Rapid note to capture a long New York Times piece which says that language diversity is more likely to be found in urban areas with long tradition of migration – such as New York.
The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago.
Husni Husain, 67, says he doesn’t know of any other person in New York who speaks Mamuju, an Austronesian language.
At a Roman Catholic Church in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Mass is said once a month in Garifuna, an Arawakan language that originated with descendants of African slaves shipwrecked near St. Vincent in the Caribbean and later exiled to Central America. Today, Garifuna is virtually as common in the Bronx and in Brooklyn as in Honduras and Belize.
And Rego Park, Queens, is home to Husni Husain, who, as far he knows, is the only person in New York who speaks Mamuju, the Austronesian language he learned growing up in the Indonesian province of West Sulawesi. Mr. Husain, 67, has nobody to talk to, not even his wife or children.
New York may be home to 800 languages (about 175 are spoken in the city’s schools). And – weak signal – a city academic is setting up “the Endangered Language Alliance, to identify and record dying languages, many of which have no written alphabet, and encourage native speakers to teach them to compatriots.”
More in the NYT piece.