Ethnographer Kepa Maly says in the film, “The moment that we severed [Hawaiians’] ability to speak their language we separated them from a knowledge, from a spirit, from an identity: who they are as a people. So […] there is no way to describe how important [language] is in the perpetuation of one’s culture.” Today, Hawaiian language can be heard on the radio, television, and on the streets. However, revitalizing language in an English modeled society is not an easy task.

In a majority of the world, speaking more than one language is normal, however in an increasingly growing society, the threat of monolingualism is growing. The result of this is more than loss of language. It is loss of knowledge, spirituality, and varied human experience. Explore the beauty of language in this Grand Festival Award winning documentary airing on PBS, March 19th at 8 p.m., and on March 22nd at 1 p.m.