The 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival was a great event to attend! This festival highlighted language diversity as a vital part of our human heritage. Cultural experts from communities around the world joined us to demonstrate how their ancestral tongues embody cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies, and arts.
One of the themes of this year’s Smithsonian folklife festival is “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage”.
DLS’s corporate logo states that “Language Matters” and, even though we only work in about 100 languages, we take very seriously the threat of extinction that hangs over half of the world’s 7,000 languages. DLS does not have a commercial interest in the preservation of endangered languages but recognizes that, without these languages, a vital part of the heritage that binds us together would disappear. Along with the languages themselves, we would lose the stories, cultures, group experience, and individual knowledge passed down from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters.
DLS CEO Jim Bellas states: “Embedded in the teaching of languages is the culture and mindset of the people that speak that language. Beyond the vocabulary and syntax, DLS instructors model the ways native speakers express themselves. There is a wealth of culture, traditions, values, and history that are integral to the language itself, and those are lost forever when a language disappears. The real connection for us at DLS is reinforcing the value of learning another’s language or dialect.”