A Rich Tapestry

A rich tapestry of cultural diversity begins with language.

In Chicaman, Guatemala where more than a dozen Mayan languages comingle and contribute to the rich tapestry of cultural diversity in rural hillside communities high above bustling urban centres, language and its role in identity, social structure, education, and development is undeniable.

In communicating with local patients, our dental brigade team fosters connection through the use of basic words in K’iche and Poqomchiʼ, much to the surprise of the local community members who visit our temporary clinic. But we are less surprised when they try out their best Hellos in return. While we have only just that morning learned our new words, more dominant languages like English and Spanish permeate cultures, often dominating education systems and public domains.

Acknowledging the vital role that languages play in promoting inclusive societies, Change for Children’s  Education projects promote multilingual education by providing student and teacher resources in mother tongue languages. Our Technology for Education projects make it possible for educators and elders alike to upload tailored content in their mother tongue to offline servers used in remote classrooms, facilitating multilingual education, bridging barriers between home and school, and furthering more inclusive, effective learning. Preserving non-dominant, minority, Indigenous languages is critical to achieving equitable access to education and learning opportunities for all.

More than a simple communication tool, Indigenous languages are closely tied to traditional knowledge systems, health, and well-being—often binding humanity with nature. When languages are lost, also at risk are the valuable resources of traditions, memory, and unique modes of thinking and expression.

Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 45% of the estimated 7000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world. (Source: un.org)

Bosawas Guatemala In The Field