How wide the great divide language endangerment awareness and the school curricula
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How wide the Great Divide: language endangerment awareness and the school curricula. Radosław Wójtowicz Adam Mickiewicz University 3L 2012 Junior Researchers Conference, Lyon 11.7.2012. The structure of the presentation. about INNET Project

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How wide the Great Divide: language endangerment awareness and the school curricula

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How wide the great divide language endangerment awareness and the school curricula

How wide the Great Divide: language endangerment awareness and the school curricula

Radosław Wójtowicz

Adam Mickiewicz University

3L 2012 Junior Researchers Conference, Lyon 11.7.2012

The structure of the presentation

The structure of the presentation

  • about INNET Project

  • Curriculum Report and results of the interviews – Awareness Report

  • real needs vs. existing materials

  • summary and suggestions

Innet project

INNET Project

  • the consortium: UCO, HASRIL, MPIPL, AMU

  • 7th Framework Programme of the EU

  • 2011-2014

  • 5 workpackages

  • Summer School: Technological approaches to the documentation of lesser-used languages, September 2013, Poznań



  • not mere preservation of the data, but making archives available for researchers and the general public

  • engaging in an interaction with secondary school teachers and pupils so as to attract new generations of students to the study and management of linguistic diversity

Www innet project eu

Assessing awareness

Assessing awareness

  • examining school curricula

  • interviews with educational officials

  • semi-structured interviews with pupils and teachers of 8 secondary schools across Poland

Curriculum report

Curriculum Report

  • school curricula currently in a state of transition

  • language endangerment not an issue whatsoever, although there are 7 school subjects where lessons on language endangerment could be conducted in relation to topics that are included in syllabi for the subjects

Inteviews with educational officials

Inteviews with educational officials

  • Ministry of Education sets priority topics for inspections; summer semester 2011/2012: the abidance of rules concerning teaching of languages, culture and history of ethnic minorities

  • Regional Educational Superintendents: not searching for problems, but responding to problems/needs signaled by pupils, teachers and parents and searching for solutions to them; except for pupils in Pomerania who wanted extra-curricular education on Kashubian, no such needs reported

  • rather than on the languages, more attention should be focused on the culture and history of minorities

  • awareness considerably higher in regions where minority languages are spoken, although not in all cases

Folk linguistics of language endangerment

‘folk linguistics’ of language endangerment

  • a language can become endangered due to e.g. bad (=cold) climate; a possible solution to the problem is relocating the speakers to safer/better locations;

  • if a language is too difficult or too old-fashioned to be used by a new generation, it can easily become endangered.

  • „Although it is essential to ensure minority language rights, natural processes are difficult to go against.”

Pupils feedback

Pupils’ feedback

  • include maps and statistical data (especially liked by boys)

  • more information on several languages rather than superficial knowledge from very many languages

  • the idea of a computer game not so much liked

  • karaoke in endangered languages 

Teachers feedback

Teachers’ feedback

topics that could be nicely combined with the issue of language endangerment:

  • the cultural diversity of the world (Geography)

  • the ethnic composition of Poland – past and today (History)

  • identity and national identity, civil and political rights (Social Studies)

  • global culture vs. regional culture (Cultural Studies)

  • different varieties of English (English)

Teachers feedback1

Teachers’ feedback

what type of teaching material?

  • English: listening exercises

  • Geography: personal-like stories of language communities

  • Social Studies: a myth or a legend in an endangered language with a translation into Polish

    what additional material?

  • History and Social Studies: extracts from statistical yearbooks

  • Cultural Studies: songs, pictures etc.

Awareness report conclusions

Awareness Report: conclusions

  • basic demographics and significant cultural content to be included

  • spoken language exists before a written language and that a language is not confined in its (standarized) written form;

  • small does not always mean endangered;

  • challenge the assumption that endangered languages are only used by old women or tribesmen; show young people school pupils could identify with

Endangeredlanguages nl

  • two lessons: 1. about language in general, 2. two communities, their language, culture, geography etc.

The linguists

The Linguists


  • an interactive map showing locations

  • minimum text, maximum interactive material

  • A Teacher’s Guide to Endangered Languages: 10 themes dealing with different aspects of language endangerment; proposals for discussions, tasks, homework

  • video extras

Kristin denham teaching kids about language change language endangerment and language death

Kristin Denham: Teaching Kids about Language Change, Language Endangerment and Language Death


  • language change explained comparing English of Beowulf, Shakespeare texts and Modern English

Kirk hazen teaching about dialects cal org

Kirk Hazen: Teaching About Dialects (


  • an article in fact dealing with dialects of English, but useful because of the practical advice for teachers

  • having pupils discuss stigmatized forms

  • assessing the level of ‘language intolerance’ and linguistic prejudices by having students discuss some popular beliefs about language



  • Linguistic Society of America: What is an endangered language? - basic questions as subheadings with examples supporting the answer wherever possible

  • First Voices – games and audio puzzles on sounds from indigenous languages of Canada

School information package

School information package

  • teaching materials

  • an interactive map available on-line

  • Book of Knowledge

  • ancillary package for teachers

Book of knowledge

Book of Knowledge

  • 10 chapters

  • links, photos

  • examples of structures primarily from endangered languages

  • constant emphasis on the linguistic diversity of the world

  • emphasis on the fact that each human language, be it Aranda or English, is a complex system



  • too difficult? too academic?

  • too much focused on the linguistic side?

  • pupils’ feedback vs. emphasizing the linguistic diversity of the world

  • how to design the package for teachers?

  • are the teachers going to use the material?

  • beaurocracy



  • Crystal, David (2003): Crossing the great divide: language endangerment and public awareness. Keynote speech to the International Expert Meeting on Endangered Languages, UNESCO, Paris, 10 March 2003.

  • Crystal, David (2011): Language diversity, endangerment, and public awareness. British Academy Review18, 12-20.

  • Odé, Cecilia (2008): Teaching Materials on Language Endangerment An Interactive E-learning Module on the Internet, In: Tjeerd de Graaf et al. (eds.) - Endangered Languages and Language Learning: Proceedings of the Conference FEL XII, 24-27 September 2008, Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, 147-150. Leeuwarden: Foundation for Endangered Languages

How wide the great divide language endangerment awareness and the school curricula



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