29 October 2018

Training in Theory and Methods in Language documentation

NIMAR and the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, SOAS University of London teamed up to support capacity building in intangible heritage protection across Africa. From August 10-20, 35 scholars and students from 10 countries came together to train in Theory and Methods in Language Documentation at NIMAR. Under the direction of Dr Felix Ameka from the University of Leiden and Dr Mandana Seyfeddinipur from SOAS University of London, African scholars and students were learning how to digitally record and preserve cultural and linguistic intangible heritage encoded in endangered languages.

Today 7000 languages are spoken worldwide and by the end of this very century half of them will have fallen silent because of the effects of globalisation, urbanisation and climate change. Each of these endangered languages encodes centuries of accumulated knowledge about the environment, the social life of its speakers and their cosmologies and their cultural achievements. Many of these languages have never been recorded and humanity is losing its intangible heritage, the knowledge encoded in language, without a trace. Preserving these is languages by recording and documenting them is of utmost importance for humanity.

Mona Hashim Sudan and Dorothy Agyepong Ghana practicing video recording together.

With this training NIMAR and ELDP are stemming the tide and are approaching this urgent task by giving linguistic students and scholars skills in digital recording and heritage preservation of these invaluable expressions of the human mind. The trainees are now equipped to preserve the disappearing languages spoken in their own countries and to work with their cultural institutions to preserve the digital collections.

The collaboration between three institutions housed in London, Leiden and Rabat is supporting the collaboration within and between European and African countries. The unique knowledge transfer between scholars and students from 10 different countries created lasting networks enabling cultural preservation and exchange. Plans for continuing this successful collaboration are under way.

 Nadine Grimm and Lameen Souag working with Adam Adam and Fatimzahra Abid

Alena Witzlack explains to trainees how to use linguistic software