Friday, March 22, 2013

Okinawa Independence #10: Islander Language School

When I visited Okinawa last year I was fortunate enough to visit a language school started by a group of activists who are working towards the revitalization of Uchinaguchi or the main dialect of Okinawa. I had met most of them over the years at conferences in the states or on solidarity trips around the Asia-Pacific region. I was impressed with their grassroots efforts and in the year since they even received a small government grant to provide stipends for the community members who were offering their time to teach the classes. In these classes parents and children would work together to learn the language. Unfortunately when I visited last week the school was on vacation and wouldn't start again for several weeks.

I thought it would be nice to share some of the photos I took last year. Part of the benefit of these types of trips is not only the inspiration you can feel from seeing people who at work who are committed and dedicated. It is also important to learn about each other in order to learn from each other. One thing that I find interesting and saddening about the way that Chamorros have undertaking the saving of their language in contrast to others is how very little grassroots mobilization there has been. In both Okinawa and Hawai'i, the strongest efforts have been low-budget community efforts. In Guam most of what has been done has come from government mandates and although we still have tens of thousands of elderly Chamorro speakers, we have seen few grassroots attempts to utilize them.

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