Home » Newpages Blog » Bringing Our Languages Home

Bringing Our Languages Home

Promoting a grassroots approach to language revitalization, Leanne Hinton has edited over a dozen retellings from families who have brought their native languages back into the home. All of the essays in Bringing Our Languages Home possess a clear congruency in five different categories on how to approach language learning. Most essays focus on learning and reintroducing American tribal languages, such as Miami, Yuchi, Mohawk, and Karuk. This anthology certainly has a very focused audience, but those with an already established interest in linguistics and grassroots movements may also wish to follow along with these varied essays.

Promoting a grassroots approach to language revitalization, Leanne Hinton has edited over a dozen retellings from families who have brought their native languages back into the home. All of the essays in Bringing Our Languages Home possess a clear congruency in five different categories on how to approach language learning. Most essays focus on learning and reintroducing American tribal languages, such as Miami, Yuchi, Mohawk, and Karuk. This anthology certainly has a very focused audience, but those with an already established interest in linguistics and grassroots movements may also wish to follow along with these varied essays.

In her introduction to Bringing Our Languages Home, Hinton explains the exigence and context for compiling the anthology. She relates the history of certain indigenous peoples’ forced integration into dominant society. However, there are current and growing counter-movements to this enormous loss: “This book is about families who so love their endangered language of heritage that they have made them a part of their homes and their daily lives, despite all of the pressures against doing so. And it is for families who might wish to do this brave act themselves.” In the book’s conclusion, Hinton also provides practical guides and links to resources for interested families to take the next step or go further in reviving their language.

Organized into sections that describe the family’s current situation (“Starting From Zero,” “Leaning from the Elders,” “Families and Communities Working Together,” and “Family Learning-Language Programs”), each essay employs different storytelling techniques to convey its story. Ranging from in-depth narrative to more lyrical stories to step-by-step guides, these essays capture the voices of sometimes multiple authors. In the opening piece “Miami Spoken Here,” each family member writes a segment of the essay. Having to learn their language from documents, as there were no more living fluent speakers, parents Daryl and Karen chronicle learning the language and then passing it onto their children. Daryl writes: “I remember feeling a sense of loss but also a sense of responsibility when I learned the status of our language. I became determined to try and learn what I could.” Many other families detail these struggles and successes with none, very little, or one-parent language comprehension.

For those wishing to know more about the historical roots and progression of native and indigenous rights, including that of a right to language, Bringing Our Languages Home builds off of larger historical movements by presenting the family and community-level impacts of those who fought (and still fight) to bring cultural access to their communities and, most importantly, their children. Margaret Noori, in “Language, Family, and Community,” points out how “there is a need for both orality and literacy beyond the walls of comfort and shelter. Parents and children working hard to save endangered languages need to hear the words of their people in culturally supportive classrooms, at friendly local businesses, around the drum, and in digital space created by computers and cell phones.” Allowing a space to reflect and think of ways to expand the range of a language, these essays establish how families and communities are continuing to promote heritage languages while providing readers a roadmap of their own.

Spread the word!