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  • Visitors Put Their Languages on the Map

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    Festival participants aren’t the only ones sharing languages in One World, Many Voices. In the Family Activities section, members of the public are invited to write down their own language memory, story, or phrase and post it on the giant world map.

    Check out some of the responses we’ve received from Folklife Festival visitors so far.

    Why is your language important to you?

    Photos by Morgan Anderson
    Photos by Morgan Anderson

    I teach my son Chinese so he can talk to my parents. United States

    Cuando mi familia salio de Cuba, perdieron todo, pero el idioma no te lo pueden quitar. (When my family left Cuba they lost everything, but language cannot be taken away.) United States

    “Yezh ebet kalon ebet” (no language = no soul). Remember the Bretons! France

    Tell us about a language memory.

    My grandpa James Simeon Balan Ketcher was the last in my family to speak Cherokee. United States

    Until the 1960s, Somalia had no written language. Each tribe had a person whose only job it was to recite hundreds of years of genealogy solely from memory. Somalia

    Write a phrase from your language that is difficult to translate.

    No word for “love” in Melanesian Pidgin. Closest is “hamamas” which means a good feeling in your belly. New Guinea

    In Taiwan, a common phrase is “Jia yo!” which literally translates to “add oil,” but when used means “keep going” or “hang in there.” Taiwan

    Saudade: a deep and emotional state of nostalgia or longing or melancholy. Portugal

    “Gezellig” is very difficult to translate because it encompasses a cultural feeling of togetherness, conviviality, and comfort that in distinctly Dutch. Netherlands

    And it wouldn’t be Family Activities without some input from the kids!

    My grandpa is from Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe

    I like living in the United States we speak a lot of words. United States

    My language is important to me because if I didn’t know it I could not communicate with my family. Mexico

    Please share your language stories or untranslatable phrases in the comments section, or drop by the Family Activities tent to add your story to the map!

    Morgan Anderson recently graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. She is an intern with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, assisting with the One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage program.

    Katie Grasso is an intern in the One World, Many Voices program. She is pursuing her interest in languages at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.

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