I recently had the opportunity of meeting the co-founder of a new language-learning website called “Busuu”. Busuu is a language on the verge of extinction; apparently today it’s spoken by only 8 people in Cameroon. Other than that cool snippet of information, I didn’t pay much attention to the website until I got an email saying that it will teach you how to do the whistle “Gomero”, i.e. the Silbo Gomero.
The Silbo Gomero is a whistle that is (was?) used to communicate in Gomero, in the Canary Islands. People who know this language can communicate full sentences through this whistle, and since it can be heard up to a distance of 8 kilometers, it used to be an extremely useful way of communicating across the deep alleys and mountains of the island.(Voice can only travel 200 meters). It used to be a recognised language, but now since there are few people who can whistle this way and it’s not an easy whistle to learn, this “language” faces the threat of extinction.
Busuu aims to help preserve such languages that are under threat of disappearing, and their proactiveness towards trying to help users understand and learn this whistle is commendable. The fact that you are far from learning the whistle after looking at their material is a different point, but if they are planning to expand on such efforts, this is a great start. Here you can check out a great video they did that explores the hows and whats of this Silbo Gomero.
This whole learning the Silbo Gomero tactic could well be a publicity stunt for Busuu, but worth it if it drives traffic to this new and cool language-exchange/learning-community. The website is easy to navigate and presents a community-driven language learning system. Become a member and you can add study modules and attempt to familiarize yourself with a new language, with the option of being helped by native speakers of the language you want to learn. It all works on a system of mutual help, so it’s pretty cool to see it function well. Right now they offer opportunities to study English, French, Spanish, and German. Although you may not learn the language in any concrete or complete way, it’s a good place to start and to meet some multi-lingual people.