My announcement of the UNESCO program to retrieve and save languishing languages -- vital because they are the special voice of the people -- inspired a guest blog from Jacqueline Simonds of Beaglebay Books:
Your post on endangered languages reminded me of a conference I attended in Albuquerque. There was one of those breakfast presentations (I am a horrid troll before my coffee is fully assembled, do breakfast presentations are pure torture). They presented a native woman who proceeded to turn a bunch of grumpy school folk into happy parrots.
The language was Tewa, the original speech of the Pueblo. Blue Water was the last living speaker. After she had fun embarrassing us all trying to say simple things, the 94-year-old described how she was putting in 13 hours a day in a sound studio, speaking Tewa so the University of NM could capture it before she passed away. Then she told us 2 creation stories, alternating English with Tewa. It was fabulous.
Not long after, she was killed in a car crash. But not before receiving a National Heritage award. http://theelderlies.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/esther-martinez-nonagenarian-tewa-linguist-2008-honor/
I think of her whenever I hear that language is dying.