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Greenfield School


Helping to save the N/uu language

With International Mother Language Day just around the corner, Greenfield pupils took part in an assembly learning some of the N/uu language spoken by the Khoisan people of Southern Africa.

Languages, with their implications for identity, communication, and development, are of great importance for people. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity.

The 21st February 2019 is International Mother Language Day; a day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, celebrate the 7079 languages in the world and try to prevent languages from becoming extinct.

At least 43% of the estimated 7079 languages spoken in the world are endangered but the most endangered is the N/uu language which is one of the languages spoken by the Khoisan people of Southern Africa. The Khoisan people live traditional lives; they hunt and gather food and move around in small family groups. The Khoisan languages are famous for their many click sounds.

There are only three people left who speak N/uu fluently and they are three elderly sisters. With no other fluent speakers in the world apart from this family, the language is recognised by the UN as "critically endangered". One of the sisters, Katrina Esau, who is 84, teaches children N/uu in an effort to stop the language from becoming extinct. You can read more about Katrina Esau and see a video of her speaking and teaching N/uu here.

At Greenfield, the staff and children in Years 1 to 6 did their bit for International Mother Language Day by celebrating the N/uu language and learning the 5 N/uu clicks and a few words. Ms Veale led an interesting assembly, in which the children tried saying some words using each different click. These included "Hello", "Foot", "Baboon" and "Sweat"; not all to be used in one greeting, but some of the easier words for each click! Click here to see a video.

The Pre-Prep department will be having a similar assembly after half term so that by the end of February, all Greenfield pupils will have helped to keep the N/uu language going.