October 6, 2010: one year already! www.sorosoro.org was launched a year ago, day for day

Posted by Rozenn Milin on October 6, 2010

The excitement was huge, with an endless turnover of interns and volunteers (may they be thanked again and again!) helping us putting this website together at last, a website we hoped to be rich, instructive, thorough, but also fun and open to all. Quite the challenge.

The days and weeks that followed were also rocked about in turmoil, with a language planisphere constantly crashing, the rush to publish new videos every week, an English version, and then a Spanish version launched at the same time with the hope translations would come about in due course…

Some days during this year did eventually turn out as a nice little mess, but the outcome speaks for itself: our planisphere might experience a few glitches here and there, yet it is one of a kind, and it is now able to locate 5500 languages without a problem; week by week, our website has added up over sixty videos, all available in French, most available in English, and soon available in Spanish!

Internet users now have access to hundreds of articles, including indexes of the near 120 language families used across the planet nowadays, and a number of language indexes growing daily thanks to all the support we have received from linguists, anthropologists, activist, language lovers of all kinds and speakers of all kinds of languages.

We’re most grateful for your multiple collaborations. Thank you for making the Sorosoro website more and more popular, day after day, thank you for keeping an eye on our work, and getting so involved. Our ambition is also to create discussion and debate, so www.sorosoro.org can become a space for conversation and exchange on the themes of endangered languages, cultural diversity, native peoples, and the protection of a world that needs to remain diverse in order to remain human.

And here we are a year later, taking another step forward with the launch of… our blog! Not just an editorial like this one, which will therefore be the last: an actual blog, in which you’ll be able to take part, suggest your own views, publish your own articles and react to others’. The Sorosoro Blog will open within a week or two. So please hold on to your tongues and keyboards, and expect the chance to speak up soon; we’re about to kick off our first discussion on a subject that could stir up quite a lot opinions and reactions: mother tongue-based education.

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Summer work at Sorosoro

Posted by Laurie Lefèvre on July 30, 2010

We are halfway through summer, and Sorosoro is still live and kicking!

After our video series on marriage and marital relationships, our new August video series is all about music, to the tune of Akele songs – songs for celebrations, songs for mourning, for lullabies and for initiations…

This month, Sorosoro is diving into the realm of indigenous languages of Australia, thanks to the generous contribution of AUSTLANG researchers. So jump on board for a voyage into Australian territory and its linguistic treasures.

As for the Sorosoro website, we’re standing by our multilingual ambitions, thanks to the hard work accomplished by our translators. A big thank you to all of the Spanish-speaking volunteers who have recently offered up their help in setting up our Spanish website!

And finally, even though the summer is winding down, we are already winding up and getting ready for our next video shoot taking place in New Caledonia. New adventures are waiting for us – so full steam ahead to the Tropic of Capricorn…

Stay in touch, on Sorosoro.org or Facebook!

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Achievements in cultural diversity … France included!

Posted by Rozenn Milin on May 26, 2010

Those who tend to travel around our site might have noticed how much there is on Africa, Latin America, Oceania or India… Some may even end up thinking it is easier to handle questions of diversity in distant countries rather than in our homelands: distance gives these cultures a tinge of mystery, of uniqueness, and makes them somehow more seducing, more precious.

Yet the languages of the French Hexagon – Basque, Breton, Corsican, Occitan, Alsatian, etc. are also worth attention, and it is equally important to have them protected. Numerous activists have devoted themselves to these languages over the decades, and just for the sake of good news we cannot resist the pleasure of telling you about school results in the bilingual Breton-French educational system, implemented in Brittany around 30 years ago.

French daily paper Le Figaro has recently published their 2010 French high-school school ranking, and the results of this survey must have surprised many of the paper’s readers. No “grand” Parisian school in the lead: the first place comes to a school located in Beaune, region of Burgundy, and the second, to the Diwan school of Carhaix in the Finistère Department, on the west tip of Brittany…

The success of regional language education

Created in 1977, Diwan is a federation of free schools, ranging from kindergarten to the end of secondary school, which distinguish themselves for providing instruction… in Breton. The Diwan method is based on immersion: French is progressively introduced from the second year of elementary school; at the beginning of collège (French equivalent of junior high-school), the instruction divides into two thirds taught in Breton/one third in French; and then from the third year of secondary school, some subjects start being provided in English.

First-off when visiting these schools, the most striking is the children’s open-mindedness: teenagers who speak fluent English, the Arabic classes in remote Brittany, the generalized practice of music, etc.

And the results speak for themselves: in French, the evaluations conducted during elementary school and the beginning of middle school show that the level of Diwan pupils is by and large above national average. In 1992, eight of the first Diwan pupils passed their Brevet des collèges exam (French equivalent to the British GCSE) as well as the English Cambridge First Degree with a 100% success rate. And in 2010, Le Figaro ranks the Carhaix Diwan school “2nd best secondary school in France”, among 1 930 other schools across the country.

Drastic selection or pupil support?

An explanation to those who find this last result surprising, given that the success rate of the 2009 baccalauréat (the French final secondary school diploma) was “only” of 99% for Carhaix junior-high, whereas more prestigious schools such as Louis Le Grand or Henri IV ended up with 100%: the rate referred to from now on is a “cohort rate”, considered as more relevant.

The baccalauréat success gross rate may in many cases result from a drastic selection carried out beforehand, and thus the whole point of using a cohort rate is that it takes several other elements into account (rate of access to the final exam, proportion of pupils who pass the exam, etc.). The whole point, basically, is to assess how much support the pupils get from the time they enter high-school, and how much effort is put into the actual success of instruction without relying on a methodical selection that aims for high scores as an only target.

The results of this “modest” little school making its way through the years clearly show that education in regional language has proven its efficiency. Beyond the tangibility of this success, however, it is important to note that these schools are all but discriminative (contrary to the recent statements of some political and union leaders) as they provide support to pupils regardless of their initial abilities. And the chances are that when these youngsters eventually leave school, they’re actually prepared to face the world in all its diversity, free of value judgment and filled with open-mindedness.

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Academic spheres to engage towards populations…

Posted by Rozenn Milin on April 2, 2010

During a recent trip to India, a journey conducted with the prospects of a possible expansion of Sorosoro in this part of the world, I have been granted encounters with truly extraordinary characters, as one may come across in these immense and preciously paradoxical countries.

Ganesh Devy is one of those, an uncommon figure, a scholar who has decided to devote his life to indigenous populations and languages of the world, a man who can end up in the most remote areas of India and discuss Merleau-Ponty or Chomsky, as well as traditional pharmacopeia or microcredit…

Graduate of Leeds University, former professor at Yale, Ganesh arrived in Gujarat in the 90s to teach at Boroda University. He was then struck with the linguistic barrier separating the Dravidian languages in the south and the Indo-Aryan languages in the north, in a transversal line stretching from Gujarat in the west all the way to Bengal in the eastern part of the country… and he took on to travel along this virtual line, to find out that a large number of “indigenous tribes” remaining unattached to the caste system (though omnipresent in India) are settled all over this strip of a few hundred kilometers wide.

Ganesh Devy in Tejgadh, where the Adivasi Academy is established.

Ganesh Devy in Tejgadh, where the Adivasi Academy is established.

Intrigued, he sits under a tree one day and lets the village youngsters come to him, he asks them questions and listens to them as they speak about the way they envision their future, and what should be done to help their communities develop. So he resigns his position as a professor and spends two years under that tree conversing and conceiving a rather eccentric project: an Adivasi Academy project, that is to say an indigenous Academy… And along the years, step by step, he finally makes it: he digs up funds and raises brick constructions one after the other for classrooms, music studios, a museum, and even accommodation…

Nowadays, the activities carried out in this “academy” are very diverse: there’s teaching of course, documentation on indigenous languages and cultures, editing and publishing, theatre, artistic and museological activities, but also handcraft, sustainable development, microcredit… And the outcome is mind-blowing: the young men and women who, 12 or 15 years ago would sit and chat with Ganesh under his tree, today hold key positions in the academy. The air here is filled with a sense of peace, serene joy, pleasure for togetherness, and pride in showing short-term visitors what has been accomplished: a genuine economic and cultural development center for native populations.

And then, in the first days of March 2010, Ganesh organized a big meeting around the idea of linguistic diversity which gathered representatives of 320 languages of India! During the event he started to plant a “forest of languages”, one tree for each language in the world, deeply rooted and peacefully coexisting among its neighbors…

A few trees in the forest of languages.

A few trees in the forest of languages.

But he was only getting started: Bododa, January 2011, he expects to gather no less than 1100 languages, with films, theatre, conferences… and when he is asked how he plans to fund such an operation, he simply answers, We’ll invite 5 Nobel Prizes, if they come along, then so will the funds. Rather optimistic… though he might very well make it! And, well, we’ll be there too. Because I told Ganesh I also wanted to plant a tree for my own language, Breton, among all the others in his forest…

India 037

Tribal population dances at the Academy.

For more information on the academy: www.bhasharesearch.org.in

For more information on the description and documentation of Indian indigenous languages: www.adivasiacademy.org.in

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Safe trip, Antoine!

Posted by Antoine Animateur du site on April 2, 2010

My contract as webmaster is about to expire and so, it is with some emotion that I place one hand on the keyboard, grab a handkerchief with the other and begin to write this little blog article to say goodbye to you.

Launching the first French language site dedicated to linguistic diversity was an exciting, sometimes exhausting adventure, but I leave with the feeling of a job well done and with an immense pride after taking my little pebble and building it into an edifice of cultural diversity. A linguist I admire said “A language is worth as much as a cathedral”; so I will have participated in the construction of one of the gates to the cathedral – it sometimes still squeaks a bit, but in the end, it will manage to open.

Creating a list of people to thank would take too long and would be too tedious so, in just a few words, to all the cybernauts, technicians, linguists, IT people and translators who have helped us, a thousand thank yous!

But it’s not the end of the world and neither is it the end of my story with Sorosoro, which I will always bear in mind (and which I will always keep a close eye on. Be warned!) before contemplating a new project or a new mission. It’s hard to let go of Sorosoro.

For me, the end of this contract means setting off on new adventures, and this time I’m packing my bags for a long journey to unknown lands (unknown at least to me) to experience for myself the diversity of the earth and its people.

If you like this site, please give a warm welcome to those who remain: Gwilym, the valiant Welsh-Breton, who will be responsible for the English version of the site and the marvellous Dieynaba from LLACAN whose expertise lie in the delicate process of putting linguistic data online.

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