I’ve just come back from my first walk into the middle of Saint Paul, Alaska, where I could see to all corners of the island…and I was sure I could smell reindeer. The mossy subarctic landscape looks surprisingly like the Lake District back in the U.K., where I spent a lot of my childhood. So what am I doing here?

In brief: a few years ago I found out that most of the world’s languages are going to disappear this century, if current trends continue. This sudden discovery about the world out there seemed to converge quite well with a more gradual discovery about myself: that I really like language and languages. Enough to spend most of my life learning languages, teaching languages, translating languages, philosophizing about languages, or similar.

Searching for a way to “do something” about this at the time (and not coming from an endangered language community myself), I did a masters degree in language documentation and revitalization. After graduating last year, I returned to South America with the aim of working with speakers and communities who want to stop their language from disappearing.

It was an interesting journey in South America, on many levels. At the same time I’m grateful for the chance to experience a language revitalization process in a very different context. My objective is for this experience to allow me to contribute more to communities elsewhere; from what I’ve learnt about language teaching/learning and revitalization initiatives in just one week, I have high hopes!

Post authored by Robbie.

Written by Evan Gardner