Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mini Manx

Why revive a dead language that almost no one (except on the Isle of Man) ever spoke?  Oh, government employment, maybe;
Recession in the mid 19th Century forced many Manx residents to leave the island to seek work in England. And there was a reluctance among parents to pass the language down through the generations, with many believing that to have Manx as a first language would stifle job opportunities overseas.
There was a decline in the language. By the early 1960s there were perhaps as few as 200 who were conversant in the tongue. The last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974.
The decline was so dramatic that Unesco pronounced the language extinct in the 1990s.
But the grim prognosis coincided with a massive effort at revival. Spearheaded by activists like Stowell and driven by lottery funding and a sizeable contribution (currently £100,000 a year) from the Manx government, the last 20 years have had a huge impact.
Now there is even a Manx language primary school in which all subjects are taught in the language, with more than 60 bilingual pupils attending.  
Wait for it.

Donna Long, a lifelong resident of the island, has four sons who all attend the Manx-language school. She thinks that having her children learn Manx as well as English is a hugely positive experience for them.
"Our friends think that it's a slightly eccentric decision to send all our boys there but they all really enjoy it," she says.
"The best thing is that it will hopefully unlock their brain to learn other languages easily too. They were all completely bilingual in Manx and English by the age of six.
"I don't think Manx will ever be useful outside of the island but I certainly think that in terms of getting jobs, if they do stay on the island - particularly in the public sector - then attending this little jewel of a school and being fluent in Manx can never be a disadvantage."
Emphasis by HSIB. 

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