This is a response I had to write about “The Linguists,” a film we just watched in my Phonology class. For anyone remotely interested in languages or anthropology, check it out by clicking here!
Before watching “The Linguists,” I had read a few things about the endangered languages of the world. One book I remember reading was titled, “When Languages Die.” After checking online, I realized David Harrison, the author of the book, was also featured in the film. Reading the book sparked an interest in me, however watching the movie gave me a different perspective and made me think about my own career aspirations in Linguistics.
The thing that has always interested me about Linguistics isn’t necessarily the technical or structural aspect, but rather the cultural aspect. One of the best points in the movie was watching the community members from the small Siberian village create the children’s book in the Chulym language. The narrator highlighted what I’ve been told and come to fully understand through my study of Linguistics; when a language dies, a culture is lost as well. Although the scenario is most definitely impossible in my lifetime, I wondered what it might be like to be the last speaker of English on earth. Obviously, we as people trained in the field of Linguistics have an important role in the fate of these languages and cultures.
I have never seen myself being a Linguistics professor or even doing much research or fieldwork. However, I’m beginning to be more open to the possibility. After college, my plan is to become a Peace Corps volunteer, most likely in an English teaching position somewhere in the South Pacific. Sometimes I wonder whether I would be doing more harm than good in promoting the English language on the other side of the world. During the movie, someone talks about how many speakers of an endangered language don’t value its importance. They abandon it and become ashamed of the language they grew up speaking. I realized, especially after watching “The Linguists,” my responsibility in sharing my appreciation of linguistic diversity. An opportunity like the Peace Corps should not only be about teaching English, but also promoting a sense of pride and appreciation in and for my hosts.