Preserving indigenous language
An interesting article from IPS describes attempts to preserve Nahuat as a living language in El Salvador. Indigenous people are almost invisible in El Salvador following a centuries long history of oppression. Nahuat is the language of the Nahua/Pipiles people. From the IPS article:
”Yek shiajfikan” reads a sign hanging above the gate of the ”Dr. Mario Calvo Marroquín” elementary school in the Salvadoran town of Izalco, welcoming pupils in Nawat, the language that was spoken by the area’s native communities.
A small group of no more than twelve boys and girls are gathered in a small classroom in the southwest province of Sonsonate, singing the national anthem, in a scene that could be set in any other school in the country – except here they’re not singing it in Spanish, but in Nawat, the language of their ancestors.
In 2002, teachers at this school took it upon themselves to begin teaching their pupils the language that was spoken by the Nahua-Pipil communities when the Spanish colonialists arrived in the sixteenth century, a language that is now on the brink of extinction.
The language was brought to Central America in pre-Hispanic times by groups that migrated from the central region of present-day Mexico in the tenth century, anthropologist Ramón Rivas explained to IPS.
Nawat, or Pipil as it is also called, is a Uto-Aztecan language descended from Nahuatl, which is still widely spoken in many parts of Mexico. The Salvadoran variety, however, is endangered, and has already vanished elsewhere in Central America.
Today, there are only around 200 Nawat speakers left in this country of 5.7 million, according to the 2009 edition of the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (more).