Sorosoro is looking for voluntary translators

Posted by Antoine Animateur du site on October 23, 2009

Since the launching of this website a little more than two weeks ago, you have proved to be incredible participants. Your contribution, active, sometimes militant shows that in this era, which is a lot about biodiversity, cultural diversity should not be of minor concern.

Some of you have rightly indicated that a website about the safeguard of languages and the promotion of linguistic diversity should not be monolingual and only addressed to speakers of French. On the (very) short term, we intend to add two new versions of this website: one in English, the other in Spanish. But we are a small team, there are a lot of texts and data to be translated and we are missing a significant amount of translators, especially for the English version, the publication of which is to take place mid-November.

I am therefore asking all the good willing internet users, speakers of Spanish and English or native speakers: Sorosoro needs your help for this website to reach the greatest range of people. I therefore ask all the voluntary workers to contact me, by email (, so that we can have a look at what you could do.

We are also looking for speakers of Benga and Mpongwe (or other variants of Myéné), two languages of Gabon, to help us write subtitles for the future films in these languages.

If you speak Russian, Rama, Swahili or other languages that are rarely used on the Internet, and if you have enjoyed this website and would like other people to discover it, you can also contact us! Who knows? We will perhaps be able to offer this website in a range of languages and contribute, together, to the protection of all the languages of the World.

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The « symbol »

Posted by Rozenn Milin on October 21, 2009

This week in our online videos you can listen to the testimonies of a number of individuals from Gabon who describe how their languages began to decline.

Kwenzi Mickala, the mayor of Tchibanga in the south of the country and a speaker of Punu, is one of those individuals. After receiving a translated copy of his interview, I was not surprised to hear him talking about the “symbol.” For most people this word does not carry any special significance, but for those who grew up speaking minority languages the term has a different meaning.

From the 19th century to the early part of the 20th century, the “symbol” was an object intended to shame a child caught speaking his or her native language at school or in the playground. The teacher would force the child to wear the symbol around his or her neck until another child was caught speaking a native language when the symbol would then be passed to that child. At the end of the day, the child with the symbol around his or her neck was punished either with extra homework, physical punishment or simply mockery.

This method was also used in Ireland to eradicate Gaelic, in Wales to snuff out Welsh, in different parts of France, and of course in European colonies throughout the world. The intended goal was to assimilate the natives.

In Brittany, the “symbol” worn around the child’s neck was either a penny (sou percé), a horse’s hoof made of wood, or a cow’s tail (from the Breton “ar vuoc’h” or “cow” in English). Kewnzi Mickala mentions that growing up in the south of Gabon, thousands of kilometers from Brittany, the “symbol” was sometimes a monkey’s head!

With a high degree of regularity, from one continent to another, from one population to another, the “symbol” was an object designed to humiliate those forced to wear it.

Today, it is easy to wonder how a seemingly honorable principle – mandatory education – could have, with ideas like the “symbol”, strayed so far from the founding values of the French Republic: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

You can watch the video in French on the webiste and on youtube.

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This is YOUR website!

Posted by Rozenn Milin on October 2, 2009

The time has come! Sorosoro has launched its website and it’s yours to enjoy. And we’re counting on you to help us enhance it…

Some may say “a website on endangered languages across the globe, what a strange idea!” At a time when the trend is to learn English, Chinese or Arabic, worrying about those “small” languages from far away lands and cultures may seem futile…

To these people, our response would be: why think “monolingual?”, when human beings have the ability to master of several languages? Why limit our minds to the horizons of only our own native languages or the most widely spoken languages when the rest of the world has so much to teach us?

In many places around the world, especially those that are geographical, commercial or cultural crossroads numerous languages of all sorts are often spoken side-by-side without causing the slightest problem. People in these areas are often as at ease with French, English or Spanish, as they are with Yoruba, Gbari, Shina or Burushaski. Indeed, all of this linguistic variety is not at all incompatible: one may communicate in widely spoken languages while continuing to take an interest in less widespread ones.

What is actually at stake here is diversity, and the writer Victor Ségalen’s phrase, which adorns our website, states it quite simply: when diversity shrinks, so does humanity.

If one day the world came to speak but one single language, eat the same type of food, dress in the same manner, and think the same way, it would then offer but one cultural model — and we would mourn the corresponding loss of diversity.

Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen!

Our desire is to raise awareness relating to the question of diversity by making available to the public a rich repository of linguistic and cultural content including texts, maps, pictures, sounds, and videos… And gradually, we will assemble a body of information describing languages from around the world in all their diversity and variety.

Our videos will also come to form a “TV of languages”, which will include films made all over the world. We hope that by diving into this pool of cultures, and by displaying the rich diversity they represent, viewers will also notice that beyond the external differences, underlying universals of human cultures and values are never far away.

Of course, no website is perfect, and this one may not immediately meet the expectations of all users. For example, the general public may find it too specialized while researchers may find it to be too basic. And there will undoubtedly be oversights or mistakes, due mostly to the lack of resources, or at times our limited access to them. We are therefore counting on your contributions to make the website more complete, to point out missing information, and to supply additional information wherever possible. All suggestions will be welcome.

This website is your website! Its doors are wide open! So come on in and enjoy!

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