Saving endangered languages through music: Susanna Zaraysky at TEDxSantaCruz


Translator: Joey Wong
Reviewer: Reiko Bovee There’s a death row for languages, and it has three thousand prisoners. In the United States, we’ve lost 55 languages since 1997. And we have another 170 languages
at risk of extinction. Worldwide, we lose
one language every two weeks. When we lose these languages, we lose centuries worth of art, music , history, culture and science. When pharmaceutical companies have to go into places like the Amazon, they have to be able to communicate in the indigenous languages of the native people who are using,
who have been using these medicinal plants for centuries. Many of these plants have no names in major world languages like English. If we let these three thousand
languages go extinct, we’re endangering our own lives, because speaking a language
can save your life. I’m co-producing a documentary
called “Saved by Language” about a Sephardic Bosnian boy who saved his life in the Holocaust, because he could speak the language
of Ladino or Judeo-Spanish. One of the ways Ladino is being kept alive is through music. We all know what it feels like
to hear songs from our childhood and we remember exactly
where we were, and how we felt
when we first heard it. But we might not remember what was on your shopping list yesterday. That’s because music
affects us emotionally, but it also activates more parts
of our brain than language does. So if you hear something to attune, you’re gonna remember
those lyrics better than if you just read
the lyrics in a book. My first language was Russian, and I learned how to read and write in Russian before English. But I have to tell you something
that’s a little embarrassing, I have trouble alphabetizing
in Russian. Why? I never learned an alphabet song
in Russian. (Laughter ) Yes. And I bet some of you… but I’m not gonna ask you
to raise your hands, because it might be
a little embarrassing. You sometimes have to sing, ♫ ABCDEFG ♫
(Laughter) yeah, to be able to alphabetize. I’ve got some people
raising their hands. That’s great! I speak eight languages. And I didn’t learn those languages just by reading a grammar book, because grammar books
make me fall asleep. I use music. And now I’m using songs
to help me learn Ladino. (Singing in Ladino) “Go look for another love.
Bang on another door. Hope for another passion. Because, for me, you’re dead.
(Laughter) Goodbye my beloved.
(Laughter) It’s over.” When I learned that verse, I learned the word, (Ladino), which, in Ladino, means to “bang,” if I had read it in the book, I probably wouldn’t remember it. Companies like Sesame street
and School House Rock, have successfully put
educational contents to songs. Why? Because they know
that’s gonna stick in our heads, so we can start to keep these endangered languages alive by learning these songs
in these other languages. And we can record people
who speak these languages. We can record them singing and
speaking in those languages, and finding somebody who was
bilingual to transcribe and translate. But we’re not gonna stop there. We have to learn modern languages as well. When you speak another language, you are making your brain work
in a different way. You have to think
in a different way. And because of that, you could possibly prevent
the early onset of dementia. That’s important, right? And you can also improve your quick decision making abilities. Companies in the United States pay extra for bilingual people who can cater to the twenty percent
of American households to speak another language
besides English at home. The British economy loses
11 to 26 billion dollars a year, because they don’t have enough
foreign language speakers to help British companies export. We have bilingual immersion schools all over the United States now. Many more Americans are listening to music in both English and Spanish, because we have singers like Mark Anthony, Shakira singing
in both languages. And probably all of you have heard that Korean song Gangnam Style?
(Laughter) Yeah! And that song is
actually inspiring people to learn Korean. Do you want to release
three thousand prisoners from the language death row? Do you wanna improve
your brain health and your pocketbook? Sing! Baby, Sing! (Applause) Thank you

24 Replies to “Saving endangered languages through music: Susanna Zaraysky at TEDxSantaCruz

  1. Shouldn't these languages be preserved for those who were born into the culture instead of outsiders? Smells of colonialism.

  2. Shouldn't these languages be preserved for those who were born into the culture instead of outsiders? Smells of colonialism.

  3. I think, it is right and I personally listen to music in a lot of languages and speak multiple languages, and the risk of forgetting language is much lower! But music should be combined with another resources like people, different materials in the target language, I don't think that only music itself will lead to high level even when listened actively =)

  4. Well, Because its not your language your not going to want to save itZ Only those who actually care will try x x

  5. I'm all for a translation tool to convert the written languages to one universal language. Then everyone can speak the same language and have better communication from here on out.

  6. I simply loved your video. I'm already studying English 2 years and I consider myself fluent, that's why I decided start studying Spanish 6 months ago. When I was 17 years old I was listening a lot of musics in English and translating it to Portuguese in order to understand the lyrics. After some years I've heard some teachers saying that music doesn't help so much in order to achieve a good level of English, but in my experience and with your videos I found out that study English through music was one of the best choices I already did. I'm so lucky! 

  7. Thanks for this I am currently doing this to save suba language here in kenya .How can we partner you can look for mukwema on you tube

  8. thats not the case with me . i speak berber arabic frensh and english, i work since 6 years in u.s. and nobody raised my salary because i knew 4 languages or promoted me .

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