In an effort to save it from dying out, three students learned the “eilauners” language of the Frisian island of Schiermonnikoog.
Translation by Traci White
According to Omrop Fryslân, the three students – Ken Ho from Hong Kong, Giovanni Pinto from Italy and Dyami Millarson from Leeuwarden – spent the past two months learning the language. Xie Wenting, who is Chinese, is also featured in the video by Omrop Fryslân briefly speaking the language.
De Telegraaf reports that “eilaunders” is only spoken by 20 people on the island – now that the students have learned the language, that number is up to 23 living speakers, most of whom are elderly. The total population of the island is only 947 people. The three students have plans to meet with Ineke van Gent, the mayor of the island, to discuss possibilities for activites and events to further promote the language.
Millarson also learned another island dialect, Aasters, which is spoken on the eastern part of Terschelling, as a birthday present to himself. Millarson and Ho are members of an initiative called Operation X, and their goal is to eventually learn 14 different endangered Frisian languages, including dialects spoken along the German coastline and on their Wadden islands. One video posted by Operation X on YouTube explaining Ho’s goal to learn Frisian within three months has more than 43,000 views.
“It is our life mission to learn the most endangered Frisian tongues ere they die out”, Millarson writes on the Operation X blog.” We wish to keep the knowledge of these languages alive with our own efforts and we wish to transmit the knowledge of these languages to a new group of young people.” De Friesche Dagblad writes that Millarson’s next language goal is to learn Hinderloopers, which is only spoken in the vicinity of the Frisian city of Hindeloopen on the coast of the IJselmeer.
Pinto, who is from the southern Italian region of Puglia, told Omrop Fryslân that his academic speciality is languages on the verge of extinction and that he plans to write a grammatical guide for the language in Italian. Millarson is considering creating a course about the Schiermonnikoog language in Gronings – the version of Frisian spoken on the island is considered to be quite similar to the language which used to be spoken in the province of Groningen.
|“We want to save languages by learning to speak them”
Millarson says that Operation X is interested in learning new languages not just to add them to a collection, but to reflect on the connections that languages, especially smaller ones, have with the history, environment and culture of a place. “Friesland has an unusually high number of languages for such a small area, and especially during the Capital of Culture year, we felt that it was important to raise awareness of the diversity present in this province.”He says that Operation X does not have any formal association with LF2018 – and that the initiative is purely altruistic – but that they are in close contact with comparable projects being carried out this year. The core participants in Operation X come from a variety of academic backgrounds, and Millarson encourages anyone out there who has an interest in the cultural significance of minority languages to get in touch with the group.
Photo source: Wikipedia
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