Irish Gaelic, Rapa Nui And More Endangered Languages From Around The World

Mariano Kamp, Flickr

There are nearly 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world today, the majority of which are predicted to become extinct by the end of this century. Half the world’s population speaks the top 20 world languages – with Mandarin, Spanish and English leading the charge, in that order – and most linguists point to globalization as the main cause for the rapid pace languages are falling off the map.

The problem is, when a language dies so does much of the knowledge and traditions that were passed won using it. So when Mental Floss used data from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity to post a list of several at-risk languages, we here at Gadling were saddened by the disappearing native tongues and decided to use data from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity to highlight some in our own list.

Irish Gaelic: Despite the fact that the government requires Irish students to learn this language and it currently has an estimated 40,000 native speakers, it is still classified as vulnerable.

Rapa Nui: The mother tongue of Chile’s famous Easter Island has fewer than 4,000 native speakers, and is quickly being taken over by Spanish.

Seneca: Only approximately 100 people in three Native American reservation communities in the United States speak this language, with the youngest speaker in his 50s.Yaw: Most young people living in the Gangaw District of Burma understand but do not speak this critically endangered language that has less than 10,000 native speakers.

Kariyarra: Although there are many people who have a passive understanding of this aboriginal language, only two fluent Kariyarra speakers are left in Western Australia.

Francoprovençal: There are only about 130,000 native speakers of this language, mostly in secluded towns in east-central France, western Switzerland and the Italian Aosta Valley.

Yagan: This indigenous language of Chile purportedly has only one remaining native speaker. Others are familiar with the language, but it will likely disappear soon.

Patuá: Derived from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese and Portuguese, less than 50 people in Macau, China and their diaspora speak this language. It is now the object of folkloric interest amongst those who still speak it.

Amazing Race 14, recap 11: Beijing, China’s food is awesome— and awful

After last week’s cliffhanger of Amazing Race 14 when Jaime and Cara arrived first at the Pit Stop to only find Phil pulling another yellow envelope behind his back, I thought that Jaime might throw a hissy fit, but no, she handled Phil’s news like a trouper. Instead of winning a nifty trip to some exotic location, off this former cheerleader duo went in the dark of Beijing to Bai Hai Dong Men and the next clue. That doesn’t mean they were in a cheering mood for more fun and frolic with Chinese people, but they didn’t whine.

No one else did either. Perhaps they were too pooped after their swim to get mad about being duped. No rest for the weary. Instead of getting shut eye, there the four remaining teams were darting in and out of shops at Bai Hai street looking for a Travelocity gnome. This task gave glimpses into the mish mash of offerings in various shops. This one clothes. That one dried beans and peanuts. Another one, glassware. You get the picture. Shopping in Beijing is not the version where you load up a cart with everything from a vacuum cleaner to bananas to a lawn chair by the time you hit the checkout counter at a mega store.

Once teams found the Travelocity gnome, off they went with their red-hatted lawn ornament via taxi to find Gu Gong Xi Bei Jiao where they hopped on electric bicycles to glide along the streets of Beijing past Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City.

With the early morning sunrise glinting off the buildings and the gnomes sitting in their bicycle basket perches, could the lighting have been more perfect? I think not. Even the teams, who had to have been tootling along only thanks to an adrenaline rush, were able to enjoy the architecture, the soldiers marching during the morning flag raising in the square, and the historic significance of their location. It couldn’t have been a better piece of TV work if it had been orchestrated. What timing.

At their next clue stop, the Dongdan subway station, there was a choice to head to an opera house to dress like an opera singing couple, complete with make-up they put on each other, or head to a restaurant to take food orders of a group of people sitting at a table, repeating the order to the cook, and then delivering the food to the dinners. The trick was using Mandarin, a snap, more or less, for Victor & Tammy. They did make one mistake and had to try again. The food: vegetarian noodles, fried chicken, new taste beef, golden pork spare ribs and good luck fish, reminded me of all the fantastic meals I’ve ever had in Asia. Hint: If you can’t read a menu, look at what other people in the restaurant are eating. Find what looks good and point. This method works like a charm.

Luke & Margie and Jen & Kisha showed up at the Hu Guang Hui Guan Opera House to put on the Chinese princess and gentleman attire. By this time, Margie & Luke had begun to vex each other, but Jen & Kisha were doing well, although Jen couldn’t quite believe they were still in China after their swimming terror.

Just like in the past episodes, during this episode Jaime and Cara were never able to get a break when it comes to cab drivers. Patience, dear Jaime is a virtue. Still, you have to hand it to these two. They keep soldiering on and giving lovely smiles to folks who help them when they feel understood. Jaime and Cara’s moods are like watching a see saw.

Once Jaime and Cara finally found the correct opera house, long after Victor and Tammy had served food at Hu Guang Hui Guan restaurant, and Luke & Margie quit bickering, the make-up task was a snap for these women and off they ran only to get lost and confused again for three more hours.

In the meantime, Kisha & Jen, who I like, were U-Turned by Victor and Tammy at Hu Guang Hui Guan. Instead of getting mad, there they were in their opera attire trying their darnedest to say the names of Mandarin dishes correctly. If there was any lesson to learn from watching them, it’s to write things down as they sound, and listen carefully. Also, if you can’t understand what one person is saying in a language you don’t know well, ask someone else. All native speakers don’t sound the same. Some people are just easier to understand.

After serving food or dressing up in Chinese opera regalia, it was off to a Dong Hua Men Yi Shi Street Market stall that sold snack food that would be great fare at a Halloween party. It is possible to eat deep-fried starfish, grasshoppers, larvae, and scorpions served on a stick. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods would have gotten a kick out of this part. The best thing to do in such situations is to eat fast. Jen ate little bites followed by a lot of water which led to another issue, a costly one. Victor, Cara and Margie, on the other hand, went to town scarfing the oddities down, as if they couldn’t eat enough of the crunchy critters.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Tammy & Victor dash to the Pit Stop at Niao Chao, the Bird’s Nest stadium of the Olympics. The tasks weren’t particularly difficult for them during this episode and they could clearly say the names of places. These two have grown on me and it’s fun to see them having a good time. They’re the type that traveling brings out the best in.

Unfortunately, Jen had to go to the bathroom before they made it to the Pit Stop so Cara and Jaime beat them. Too bad, too bad, too bad. With those flowing gowns, why not just pee and keep running? Gross, but hey, it’s a million dollars. People were running in their underwear in Siberia. Surely peeing in an opera gown isn’t the worst thing that could happen. On the otherhand, what a great way to illustrate that Beijing does have swank public toilets. Keep that in mind if you have to pee there. Head to the Bird’s Nest for some bladder relief.

So, who do I hope will win? I’m not that partial to anyone. As much as Jaime’s attitude gets on my nerves, I’m impressed Cara’s and her tenacity. They just keep on going like that battery run bunny from the commercial. If they win, I won’t be that upset. Although, they really ought to apologize to Mark & Mike for making fun of short people.

If Luke and Margie win what a great boost for women over forty and people who are deaf. They can kick butt.

Galley Gossip: Interview with a flight attendant – ME!

Dear Heather,

I know this is really random and weird, but I’m a Jr in high school and we were given an assignment to write a research paper over a job that we would like to do once we graduate and I have become very interested in becoming a flight attendant. Anyway part of the assignment is to interview someone that does the job we would like to do. It’s been very hard trying to find someone that is a flight attendant. Well I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions…

  1. How long have you been working at your job
  2. What kind of training/education is required to do your job
  3. Is college or a vocational school needed to prepare for this job?
  4. How have the things learned in school helped when beginning this line of work?
  5. What do you like most about your job?
  6. What do you like least about your job?
  7. What advice would you give a student that is interested in doing what you do?
Thanks for your time,

Lacy

Dear Lacy,

I’d love to help you with your research paper and thank you for including me. When you’re finished, can I take a peek at what you wrote? Oh and if you, or anyone else, have any other questions please feel free to ask!

How long have you been working at your job: I’ve been working for a major US carrier for fourteen years. Before I began working for my current employer, I worked three months for a low cost carrier called Sun Jet International Airlines, an airline that is no longer in business. I’ve even done a little corporate flying on a GV (gulfstream) owned by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, which was actually purchased over the internet for $41 million, the largest internet purchase ever made. Talk about an amazing experience. My jumpseat alone was something to write home about.

What kind of training / education is required to do your job: It depends on the airline. However, I do not know many flight attendants who do not have a college education. Even with a 30% pay cut, longer duty days, and shorter layovers, all of which happened after 9/11, the job is still a highly competitive one to obtain. That means if you want to work for a major carrier your best bet is to go to college and get a degree.

Besides a college education, airlines are also looking for people who have good customer service skills. Remember, you will be dealing with people, all kinds of people and lots of them for up to 14 hours a day, and most of these people are not happy and want to tell you all about it. It’s important that you have the right kind of personality to handle this kind of job. Even people with the right personality can lose a little patience after a long duty day. Being flexible is also a must in the airline industry, as flights cancel and schedules change. And keep in mind, you probably won’t be based where you live now.

As for training the airline will provide, it was the longest seven and a half weeks of my life. It’s not that it was hard, because it’s really not, but there’s a lot of information to retain in a very short period of time. In training we learned everything from how to evacuate a smoke filled cabin to how to handle a “gassy” passenger without insulting them.

Trust me, it’s not all about doing a drink service. Things do happen in flight. Just a few months ago I walked out of the business class galley with a tray full of drinks and noticed the entire business class cabin had turned around in their seats, all eyes on me. That’s when I spotted the unconscious young lady lying on the floor. No one had moved a muscle. Immediately I went into action. Fortunately flight attendant training prepares you for anything and everything. Though I must admit I was completely unprepared once while working a Sun Jet flight when a passenger complained to me because she didn’t get a blueberry muffin inflight due to the fact that the flight diverted because of smoke in the cabin. Ya see, this is one of those times when customer service skills come in handy.

Is college or a vocational school needed to prepare for this job: I wouldn’t say it’s required, but as I mentioned above, the more educated you are the better your chances at getting hired, especially if you want to work for a major carrier. So if you have the opportunity to go to college, by all means go! If you are thinking about a vocational school, do it! I can’t tell you how many flight attendants I know who are trained in therapy and nursing. It’s just smart to have a backup plan in life, because even if you do get hired to work for an airline you never know what’s going to happen in the future. Airlines are struggling just to stay afloat in our weak economy and each month a different airline seems to be going out of business.

If for whatever reason college is not in the cards for you, don’t give up. Get experience! Customer service experience is what you’ll need, and you’ll need a lot of it! Try waiting tables (even if you are going to school), but not just at any restaurant, a nice restaurant. Years ago when I interviewed to work as a corporate flight attendant for a company called Million Air out of Dallas, I was asked about my experience with first class service. At the time I had none. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Oh sure I waited tables in college, but that was at a hole in the wall dive, so that didn’t quite count. Probably explains why I didn’t get hired. I’m sure the canary yellow suit I wore to interview in that day didn’t help matters, either.

Speaking other languages always helps, too. Airlines love to hire bilingual employees. Just the other day I saw that a major US carrier is currently hiring ONLY flight attendants that can speak Mandarin Chinese. Those who speak Mandarin Chinese do not need more than a high school education to apply.

How have the things learned in school helped when beginning this line of work: Honestly, I can’t think of one thing that I learned in school that did not somehow help me later on in life as a flight attendant, or any other job that I’ve held. Just going to school, for one thing, is an education in itself. You are multi-tasking, learning how to deal with different people, handling responsibility, while studying and learning new things every day. Trust me when I tell you that airline training is not easy. There’s a lot of information coming at you at once, so the better you are in school, the better off you’ll be in flight attendant training.

While most days you won’t be handling onboard emergencies, thank goodness, the majority of your time will be spent dealing with passengers, and that includes passengers who have problems. A flight attendant has to be able to communicate not only with the mother and child in coach, but also the CEO of a very large company sitting in first class. That means you have to be knowledgeable and up to date on current events, as well as what’s going on in the aviation industry.

What do you like most about your job? What I like most about my job changes every few years. In my early twenties all the days off seemed to be the best thing about my job. Back then I worked about 12 days a month. That’s it. As I began to make more money, it was traveling (for free!) that I began to love. There’s nothing like flying to Paris in first class on a whim. Now that I’m married (to a man who flies over 100,000 miles a year) and have a two-year old son at home, I have to say it’s the flexibility of the job that I love most. When my husband is out of town, I can stay home and take care of my son. If the husband has to go away on business to…let’s say…Japan, my son and I can go along with him. If I want to make a little extra cash for the holiday season, I can pick up extra trips from other flight attendants.

What do you like least about your job? Reserve. Because everything is based on company seniority, reserve flight attendants are the most junior flight attendants at each airline. When you’re on reserve you have no life. Except for a few known days off, you do not have a schedule, which means you’re at the beckon call of the airline – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until your official day off. Thank goodness I’m no longer on reserve. But that can always change. So now that I’m holding off reserve, I have to say that working holidays is what I like least about my job. Yes, I will be working Christmas day. Luckily I was able to drop my trip on Christmas eve.

What advice would you give a student that is interested in doing what you do? Finish your education and if you still want to be a flight attendant apply! Then, when you get called for an interview, make sure to read my blog so that you know exactly what you’re getting into, and talk a lot about customer service. Oh and whatever you do, do not wear a canary yellow suit. Think blue. Navy blue.

Hope that helps,

Heather Poole

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Photos courtesy of Heather Poole (yeah, that’s me!)

Resolution to learn a language?

My husband comments every so often that he’s going to learn Chinese. “That’s nice, honey,” I say. I think he might some day once he puts his mind to it. I used to have a resolution that I will learn American Sign Language. I have a deaf brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I can finger spell, kind of. I also know how to sign spaghetti, please, thank-you, and I have to go to the bathroom. The one complicated sentence I know how to sign is “The houses fell down. Why? Tornado.”

If you have a resolution to learn a language, there is a method I saw advertised on TV last night that I’ve heard about as being is an effective method. The Rosetta Language System has been mentioned more than a few times as being one that works in English as A Second Language meetings I’ve attended.

The system is an interactive computer software program. As you click on various pictures, the language is spoken so you can practice by repetition, however, it’s more dynamic than that. I noticed there is a Mandarin version. There’s Valentine’s Day coming up. Maybe this would be a better present than chocolate. It’s more expensive though. At $209 for level 1, the price might keep a person hitting the computer to make it worth the price tag.

Mandatory Mandarin in Panama

News is out today that pretty soon, Panamanians will be bilingual in Spanish and Mandarin. The National Assembly has conditionally approved a bill requiring all schools to teach Mandarin, a nod to the sheer power of China’s economy.

China is the biggest user of the Panama Canal, and the bill states that Mandarin is an “indispensable language,” though it recognizes English is the international language of business. Curiously the country also holds diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

There’s been a lot of coverage lately about eclectic countries all seeing a huge boom in Chinese tutoring and classes. Here’s a great article from a colleague from the TIME Beijing bureau who wrote about this phenomenon.